Lag b’Omer begins tonight at sundown. The literal translation of this lesser known holiday on the Jewish calendar is “33rd day of the Omer.” Recall that we are in the seven week period of “counting up” from Passover to Shavuot. Each day of this 49 day period, we recite the Blessing for Counting the Omer, and get one day closer to commemorating the receiving of Torah, and preparing ourselves to receive Torah anew…As such, Shavuot is also called Matan Torah–Giving of the Torah, at Mt. Sinai.
What is the significance of the 33 day of the Omer, Lag b’Omer? Tradition tells us that many students of Rabbi Akiva (first century) were afflicted by a plague that ceased on the 18th of Iyar, the 33rd day of the Omer counting period. Because of this, the 18th of Iyar is a day of celebration and joyous activity. In general the 7 week Omer period has a solemn quality. As such, many activities are forbidden during this time including weddings, haircuts, picnics. So this one day of celebration on Lag b’Omer is a welcome reprieve, and many head outside for festive springtime activities. Some of the traditional activities include bon fires, barbecues, archery, kite flying, hiking.
There is a lot of interesting history associated with this lesser known holiday on the Jewish calendar. For a full description of the history and rituals associated with Lag b’Omer, you can read more from My Jewish Learning, What is Lag B’Omer?
This one day celebration on Lag b’Omer, in the midst of the 7 weeks of the Omer period, was known historically as “A Break in the Plague.” It is interesting to consider what this might mean to us personally? Whatever challenges in our lives “plague” us, the holiday of Lag b’Omer reminds us that nothing lasts forever, there are always moments of reprieve, and joy always breaks through.