Lag B’Omer Baomer

Posted on May 1, 2010. Filed under: Lag B'Omer, lag Baomer | Tags: |

What is Lag BaOmer?

Lag BaOmer, the 33rd day of the Omer Count – this year, May 2, 2010 – is a festive day on the Jewish calendar, celebrated with outings (on which the children traditionally play with bow and arrows), bonfires, and other joyous events. Many visit the resting place (in Meron in Northern Israel) of the great sage and mystic Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, whose yahrtzeit (anniversary of his passing) the day marks.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who lived in the 2nd century of the Common Era, was the first to publicly teach the mystical dimension of the Torah known as the “Kabbalah,” and is the author of the basic work of Kabbalah, the Zohar. On the day of his passing, Rabbi Shimon instructed his disciples to mark the date as “the day of my joy.”

The Chassidic masters explain that the final day of a righteous person’s earthly life marks the point at which “all his deeds, teachings and work” achieve their culminating perfection and the zenith of their impact upon our lives. So each Lag BaOmer we celebrate Rabbi Shimon’s life and the revelation of the esoteric soul of Torah.

Lag BaOmer also commemorates another joyous event. The Talmud relates that in the weeks between Passover and Shavuot a plague raged amongst the disciples of the great sage Rabbi Akiva “because they did not act respectfully towards each other”; these weeks are therefore observed as a period of mourning, with various joyous activities proscribed by law and custom. On Lag BaOmer the dying ceased. Thus Lag BaOmer also carries the theme of Ahavat Yisrael, the imperative to love and respect one’s fellow.

Traditions and Customs

It is traditional to light bonfires on Lag BaOmer eve. These commemorate the immense light that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai introduced into the world via his mystical teachings. This was especially true on the day of his passing, Lag BaOmer, when he revealed to his disciples secrets of the Torah, whose profundity and intensity the world had yet to experience. The Zohar relates that the house was filled with fire and intense light, to the point that the assembled could not approach or even look at Rabbi Shimon.
By far, the largest Lag BaOmer celebration takes place in and around Rabbi Shimon’s tomb, located in the Northern Israeli village of Meron. Hundreds of thousands attend the festivities, and the round-the-clock celebration, singing and dancing are unparalleled.
Children customarily go out into the fields and play with imitation bows and arrows. This commemorates the midrashic tradition that no rainbow was seen during Rabbi Shimon’s lifetime. Rainbows first appeared after Noah’s flood, when G‑d promised to never again devastate the world. When the world is deserving of punishment, G‑d sends a rainbow instead. Rabbi Shimon’s merit protected the world, rendering the rainbow superfluous.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged the practice of arranging children’s parades on Lag BaOmer in celebration of Jewish unity—a major Lag BaOmer theme.
In some circles it is customary to eat carobs on Lag BaOmer. This commemorates a lifesaving miracle that Rabbi Shimon experienced. For a period of thirteen years, Rabbi Shimon and his son were fugitives from the Roman regime, in hiding in a cave in Northern Israel. Miraculously a carob tree grew at the entrance of the cave, providing nourishments for its two holy occupants.
All the Omer mourning practices are suspended on Lag BaOmer. Permitted are weddings, haircuts,1 music, etc.

To Find a place to celebrate:

http://mobile.chabad.org/m/article_cdo/aid/514097

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