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Jewish Holidays

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Lag Baomer

Lag Baomer

 Lag Baomer bonfireLag Baomer, the 33th of the Omer was given its name by its count in Sefirat HaOmer, The Omer period itself, those forty-nine days between Passover and Shavuot is a time of semi-mourning, when weddings and other celebrations are forbidden. The Lag B'Omer holiday originates from the time of Rabbi Akiva, when thousands of his students died in a plague; the reason given was because they had not respected each other. We are told that the plague ended on the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer thus Lag Ba'Omer became a happy day, interrupting the sadness of the Omer period for twenty-four hours. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was a student of Rabbi Akiva who was the spiritual leader of the Bar Kochba Revolt against Rome. As a student of the spiritual leader of the revolt, bar Yochai was pursued relentlessly by the Romans. He and his son, Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon, took refuge in a cave, where they remained for thirteen years. The bonfires lit every year celebrate the immense light that was brought into the world by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai especially on Lag BaOmer, the day of his passing away.

Lag Baomer Marriage custom

Lag Baomer MarriageLag BaOmer is the thirty third day of counting the Omer period. We know that the Omer days between Passover and Shavuot are marked by pain, as during this period twenty-four thousand of Rabbi Akiva’s students died. It is for this reason, the custom is to observe semi-mourning practices during these weeks and shaving, haircuts, music, and weddings were forbidden. The plague ended on Lag b'Omer and this day became one of joy and celebration. Yet things brighten up on the 33rd day of the count with the arrival of the festival of Lag Baomer when the plague ended and Lag b'Omer became one of joy and celebration when the mourning restrictions are lifted. The evening and the day of Lag Ba'Omer are the only dates between Passover and Shavuot on which all Jewish traditions agree that one may get married. Therefore many wedding are held on this day. While the widespread Ashkenazi custom is to prohibit marriages until the day of Lag BaOmer, when weddings are permitted some authorities are more lenient and allow marriages even on the eve of Lag BaOmer.

Lag Baomer Chalakah

Orthodox parents leave the boy’s hair unshorn until his third birthday. The first hair-cut is celebrated in a special ceremony called a Chalakah. Nowhere is this practice mentioned and the Jewish origins of it are hotly disputed yet nowadays it became a tradition that draws more and more people to join the celebration. The most known Chalakah ceremony takes place on Lag BaOmer at the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochay in Meron. To give the ceremony a deeper meaning many families weigh the cut hair and its equivalent donated to charity.

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