Sunday, May 02, 2010

Lag B'Omer

Today is the day observant Jews celebrate the holiday of Lag B'Omer.

If you've noticed some of your Jewish friends walking around unshaven and unkempt, rest assured that all that ends today!

Lag B'Omer is Hebrew for ' the 33rd day of the Omer'. So what's an Omer? It's a measure of barley. In Biblical times, on the second day of Passover, it was a mitzvah (Holy commandment or good deed) to bring an omer-measure of barley to the Temple in Jerusalem as an offering. Then, fifty days later, on Shavuot, it was a commandment to bring the first offering from the wheat harvest.Then as now, Israel was an agricultural country in many respects.

Since the Temple no longer exists (may it be rebuilt soon, and in my time if it's OK with you, G-d), observant Jews 'count' the omer by reciting special prayers .

The 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer is Lag BaOmer. The origins of the Omer count are found in the Torah itself,Leviticus 23:15-16 , which states that it is a mitzvah to count the seven complete weeks from the day after Passover until the holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates Israel receiving the Torah at the base of Mount Sinai on the fiftieth day. This also commemorates the period between the liberation of the Jews from Egyptian bondage and the spiritual redemption of receiving the Torah.

So...why is the 33rd day anything special?

According to the Talmud, during the time of Rabbi Akiva 24,000 of his students died from a divine-sent plague during the counting of the Omer. The Talmud says this was because they did not show proper respect to one another, and indulged in baseless hatred. On the 33rd day, the plague ended.

Lag B'Omer is also celebrated as the yahrzeit (death anniversary) of one of Rabbi Akiva's most gifted students Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Among his other accomplishments, Rabbi bar Yochai is said to have authored the Zohar, the foundation of the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah.

As part of their observance of Lag B'Omer, observant Jews do not shave of cut their hair, listen to music or hold weddings or parties during the first 33 days of the counting of the omer. So Lag B'Omer is a day to cut loose and party down.Chabad sponsors parades as well as rallies, bonfires and barbecues for thousands of participants around the world.

It's a favorite day to hold weddings, parties, barbecues and generally have a good time. In Israel, Lag BaOmer's a school holiday, and the local juvenile-delinquents-in-training bring out the old wood they've been squirreling away for a week or so prior for the infamous Lag B'Omer bonfires.

Chag Sameach!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So because of lashon hara the almighty sent a plague that killed 24,000. That's one tough God.

I also prefer to remember one of Akiva's students Bar Kochba and the fight for freedom from Rome. While it took another 2000 years, his sacrifice adn the sacrifice of his followers should never be forgotten.We immortalize those who committedd kadosh hashem on masada I prefer to remember those that at least died fighting.

Of course if its all the same I would prefer that we all live free.

Chag Sameach.