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Upcoming Jewish Holidays

 Lag B’omer is a holiday that begins this year at sundown on April 29th and ends the following day at nightfall.  The holiday occurs on the 33rd day of the Omer, the 49-day period between Passover and Shavuot. Schoolchildren picnic and play outdoors with bows and arrows — a possible reminder of the war battles of Rabbi Akiva’s students — and in Israel plant trees. Lag B'omer is popular and widely beloved in Israel. It is customary to light bonfires, to symbolize the light Simeon bar Yohai brought into the world. And every year numerous couples wed at this happy time.

Lag B'omer is always on the 18th day of the month of Iyar. The word “Lag” is made of of the Hebrew letters lamed (ל) and gimel (ג), which together have the numerical value of 33. “BaOmer” means “of the Omer.” The Omer is the counting period that begins on the second day of Passover and culminates with the holiday of Shavuot, following day 49.  Hence Lag B'omer is the 33rd day of the Omer count, which coincides with 18 Iyar. What happened on 18 Iyar that’s worth celebrating?

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who lived in the second 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 classic text 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 their deeds, teachings and work achieve their culminating perfection and the zenith of their impact upon our lives. So each Lag B'omer, we celebrate Rabbi Shimon’s life and the revelation of the esoteric soul 'of Torah.

Lag B'omer also commemorates another joyous event. The Talmud relates that in the weeks between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot, a plague raged among the disciples of the great sage Rabbi Akiva (teacher of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai), “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 B'omer the deaths ceased. Thus, Lag B'omer also carries the theme of loving and respecting one’s fellow (ahavat Yisrael).

 
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