Lag B’Omer May 23, 2019 (18 Iyyar 5779)

You shall count for yourselves — from the day after the Shabbat, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving — seven Shabbats, they shall be complete. Until the day after the seventh sabbath you shall count, fifty days…

Leviticus 23:15-16

L’ag B’Omer is observed on May 23, 2019 (18 Iyar 5779)

Lag B’Omer literally means the 33rd day of the Omer. The Omer is counted for 49 days between the end of Passover and the holiday of Shavuot (derived from the practice of counting the days from the barley offering at the Temple to the day of the wheat offering on Shavuot in the Torah). The holiday celebrates a break in a plague that is said to have occurred during the days of Rabbi Akiva. The Talmud states that the great teacher of Jewish mysticism, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, died on Lag B’Omer, and in modern times the holiday has come to symbolize the resilience of the Jewish spirit

The counting is intended to remind us of the link between Passover, which commemorates the Exodus, and Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah. It reminds us that the redemption from slavery was not complete until we received the Torah.

This counting period is a time of partial mourning, during which weddings, parties, and dinners with dancing are not conducted, and as a sign of grief, observant Jews do not cut their hair in memory of a plague during the lifetime of Rabbi Akiva. The 33rd day of the Omer, Lag B’Omer, (the eighteenth of Iyar) is a minor holiday commemorating a break in that plague. The mourning practices of the omer period are lifted on that date, allowing weddings and the cutting of hair. The word “lag” is not really a word; it is the number 33 in Hebrew.

Lag B’Omer Activities

Picnics

Lag B’Omer is typically celebrated with barbecues and picnics attended by family, friends and community members. There are not many traditional Lag B’Omer foods, but in Israel, typical foods eaten on the holiday include kebabs (roasted skewered meat or vegetables), pitas, eggplant salad, potato salad, tahini, etc. Otherwise, any foods that would go well at a picnic or bonfire are great options for Lag B’Omer.

 

Field Day Games

At these community-wide picnics there are field day games – archery, tug-of-war and potato sack races; all kinds of entertainment for the children. Schoolchildren picnic and play outdoors with bows and arrows — a possible reminder of the battles of Akiva’s students — and in Israel plant trees.

Bonfires

As the day turns into evening, it is customary to light bonfires and singing and camaraderie of older children and adults begins.