Lag B’Omer begins this evening (Wednesday, May 18) and ends at sundown on Thursday, May 19. Despite the rain this past weekend the J celebrated with our Lag B’Omer Garden Party on Sunday, May 15. From trays of s’mores to friends + families having lots of fun, it was a great day at the J. Check out our photos:
What is Lag B’Omer?
Lag B’Omer is a minor holiday that falls on the 33rd day of the Omer, which is the counting period that begins on the second day of Passover and culminates with the holiday of Shavuot. The word “Lag” is made of the Hebrew letters lamed (ל) and gimel (ג), which together have the numerical value of 33. So Lag B’Omer literally translates to “33rd day of the Omer.”
The Talmud says that in the weeks between Passover and Shavuot, a plague raged among the disciples of the great sage Rabbi Akiva, “because they did not act respectfully towards each other.” And so these weeks are observed as a mourning period, with various joyous activities forbidden by law and custom. However, on Lag B’Omer, the deaths ceased – so we celebrate it as a happy day, interrupting the sadness of the Omer for 24 hours. The holiday also carries a theme of loving and respecting each other.
How do we celebrate?
All over the world, it is typical to spend the day outside, enjoying the natural beauty of the world. The mourning practices of the Omer period are lifted for this day. As a result:
- Music is playing and people are singing and dancing with abandon!
- Boys who turned three during the Omer period but did not have their first haircut due to the mourning laws, have them today.
- Weddings are held (the only day during the Omer they are permitted).
- It is customary for children to play with bows and arrows, a possible reminder of the war battles of Rabbi Akiva’s students.
- Recognizing the fiery spirit of the mystical teachings that are celebrated today, bonfires are lit. Friends and family gather for eating, drinking, singing, and enjoying each other’s company.
What do we eat on Lag B’Omer?
Because bonfires and outdoor picnics are most associated with Lag B’Omer the typical foods are those that are you can prepare at home and easily transport or cook on an open fire such as BBQ, kebabs, and s’mores. Other customary foods for the day include carob (which miraculously sustained Rabbi Shimon and his son when they were hiding from the Romans) and eggs (a sign of mourning).
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