Sunday, 22 May 2011

Calendar Entry #9: Lag B'Omer

We continue our journey through the Cauldrons Calendar feast/festival/holidays
The grave of Rabbi Simeon Bar Yochai in
Meron on Lag B'Omer - Jonathan Stein
Lag BaOmer is a Jewish holiday celebrated on the thirty-third day of the Counting of the Omer.  According to the Torah (Lev. 23:15) Jews must count the days from Passover to Shavu'ot.  This period is known as the Counting of the Omer. 
There are two reasons to celebrate this day. 

1.  Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai lived in the second century of the common era and was the first to publicly teach the mystical dimension of the Torah known as the Kabbalah.  He was also the author of the Zohar. On the day of his passing, Rabbi Shimon instructed his disciples to mark the date as “the day of my joy."  It is a commemoration of the mystical teachings he left behind. 

2.  The Talmud states that in the weeks between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavu'ot, a plague killed thousands (some sources state 24,000) of students of the great sage Rabbi Akiva.  This was because "they did not act respectfully towards each other.”  On Lag BaOmer it is said that the deaths ceased and the plague was over.  Rabbi Akiva only took five students after this, one of them being Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Lag B'Omer is therefore a celebration of the teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and a day to remember to love and respect each other. 

Celebrations include outings, bonfires, parades as well as the first haircuts for children.  The burial place of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, in Meron, is the venue for an annual event, where hundreds of thousands of Jews gather to celebrate with bonfires, torches, singing and feasting.

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