Lag Baomer is a day of celebration that falls between Pesach and Shavuos on the 33rd day of the Sefirat Haomer. The preceding weeks of mourning are replaced with joyous celebrations of bonfires, outings, first haircuts, weddings and listening to music to commemorate the day. Many people also visit the kever of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai to celebrate his life.
Why do we celebrate Lag Baomer?
The 32 days preceding Lag BaOmer are considered days of mourning, and therefore we do not take haircuts, listen to music or celebrate weddings. This is in remembrance of the tragic events which befell the 24000 talmidim of Rabbi Akiva.
Although his students were great and learned scholars, they had one major shortcoming- they lacked love and showed little respect towards one another. This had devastating consequences. A plague raged among his students during a period of 32 days resulting in the death of all 24,000 of them. The epidemic had a vast impact on Torah study at the time. And so this tragedy, the loss of life and torah, is mourned in the 32 days leading up to Lag Baomer.
Another reason Lag Baomer is celebrated is to mark the death of the great kabbalist Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who lived during the second century. On the day of his passing, which falls on Lag Baomer, he requested that his death be marked by people rejoicing rather than tears. Therefore, this is a day of happiness and celebration rather than mourning.
How do we celebrate?
This is a day full of joy and festivities as many 3-year-old boys have their upsherans, weddings are held and people sing and dance with cheer as they can listen to music for the first time in 32 days. There is an atmosphere of joy and camaraderie as families and friends celebrate together at bonfires and events.
Bonfires are a common sight on Lag Baomer and are customary as they commemorate the light of Torah Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai brought to the world. On the day of his passing, he revealed many Torah secrets to his students and therefore it has become traditional to light bonfires on this day.
Additionally, in some circles, people also eat carobs to remember the miracle that kept Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son alive. While they were hiding in a cave to escape the Romans, God miraculously created a carob tree at the entrance to keep them nourished for the 13 years that they were there and this sustained them and kept them alive.
The kever of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in the north of Israel is also a popular place to visit. As aforementioned, he died on Lag Baomer, so every year the small town of Meron where he’s buried is overrun by almost a million people joining together in celebration of his Yartzeit.
Although Lag Baomer will be celebrated a little differently this year due to the coronavirus, here at Kosher Kingdom we hope you enjoy celebrating with family and have an enjoyable and festive day.