Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sunday is Lag B'Omer!

Lag B'Omer is the 33rd day of the Omer. (My understanding is that Sephardic Jews say Lag LaOmer, which is just a different literal translation of the preposition.) Forgive me for not giving you a detailed explanation of the Omer here.

This year, Lag B'Omer is Saturday, May 22, 2011, at sundown until Sunday, May 23 at sundown.

While the Omer is a time of mourning and sadness, Lag B'Omer is a day of joy! Many people observe some form of mourning rituals during the Omer, but these restrictions are lifted on Lag B'Omer. They may or may not continue the mourning restrictions after Lag B'Omer.

There are several reasons given for why Lag B'Omer is a happy day:
  • The Talmud says that 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's students died from a divine plague because they didn't show each other proper respect. Tradition says that this plague ended on Lag B'Omer.
  • Lag B'Omer is the yartzheit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who is considered the author of the Zohar.
  • Lag B'Omer also celebrates the temporary victory of the Bar Kochba revolt over the Romans. 
How do people celebrate Lag B'Omer? The simplest way is to have a picnic outdoors! People also schedule haircuts (many people do not cut their hair during the Omer), weddings (ditto), parties (you get the idea), and concerts (yup). In Israel (and in some places outside Israel), Lag B'Omer is celebrated with huge bonfires. If you're doing this, be careful!

Now go schedule yourself a haircut!


  1. I see you have omitted the detail of shechting animals over the bonfires, something they do in Israel. ;)

    Thousands of people also gather at R. Shimon bar Yochai's grave in Mt. Meron, near Tzfat(I'm sure you remember staring at that same mountain when we were there! :)). People feel that there is some sort of mystical property about his grave on this date. I'm sure you can find all sorts of miracle stories about how the barren became pregnant, people found their bashert instantly, their illnesses were cured, etc.

  2. FWIW, I'll point out that all my Sefardi friends say Lag B'omer, and this is also what appears in the three or four Sefardi volumes that I quickly looked in to confirm.

    Oh, and happy anniversary to the Schers and all the others who use this day to get married. ;-)

  3. Got myself a haircut, then went to a Chabad organised BBQ. First time I really observed Lag B'Omer!