Lag B’Omer isn’t one of the best-known Jewish holidays—though some may notice that the men whose faces have grown fairly fuzzy following Passover are suddenly clean-shaven again. On his deathbed, famed sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai instructed his students to mark the date of Lag B’Omer as “the day of my joy.” Through the centuries, Lag B’Omer has remained a celebratory day. JNS.org presents the top 10 ways to fete the 33rd day of the Omer period.
Though it was once the exclusive purview of the Hassidic sects, the Lag B'Omer celebration at Mount Meron has now grown to attract Israelis of every stripe. Think Times Square on New Year’s Eve—only without the snow or Dick Clark, and with bonfires and sharp scissors for young boys' first haircuts. In interviews with JNS.org, Israelis recount their most vivid memories of an occasion filled with happy mayhem.
On Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer and the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, the Jewish community is aflame with celebration. People frolic around bonfires in traditional festivities, marking the day with joy. Boy Scout Abraham “Avi” Brudoley, a bonfire pro, offers JNS.org his advice so that you can light your own this Lag B’Omer.
One of the most prominent themes of the the Lag B'Omer holiday describes that the 33rd day of the Omer period between Passover and Shavuot brought the sudden cessation of a national calamity in ancient Judea—the death of 24,000 students of the sage Rabbi Akiva. While it has often been interpreted at a literal level, the vague and mystifying nature of how the Rabbi Akiva narrative is recounted in the Talmud, coupled with the immensity of loss of life it describes, demands that we think critically about what is being conveyed. It is helpful to understand the narrative against the social and political backdrop of the times and the persona of Rabbi Akiva, writes Binyamin Kagedan.