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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Lag BaOmer (33rd Day of the Omer) - Hod sheb'Hod
Jewish History

In the weeks between Passover and Shavuot, a plague decimated 24,000 students of the great sage Rabbi Akiva--a result, says the Talmud, of the fact that they "did not respect one another." The plague's cessation on Iyar 18--the 33rd day of the Omer Count or "Lag BaOmer"--is one of the reasons that the day is celebrated each year (see "Laws and Customs" below).

Links: Rabbi Akiva

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai ("Rashbi"), was a leading disciple of Rabbi Akiva and one of the most important tana'im whose teachings of Torah law are collected in the Mishnah. He was also 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. For 13 years Rabbi Shimon hid in a cave to escape the wrath of the Romans whose government he criticized. On the day of his passing--Iyar 18, the 33rd day of the Omer Count--Rabbi Shimon gathered his disciples and revealed many of the deepest secrets of the divine wisdom, and instructed them to mark the date as "the day of my joy."

Links: Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

Rabbi Moshe Isereles ("Rama") of Cracow (1525-1573?) authored the glosses ("hagga'ot") on R. Yosef Caro's the Code of Jewish Law and is regarded as the definitive Halachic authority for Ashkenazic Jews.

Links: Rabbi Moshe Isserlis

Following a blood libel and the decree, if found guilty, to destroy the synagogue of Ettingen, Switzerland, the Jews were acquitted. The local Jews celebrated this day as a local "Purim" celebration-day of thanksgiving.

Links: The Other Purims

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was created on Lag BaOmer of 1948. The IDF comprises the Israeli army, Israeli air force and Israeli navy. It was formed to defend the existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Israel and combat all forms of terrorism which threaten the daily lives of its inhabitants.

Links: Israel Defense Force (IDF)

The Hurva synagogue, located in the Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, was captured and dynamited by the Arab Legion of Jordan during the battle for Old Jerusalem in 1948.

The synagogue was built by the group of disciples of Rabbi Elijah (the "Vilna Gaon") who immigrated from Lithuania in 1864. The synagogue was built on the ruins of the synagogue built by Rabbi Judah Chassid (Segal) and his disciples in 1700, which was destroyed by Arab mobs in 1721. It was therefore named the "Hurvat Rabbi Judah HaChassid"—the ruins of Rabbi Judah the Chassid, or simply "The Hurva"—The Ruin.

In 2010, following several years of construction, the synagogue—built to resemble its Ottoman era form—was once again opened amid great fanfare.

Laws and Customs

Lag BaOmer (the 33rd day of the Omer count) celebrates the end of the plague amongst Rabbi Akiva's students, and the ascent on high of the soul of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (see "Today in Jewish History"). The mourning practices of the Omer period are suspended, which is why many three-year-old boys receive their first haircut on this day. Many visit the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in Meron in northern Israel. It is customary to go on outings and to light bonfires; children play with bow-and-arrows to recall that "during the lifetime of Rabbi Shimon the rainbow (--a sign of the world's unworthiness, as per Genesis 9:14) was not seen."

The Lubavitcher Rebbe initiated the organization of parades of Jewish unity and pride on Lag BaOmer and on a number of occasions (in 1953, 1956, 1957, 1960, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1976, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1987 and 1990) he addressed the parade held near his headquarters in Brooklyn in which thousands of Jewish children and their teachers participated.

Links: Lag BaOmer: The Mystic Dimension

Tomorrow is the thirty-fourth day of the Omer Count. Since, on the Jewish calendar, the day begins at nightfall of the previous evening, we count the omer for tomorrow's date tonight, after nightfall: "Today is thirty-four days, which are four weeks and six days, to the Omer." (If you miss the count tonight, you can count the omer all day tomorrow, but without the preceding blessing).

The 49-day "Counting of the Omer" retraces our ancestors' seven-week spiritual journey from the Exodus to Sinai. Each evening we recite a special blessing and count the days and weeks that have passed since the Omer; the 50th day is Shavuot, the festival celebrating the Giving of the Torah at Sinai.

Tonight's Sefirah: Yesod sheb'Hod -- "Connection in Humility"

The teachings of Kabbalah explain that there are seven "Divine Attributes" -- Sefirot -- that G-d assumes through which to relate to our existence: Chessed, Gevurah, Tifferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchut ("Love", "Strength", "Beauty", "Victory", "Splendor", "Foundation" and "Sovereignty"). In the human being, created in the "image of G-d," the seven sefirot are mirrored in the seven "emotional attributes" of the human soul: Kindness, Restraint, Harmony, Ambition, Humility, Connection and Receptiveness. Each of the seven attributes contain elements of all seven--i.e., "Kindness in Kindness", "Restraint in Kindness", "Harmony in Kindness", etc.--making for a total of forty-nine traits. The 49-day Omer Count is thus a 49-step process of self-refinement, with each day devoted to the "rectification" and perfection of one the forty-nine "sefirot."

How to count the Omer
The deeper significance of the Omer Count

Daily Thought

Why is Torah compared to light? Because it tells us the place of each thing.

Because, in truth, there is no need to change the world. Everything is here.

Each thing has a place, and in that place it is good. Altogether, it is very good, a beautiful world. All that’s needed is a little light.

What is light? Light doesn't add anything or take away. It only reveals the meaning and purpose of all that it shines upon.

Think of your own home. In the dark, there is no way to know what belongs in your closet and what belongs in the laundry, what is ready for use and what is in need of repair. Instead, that which could be washed or repaired is rejected and despised, and your most valuable possessions may become the greatest hazards.

Switch on one little light and a dangerous place becomes a home. With every light you add, you become suddenly wealthier and more blessed.

So too, this world is meant to be G-d’s home. Torah is light. Shine it bright and heal the world.

Torat Menachem 5742 vol. 3, pg.1626; Ibid 5748 vol. 4, pg. 175.