Lag BaOmer is the annual celebration of Jewish mysticism, fraternity, and pride. While the holiday has grown in popularity, many aspects of this day remain obscure.

Join us as we take a deeper look into Lag BaOmer.

1. The plague ends

Credit: Moshe Milner/Israeli Government Press Office
Credit: Moshe Milner/Israeli Government Press Office

The Talmud relates that in the weeks between the Passover and Shavuot, a plague killed the students of the great sage Rabbi Akiva, “because they did not act respectfully towards each other.” On Lag BaOmer the plague ended.

2. Kabbalah for the masses

Credit: Library of Congress
Credit: Library of Congress

Lag BaOmer is the anniversary of 2nd century sage and author of the Zohar Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s passing. Rabbi Shimon was the first to publicly teach the mystical dimension of the Torah known as the “Kabbalah.” Before he passed away, Rabbi Shimon asked that Lag BaOmer be celebrated as a joyous day.

3. Some have a custom to eat carob . . .

Credit: Anders Mohlin/flickr
Credit: Anders Mohlin/flickr

Commemorating a carob tree that miraculously grew at the entrance of a cave Rabbi Shimon and his son hid from the Romans. For 13 years the two fugitives managed to live from the tree’s fruit.

4. …while others also eat hard-boiled eggs that have been dyed with onion skins!

Credit: Sarah Braun/flickr
Credit: Sarah Braun/flickr

Less common than carob, the custom of eating dyed eggs reflects the dual nature of the day. Eggs are a typical expression of mourning for the passing of Rabbi Shimon.

However, the colors from the onion skins add a festive element to the dish, reminding us to rejoice for Rabbi Shimon’s life and teachings.

5. Pour some out

Credit: tumblr
Credit: tumblr

Some also have the custom of donating 18 rotel of drink, an ancient liquid measurement of about 54 liters, to guests visiting the tomb of Rabbi Shimon on Lag BaOmer or other celebrations.

6. A walk in the park

Credit: Giphy
Credit: Giphy

There is also a custom to visit open fields on Lag BaOmer. What better place to practice our next two customs?

7. Reach in, go out

Credit: Giphy
Credit: Giphy

Some have a custom of shooting a bow and arrow, commemorating the midrashic tradition that no rainbow was seen during Rabbi Shimon’s lifetime. Rainbows remind us of G‑d’s promise after the flood to never again devastate the world. Rabbi Shimon’s merit protected the world, rendering the rainbow superfluous.

8. Spread some light!

Credit: M Lightstone
Credit: M Lightstone

The earliest recorded mention of the custom of lighting bonfires was from the famed Mishnaic commentator Rabbi Ovadiah of Bertinoro. Today these fires have become a veritable symbol for the holiday.

The famed chassidic master Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov explains the custom as a sign of the culmination of Rabbi Shimon’s life work. On Lag BaOmer, the true power of Rabbi Shimon’s accomplishments shone forth like bonfire illuminating the night.

9. Take a trip

Credit: Wikimedia
Credit: Wikimedia

People across Israel and around the world travel to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s resting place in the village of Meron. In recent years, crowds have surged with some 300,000 people attending.

10. In the merit of the righteous ones who are buried in this place

Credit: JEM
Credit: JEM

Jews pray at the resting place of Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe. His successor, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson can be seen leaving prayer notes at the foot of the grave.

In addition to visiting the resting place of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, there is a custom to visiting the resting place of great Jewish leaders and sages around the world. This is based on the Kabbalistic teaching that the souls of all great sages are connected.

11. Cutting hair for the first time

Credit: Israeli Government Press Office
Credit: Israeli Government Press Office

There is a well-known custom to let a male child’s hair grow long until his third birthday, when he receives his first haircut. Called an upsherin in Yiddish and chalakah by Sephardic Jews.

When the child’s birthday falls during the days of Sefirat HaOmer, when cutting hair is forbidden, we wait until Lag BaOmer, when it is permitted. If the child is in Israel, it is customary to travel to Meron for the cutting ceremony.

12. Take to the streets!

Credit: JEM
Credit: JEM

The Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—would encourage children to take part in parades in public displays of Jewish unity. These paredes thus married the holiday’s themes of Jewish unity, pride and a celebration of Jewish growth.

Today millions of Jewish children in communities around the world have taken part in local parades and Lag BaOmer festivals.

Find a Lag BaOmer celebration in your community!

What’s your favorite Lag BaOmer custom? Share it in the comments!