Today Jews Celebrate Lag B’Omer

A look into the customs of Lag B’Omer

Lag B’Omer also referred to as Lag BaOmer is a Jewish holiday that takes place on the thirty-third day of Omer. In the Hebrew language ‘Lag’ comes from letters “lamed” and “gimmel” where lamed stands for the alphabet ‘L’ that has a numerical value of thirty. Gimmel stands for letter “G” with a numerical value of three. Together they make thirty-three. However, ‘BaOmer’ refers ‘Of the Omer.’ Omer is a mourning period for the Jewish, during which they get a break on the 33rd day. Jewish law permits public to get haircuts, light bonfires or carry out marriage ceremonies on this day during Omer. The Counting of the Omer is considered to have been observed due to different reasons some of which are not definite.

It is a mourning period during which Jewish people disseminate grief by not celebrating any festivals or customs, additionally do not cut their hair. However, some believe it to be a time of concern for growing crops in the harvest period. While others say it is observed due to a plague that killed abundance of students of Rabbi Akiva as they did not treat one another with respect cited via the Talmud. Omer is observed as a memoir of those students and the punishment they received. According to numerical calculation and tradition, the plague ended on the 33rd day, hence making Lag B’Omer the marked 24 hours of happiness while observing Omer.

Furthermore, Talmud sheds light upon the rebellion of Rabbi Akiva and Bar Kochba led against the rule of the Romans in Judea. Many of Rabbi Akiva’s students are believed to be killed when the Judean rebellion failed. According to this tradition Lag B’Omer is a day that represents respite for people during the revolt. The Kabbalists on the other hand present a different understanding as to why Omer is observed. They believe it to be the purification of soul before it is time to receive Torah on Shavuot. These days have immense value as they cleanse the mind and soul. Lastly, Lag B’Omer is believed to be the conviction that the nourishment that encouraged the Israelites in the desert that showed up on the eighteenth of Iyar.

There are several customs celebrated during Lag B’Omer. The most famous custom is the lighting of the bonfire, not only in Israel but around the globe where religious Jews are residing. The bonfire signifies the teachings of Yohai. Another custom is referred to as the Chai Rotel. This custom is celebrated at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Chai refers to eighteen, and rotel is liquid. Hence the Jewish donate 18 liters of liquid of any kind according to this custom.

Next is the first haircut of children known as “upsherin” which focuses on boys who are three years old receiving their first haircut. Wine and sweets are distributed by the parents of these children amongst people. Children can play with bows and arrows. This is attributed with Israeli Defense Forces Gadna Program. Furthermore, parades are carried out on Lag B’Omer to portray the unification of Jews. Lag B’Omer allows the celebration of weddings to be carried out. Traditional songs are associated with Lag B’Omer that are sung at bonfires and weddings. The poems and songs are to honor Yochai. Tish is a custom that is celebrated in place of the bonfire. Instead of, or in addition to lighting bonfires, candles are lit for celebration.

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