June 18, 2024
B”H
B”H

What Does Lag BaOmer Mean to the Jewish Community?

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Lag BaOmer is a short but important period within the Jewish calendar. It has only grown in significance over recent years, serving as a rare opportunity to step back and appreciate the strength and resolve of the Jewish community amidst times of uncertainty. In this article, we explain the origins of Lag BaOmer and how you can honor them yourself.

What Is Lag BaOmer?

Lag BaOmer is a Jewish holiday that falls on the 33rd day of the Omer, which is the period of time between Passover and Shavuot. It takes place in 2024 on the evening of Saturday, May 25, 2024 until Sunday, May 26, 2024. Also, Passover begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, and Shavuot falls on the 6th day of Sivan. The Omer is a counting period that connects these two holidays.

The word “Lag” in Lag BaOmer comes from the Hebrew letters lamed (ל) and gimmel (ג), which have a numerical value of 33. This signifies the day on which the holiday is observed.

When Is Lag BaOmer?

Because events on the Jewish calendar like Lag BaOmer follow the lunar cycle, their actual dates on the Gregorian Calendar vary from year to year. We celebrate Lag BaOmer on the 18th day of the 7th month, Iyar. This usually falls sometime in April or May on the secular calendar.

How Long Is Lag BaOmer Celebrated?

Lag BaOmer is the only day within the mourning period between Passover and Shavuot that is meant to be celebrated. It is a 24-hour holiday, beginning at sundown on the evening before and ending at sundown the next day.

The History and Purpose of the Jewish Holiday Lag BaOmer

With the meaning of this Jewish holiday explained, we can address another equally important question every Jew should know the answer to: Why is Lag BaOmer Celebrated?

The Story Behind the Holiday

Lag BaOmer is not unlike other holidays on our calendar in that it is deeply rooted in Jewish history. The 33rd day of the Omer marks the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a prominent Jewish scholar and mystic who lived in second-century Israel. Rabbi Shimon was one of the disciples of Rabbi Akiva who survived a plague that killed 24,000 students until its end, which was also on Lag BaOmer.

According to legend, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai revealed the deepest secrets of the Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition, on this day. His teachings and insights had a profound impact on Judaism and are still studied today.

Meaningful Lag BaOmer Traditions

Lag BaOmer is marked by several unique customs and celebrations. One of the most well-known traditions is the Lag BaOmer bonfire. These large fires are lit in public spaces to symbolize the light of Torah spreading throughout the world. They create an opportunity for Israeli families to come together and celebrate Jewish values with music, dancing, and traditional foods.

Music 

Music is an essential element of Lag BaOmer, and there are many songs that have been written specifically for this holiday. ‘Bar Yochai’, ‘V’Amertem’, and ‘Lag BaOmer Niggun’ are just a few popular examples. Several prayers and blessings are also recited on Lag BaOmer, including the traditional ‘Shehecheyanu’ blessing, which gives thanks for reaching this special day.

Food

Lag BaOmer commemorates the legacy of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, revered for his authorship of the Zohar, a cornerstone of Jewish mysticism. Fleeing Roman persecution, Rabbi Shimon and his son sought refuge in a cave for 13 years, sustained by the miraculous provision of carobs and spring water. 

Tradition dictates munching on carobs to honor this event, but there are tastier ways to enjoy this symbolic food beyond gnawing on their tough pods. The most popular way to take it is carob powder, which is easily available for purchase. Like chocolate chips, carob chips are also rather easy to get.

Another Lag BaOmer custom, steeped in Chabad tradition, involves boiling eggs with onion peels, resulting in a vibrant reddish-brown hue. This practice, rooted in historical symbolism, juxtaposes mourning with celebration. While eggs traditionally signify mourning, the festive spirit of Lag BaOmer deserves a colorful twist. 

Food plays a significant role in Lag BaOmer celebrations. Traditional dishes also include roasted meats, such as lamb or chicken. 

How to Celebrate Lag BaOmer In Line with Jewish Law

Those who are less familiar with the holiday often have many questions about celebrating Lag BaOmer. Can you shave on Lag BaOmer? Can you work on Lag BaOmer? While there are prohibitions associated with other times of religious observance, this specific day does not have any. Restrictions on weddings, haircuts, and listening to live music which apply throughout the days of the Omer, do not apply on Lag BaOmer.

Jews can honor the meaning of Lag BaOmer by engaging in acts of loving-kindness like philanthropy or Tzedakah. Important Chabad figures and prominent rebbes have long encouraged us to give back on holidays with charity, and the 18th day of Iyar is no exception.

If you aren’t sure where to start, the Chabad movement has inspired countless Israeli organizations worth supporting. From Jewish charities that help orphaned children and organizations dedicated to community healthcare to groups for widows and initiatives against hunger, donations always go to meaningful places.

Many Jews also get involved through intangible acts outlined in the Eight Degrees of Giving by signing up to volunteer and lend a hand in their local communities. The day can also be spent learning and sharing knowledge, as it is an auspicious time for spiritual growth and enlightenment.

Donate to Israeli Charities Like Colel Chabad On Lag BaOmer

The history of Colel Chabad is as old as the history of organized Jewish charity itself. Our non-profit was founded in 1788 by the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. He saw the importance of helping others in need and established Colel Chabad to provide aid for the poor and hungry in Israel.

Since then, Colel Chabad has grown to become the largest mission of its kind. Our Pantry Packers and Soup Kitchens programs are a critical source of sustenance to thousands every year. Through our many initiatives, we embody the spirit of giving inherent to Lag BaOmer. 

You can donate to Jewish charities that support education, refugees, and a range of other individual groups. Or you can support Colel Chabad, which is making a tangible impact by providing vital resources and aid to them all. Get involved in our philanthropic work by making an online donation today.

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