Lag BaOmer – 3 Lessons For Our Time

Lag BaOmer – 3 Lessons For Our Time

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Lag B’Omer 2019

Lag Baomer is a minor celebration which signals in a change in the lag baomer 2019nature of the Omer Period. For Sephardim, after Lag BaOmer, the period of mourning is over. For Ashkenazim, it is a break in the mourning period. 

Lag Baomer is named after the day counted in the Omer, day number 33. In Hebrew, each letter has a numerical value so ל=30 and ג=3 thus לג בעמר means the 33rd day of the Omer.

The day itself is a later addition to the festival season. Although counting the Omer is mentioned in the Torah Lag BaOmer is not mentioned.

What is the Lag BaOmer Day About?

There are three key reasons to celebrate Lag Ba’Omer:

  1. This was the day that the students of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying.
  2. It is the Yahrtzeit of the sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai
  3. It was the first day that the manna fell in the desert.

Let’s analyse these three reasons and see if we can unlock a deeper understanding to this day.

Reason 1 Rabbi Akiva’s Student’s Stop Dying On Lag Baomer

Rabbi Akiva was the great sage of his generation. A master teacher who had built an educational system that consisted of 24000 students. Rabbi Akiva’s students all perished in a plague. There is much discussion as to whether they died in a plague as suggested by the Talmud or since Rabbi Akiva supported the Bar Kochba revolt, in the battle against the Romans.

Whichever the reason, the Sages in the Talmud ask, ” Why should such a tragedy befall our People? ” They answer that the reason for the tragedy was because they did not respect each other.

What motivated the Sages to suggest that this was the sin? They answered that Rabbi Akiva taught, Loving your neighbour as yourself is the greatest mitzvah in the Torah. Yet his own students did not absorb this teaching! The sages were asking the question. Such a great tragedy! This must be viewed as a punishment for a sin of the generation. We cannot suggest this reason. But they did. We learn that in the face of tragedy that, we can ask the question what is the tragedy trying to teach me? And secondly the danger of not loving our fellow.

Reason 2: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai

Lag B'omer

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was one of the remaining students of Rabbi Akiva, an outspoken critic of the Romans he was forced to hide in a cave for 12 years,  after insulting the Roman authorities. It was during this time that he and his son unlocked the secrets of the deep mystical teachings of Judaism. Rabbi Shimon teaches us that even when things are bad, we can take the lemons and make lemonade. Rabbi Shimon’s forced exile produced the fruits of the Zohar-  illuminating deeper insights into the Torah and how Hashem runs the world.

Reason 3: The Manna Fell In The Desert.

lag B'omer 2019

On this day the manna begins to fall. This miraculous food would sustain the people during the 40 years of wandering. After a month traveling in the desert, their meager provisions ran out. The People cried out to Hashem for food and were granted the gift of Manna, a food that could taste like anything you wanted. In times of distress, when we call out to Hashem, not only will we receive an answer, but the answer may be better than anything we could imagine.

May the light of the bonfire illuminate your soul as we journey towards the receiving of the Torah at Sinai.

 

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for an inspirational and informative lesson, Rabbi.
    Love the new format too.

  2. I tend to agree with the reason of th deaths was because of the rebellion. Yes, I am sure that his students were punished for not listenin to Akiva’s teachings, but cannot see that death would be their punishment. Hoeevetr we can most definiyely learn to respect another’s opinion.

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