Jewish holiday Lag BaOmer begins this year on Saturday, May 17. It is a time of both joy and sorrow for the Jewish people.
Lag BaOmer is a commemoration of the passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. He was a great Rabbi and teacher that lived during the second century. He was a mystical rabbi and the first man to publicly teach his followers about a mystical dimension of the Torah which he called Kabbalah.
Because of the different Jewish calendar, the celebration of Lag BaOmer actually falls on a different day every year, a bit like the Christian celebration of Easter. It is always the 33rd day of the Omer count. This year, Lag BaOmer begins in the evening of May 17 and ends in the evening on May 18. Many Jews throughout the world will be celebrating.
Bar Yochai is also said to be the author of the seminal work on Kabbalah, called the Zohar, but some have their doubts about this.
When bar Yochai knew he was dying, he gathered his followers together, and instructed them to mark the day that he died as “the day of my joy.” Many Jewish people that are able to will visit the final resting place of Rabbi Shimon, which is in Mount Meron, a region in northern Israel.
But that is not the only reason why Lag BaOmer is so special and important for Jewish people. The day also remembers a catastrophic event within Jewish history.
During the period between the Jewish festivals of Passover and Shavuot, a plague killed many people and the deaths finally ended on the day of Lag BaOmer. This makes the day important for both joyous and sad reasons: it is a time to mourn, as well as be grateful.
The customary way to celebrate Lag BaOmer is to take an outing. During the day, many children will play with bows and arrows, which is very traditional. There will also be entertainment, such as bonfires and potentially fireworks, as well as a large amount of food.