2021 Journal Booklet

Tonight is Lag Ba’omer. The 33rd day of the counting of the Omer.

 The word lag is formed by two Hebrew letters, the Lamed (L) signifying the number 30 and the Gimel (g) signifying the number 3.  The a in between is just a vowel in order to pronounce the word.

On this day, it is reported that the plague that took the lives of thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students ceased. For this reason the day is celebrated with great joy. Haircuts are permitted and mourning practices are stopped. For those who observe the mourning starting from the first day of the Omer, the morning ends and all practices and weddings can resume. However, those who started the mourning on the  first day of Iyar, mourning is resumed after lag BaOmer and continues until 3 days before Shavuot.

Sephardic custom is to get haircuts only on the 34th day, this year on Friday. However it has become customary for Sephardim also to engage in happy events on Lag BaOmer itself.

On this day, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochay, the author of the Zohar, ascended to Heaven and the celebrations take the aspect of remembering Rabbi Shimon. Hence all the festivities that take place in Meron, the burial place of Rabbi Shimon. The reason for joy is that we believe the righteous ascend one step higher on their yahrzeit.

The fires remind us of the importance of fiery passion in our religious observance. It is also a symbol of the light of meaning that came from the teachings of Kabbalah and Bar Yochay Eating Carobs is also customary because that’s the fruit that sustained Rabbi Shimon during the years he was hiding in a cave as he escaped from the Romans.

Rabbi Moshe Cordovero and Rabbi Yosef Caro as well as the Ari zal would visit his grave regularly and this the custom arose to be at Meron on this day. Those who cannot travel there would light fires in their places and eat Carobs as they remember the glorious legacy of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochay. There are countless stories of blessings received after visiting the grave, especially related to offspring.

Rabbi Shimon excelled in the mitzvah of Ahavat Israel and this is a special day to stimulate us to love every Jew.

May we merit the unity of Am Israel which a necessary precursor for the coming of Meshiach. Amen

 David Algaze

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