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What Is Lag BaOmer?

What Is Lag BaOmer?


Lag BaOmer, the 33rd day of the Omer count—this year, May 26, 2016—is a festive day on the Jewish calendar. It is celebrated with outings (on which the children traditionally play with bows and arrows), bonfires, and other joyous events. Many visit the resting place (in Meron, northern Israel) of the great sage and mystic Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the anniversary of whose passing is on this day.

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 basic work 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 his deeds, teachings and work” achieve their culminating perfection and the zenith of their impact upon our lives. So each Lag BaOmer, we celebrate Rabbi Shimon’s life and the revelation of the esoteric soul of Torah.

Lag BaOmer also commemorates another joyous event. The Talmud relates that in the weeks between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot, a plague raged amongst the disciples of the great sage Rabbi Akiva, “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 BaOmer the deaths ceased. Thus, Lag BaOmer also carries the theme of the imperative to love and respect one’s fellow (ahavat yisrael).

See also:
Lag BaOmer Traditions and Customs
Lag BaOmer Event Search

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Michael Florida May 27, 2016

@Anonymous, it is not hard at all to talk to God. You might want to start by referring to Him in a more intimate way, instead of the very separating term of HaShem. Moses made it quite clear to the people of Israel that God does not want a separation between Him and people...all people. But the people of Israel insisted that Moses approach God for them. Somewhat of a mistake. Approach God intimately, softly, personally. He's there, within you; ready to listen and respond. Call Him Father; call Him Abba, or any affectionate and intimate term. Do not separate yourself by using the cold term of "HaShem," which although may seem respectful, is distant and separating in nature. It is not what He wants. Reply

Helen Dudden Bristol May 27, 2016

Love and respect for another human being. I have been writing on relationship breakdowns, how this echoes, as I write.

Once upon time there was love and commitment, where did it go, often, it went when respect ended. Reply

Anonymous May 26, 2016

I would like to ask why Chabad doesn't even mention it?! Where I am from this is known as the prime reason for celebrating this day, the Mered of Bar Kochvah and his victorious riding of the lion. Why is it not even mentioned here at Chabad? Reply

Anonymous Thornhill May 26, 2016

Why is it so hard to talk to HaShem? Reply

Michael Florida May 25, 2016

Ahavat Yisrael does not mean "one's fellow," as if to say we are to love all people. It means love "of Israel." It really should specifically say "love of one's fellow" in the Hebrew, as "love of Israel," by itself, is not in the true spirit of what God's love is, and its all-encompassing nature. We Jews forget, very often, that we are not the only beautiful creations of God.

Lynn Magnuson New Orleans, LA. May 25, 2016

Very interesting. I am amazed, as someone new to Judaism, at the wisdom and compassion of many of the sages. Christianity only mentions these people in passing, without really dwelving into their lives or teachings. It also does not even examine the Talmud, another great book of Judaism. Of all the things I've studied, these two things amaze and inspire me the most. The sages, and the Talmud. Reply

hannah san diego March 24, 2016

great and just to say my bat mitva is on lag beomer Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for May 6, 2015

Indeed all but five students passed away. One of the five survivors was Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, whose yahrtzeit (anniversary of passing) is on Lag B'omer, and he specifically requested that it be a day of celebration. Reply

matthew poreda NJ May 6, 2015

After reading some of the questions (what is the significance of lag bomer) I would like to share my understanding of this day. It is the yahrtzeit of rabbi shimon bar yochai, who authored the zohar. The custom of lighting bonfires is symbolic of the great light the zohar gave to the world. There is a custom to play with bow and arrows to symbolize that the Rashbi was so righteous that his generation did not rely on the rainbow to be spared from punishment, his merit alone protected them. There is also a custom to eat carrobs, since hashem made them sprout outside his cave where he studied to sustain him. Reply

Jeffrey Wallach Brooklyn, New York May 6, 2015

If all of Rabbi Akiva's students died during the first 32 days of the Omer, why do we celebrate on the 33rd day? There was no one left to die. Reply

Zerubavel Beitar December 23, 2013

Although Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Rabbi Akiva, the main characters of Lag Baomer history lived in the era of Bar Kokhba's revolt, the relationship between the celebration of Lag Baomer and the Bar Kokhba revolt are not brought in the traditional Jewish sources. The Bar Kokhba revolt and the losses we suffered with his defeat are commemorated on Tisha B'Av. Reply

Anonymous Armstrong December 19, 2013

Other websites have mentioned the celebration of Lag Ba'omer being in celebration of the 2nd revolt led by Simon bar Kosiba (Simon bar Kokhba) against Hadrian and the Romans. According to this article, however, Lag Ba'omer is celebrated because of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Can anyone elaborate on this? Reply

Bev Yohai San Diego April 28, 2013

Anonymous said it best. Reply

Les Kristt April 27, 2013

The holiday is really called Log Burning ... That is why it is associated with Bon fires... Reply

Linda Alhambra, Calif. May 11, 2012

I really need a explanation of Lag Ba'omer! What is the purpose of this holiday? Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, NY May 22, 2011

The custom of lighting bonfires is to commemorate and celebrate the great spiritual light brought into this world by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, through his teaching of the inner, mystical dimension of Torah (The Zohar). On the day of his passing, on Lag Baomer, he revealed many hidden secrets of the Torah, bringing great light into the world. Reply

Anonymous November 27, 2010

Why do children play with bows and arrows? Reply

Eugene Feldman Canoga Park, CA/USA. via May 11, 2009

Why exactly is Lag B'Omer associated with bonfires? (is it in the Talmud or Zohar?) Reply

traci boca raton, fl May 7, 2009

Lag B Omer falls on Hod sheba Hod do you suppose that the students dying stopped on that day as a message? For if iit represents humility of humility it would perhaps suggest that that is the helpful "tool" to achieve love thy neighbor as thyself. Reply

Luis Roizman São Paulo, Lulaland May 7, 2009

What is the relation? Reply

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