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Lag BaOmer, a Jewish religious holiday, occurs on the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar. It also literally means the 33rd day of the Omer. According to the Talmud, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai died on Lag BaOmer and the holiday celebrates the “day of his joy” as instructed by him to his disciples. Moreover, it also marks the day on which there was a break in a plague that occurred during the days of Rabbi Akiva
History of Lag BaOmer
Lag BaOmer or Lag B’Omer is observed on the 33rd day of the Omer, which is the period of 49 days between Passover and Shavuot. The reason behind its name is that the word ‘Lag’ consists of the Hebrew letters ‘lamed’ (ל) and ‘gimel’ (ג), which together have the numerical value of 33. And ‘BaOmer’ means ‘of the Omer.’ The Omer is a period of semi mourning where many activities are prohibited such as weddings, singing and dancing, and even getting haircuts. However, Lag BaOmer is the one day when Jewish law permits these activities.
While the exact occurrence of the holiday remains unclear, the day finds mentions dating back to the 15th century. Lag BaOmer observes two significant events. The first being the day of the passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. He was the first to publicly teach the mystical dimension of the Torah known as the Kabbalah and he even authored the classic text of the Kabbalah, the Zohar. People celebrate Rabbi Shimon’s life and the esoteric soul of the Torah.
Another reason for its observance comes from the Talmud, which says that during this season a plague killed thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students as they did not treat one another with respect. The semi mourning period is observed in memory of the students and their punishment. This plague ceased on Lag BaOmer, the 33rd day of the Omer and, as a result, it became a happy day, marking a break of 24 hours in the period of mourning.
Over the years, Lag BaOmer has become a minor holiday and is celebrated in various ways. It is a day of holding Jewish weddings, lighting bonfires, and even getting haircuts. Many people also play sports or go out for picnics and celebrate with their families.
Lag BaOmer timeline
Rabbi Akiva becomes an ardent supporter of Simon bar Kokhba and leads a ferocious but unsuccessful revolt against Roman rule in Judea, in which he dies.
The 49 days between Passover and Shavuot becomes the period of mourning for the deaths caused by a plague of the 24,000 disciples of Rabbi Akiva.
Jewish communities in the Rhine Valley are killed during the period of Omer, which lead people to include this in the mourning observance.
The writings of German rabbi Yaakov ben Moshe Levi Moelin reveal the first reference to celebrations of Lag BaOmer.
Lag BaOmer FAQs
How many days is Lag BaOmer?
Lag BaOmer is a celebration of 24 hours that occurs during the 49 days counting the period of the Omer.
Can you get married on Lag BaOmer?
Lag BaOmer is the only day during the semi mourning period of the Omer where marriages and other celebratory activities are permitted.
How is Lag BaOmer celebrated in Israel?
Families go for picnics, play outdoors, get haircuts, have weddings, and, most importantly, light a bonfire.
How to Observe Lag BaOmer
Go for a picnic
Lag BaOmer is the one day of celebration in the period of semi mourning. Go out for a small picnic nearby with your family and play some outdoor sports and activities. You can even indulge in some food traditionally eaten on this day such as kebabs, eggplant salad, potato salad, etc.
Light a bonfire
Lighting a bonfire is an important element in celebrating Lag BaOmer. If you do not have the space to do so, visit an outdoor bonfire and pay your respects to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
Get a haircut
Have you been putting off that haircut for a while? Lag BaOmer is the perfect day to check that off your list, as one of the ways to celebrate this day is by getting a haircut!
5 Interesting Facts About Lag BaOmer
Carob eating custom
Some people eat the carob fruit to commemorate a carob tree that miraculously grew at the entrance of Rabbi Shimon’s cave.
Eating dyed eggs
Many people even eat hard-boiled eggs that are dyed with colors from onion skin as they reflect the dual nature of the day — the eggs represent mourning and the colors add the festive spirit.
Pour a drink
Another unusual custom is to donate 18 rotel of drink, an ancient liquid measurement of about 54 liters, to guests visiting the tomb of Rabbi Shimon.
A walk in the park
People visit parks or open fields to celebrate Lag BaOmer.
Many Jewish parents let their male child’s hair grow till the age of three and get them their first haircut on Lag BaOmer.
Why Lag BaOmer is Important
The resilience of the Jewish Spirit
Lag BaOmer marks the day Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai died. Since modern times, this day symbolizes the resilience of the Jewish spirit. People light a bonfire to honor Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and the light he brought into this world.
It celebrates happiness
Lag BaOmer falls during a period of semi mourning and it marks the day a horrific plague temporarily ceased. The holiday celebrates a happy event in Jewish history. Thus, on this day, many people get married, some children get their first haircut, people celebrate outdoors, etc.
Revelation of the esoteric soul of the Torah
Lag BaOmer is important as it also marks the revelation of the esoteric soul of the Torah.
Lag BaOmer dates