Friday, May 4, 2012

Lag B'Omer:This year on May 10, 2012

 In just a few days we celebrate Lag B'Omer. As the Torah says in Leviticus, we are to count the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot, the amount of time that passed between the Jews’ physical redemption from Egypt and the spiritual liberation of receiving Torah at the foot of Mount Sinai.  This is known as The Counting of the Omer.  The 1st 32 days are considered a period of mourning.  In fact, Jewish weddings Jewish weddings are usually not celebrated during this time. Why? As the story goes, the great Rabbi Akiva was known to have brilliant students, however they let their ego’s get out of hand and did not show each other proper respect. As a result, 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students were killed by a heaven sent plague.   Each year, we observe a period of mourning in remembrance.  Jews celebrate on the 33rd day of the Omer because that is the day the plague ended. Because on Lag B’Omer, it is the 1st opportunity in a month to wed, many couples take advantage of the happy and spiritual nature of the day by choosing it as their wedding day.  Families enjoy having picnics & bonfires together, enjoying the beautiful weather and celebrating the light of the Torah.

"FIRST HAIRCUT & PEYOT SHAPING" ceremonies for 3 year old boys are the highlight of Lag b'Omer for many families, as everyone gathers to help snip.  Actually, everywhere in the world, Jewish boys born between Pesach and Lag b’Omer receive their first haircut and peyot on Lag b’Omer. Upon reaching the age of 3 (i.e., completing three years and beginning the "holy fourth"-see Lev. 19:23-25), a Jewish child begins to receive his or her official training in mitzvot. 

 The first mitzvah for a 3 year old boy is (Lev. 19:27) "Do not cut off the hair on the side of your head."  Four centuries ago, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the great Kabbalist, camped at Meron with his family in order to "make peyot" for his son on Lag b'Omer "in the presence of" Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.  Since then, especially in modern-day Israel, it has been a strong custom to administer the "first sheering" (comparable to the mitzvah of the First Fleece Offering-see Deut. 18:4) at Meron, and ideally on Lag b'Omer - birthdate and custom permitting.

Teaching children about the slings and arrows of life... playing with bows and arrows is another Lag b’Omer tradition, symbolizing the Torah learning by the students of Rabbi Akiva in the forests of Israel. A lookout would watch for Roman soldiers who were searching for the renegade scholars; when any would approach, the students would pretend to be hunting with bows and arrows among the trees for food.

However you celebrate, have a great time! Chag Sameach! 

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