The Jewish Holy Days: Part IV
Jerry Katz - December 15, 2008
Lag B'Omer is celebrated in the middle of May on the thirty-third day of the Counting of the Omer, which is on the 18th of the Jewish month of Iyar. This holiday's name refers to the 33rd day of the counting of the days that separate Passover and Shavuot. This is an important reminder to people of the escape and journey from Egypt and the revelation of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai.
Photo: Raphael Ben-Ari
Traditions have linked this holiday to many historic events in the lives of the Jewish people. Some religious texts make a connection to the day the Great Flood began as in this passage from Genesis "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month – on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened," (Genesis 7:11). Other ancient texts link it to agriculture and harvests while one tradition refers to a plague which devastated the Jewish Community around 70 CE and this resulted in making Lag B'Omer a period of mourning where there was a prohibition on marriage ceremonies and even the cutting of hair.
One of the main traditions still followed is to light bonfires on Lag B'Omer. Many in Israel use the occasion to visit Mount Meron, the burial place of the Jewish sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who died on this day. Rabbi Shimon was well known for his mystical teachings and some use Lag B'Omer to acknowledge the light he brought into the world by lighting bonfires in his memory. Some even eat carobs on Lag B'Omer to celebrate a miracle that saved the lives of Rabbi Shimon and his son who were fugitives from the Romans and lived for thirteen years in a cave in Northern Israel.
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