What Is Lag B’Omer?
Lag B'Omer is the 33rd day of the Omer period. The word "Lag" is not really a word; it is the number 33 in Hebrew. Each Hebrew letter has a numerical equivalent. Lag is a combination of the letters Lamed (numerical equivalent =30) and Gimel (numerical equivalent = 3).
What Is The Omer?
The Omer is the 49 days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot. These days correspond both to the time between the physical emancipation from Egypt and the spiritual liberation of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai on Shavuot, as well as to the time between the barley harvest and the wheat harvest in ancient Israel. Both of these stretches of time were periods of uncertainty and worry. Later in Jewish history, the Omer period came to be associated with sad memories for the Jewish people related to religious oppression. For all of these reasons, there are some Jews who do not have weddings or parties, celebrate with music or dance or cut their hair during the Omer. However, there is one day during the Omer that is an exception.
Which Day Is The Exception?
Today-- Lag B’Omer!
Even in the saddest of times, the Jewish people always seek out something to celebrate. When the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem (70 C.E.), they forbade the study of Torah. Two famous rabbis, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Rabbi Akiva, continued their study of Torah in secret. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai hid in a cave and studied with his son for 12 years. One legend has it that Rabbi Akiva and his students evaded the Roman prohibition by dressing up as hunters and going into the woods pretending to hunt but studying Torah instead.
On Lag B’Omer we celebrate our freedom to study Torah and to be part of a community that celebrates Jewish life and learning.