Lag B’Omer, What’s It Really About?

Today is Lag B’Omer, my candidate for the least understood Jewish holiday. The church I attended for twenty-five years in Florida followed a command from God to “identify with Israel,” by keeping as many Jewish holidays as possible. For example, we regularly had the kids stage plays for Shavuot, Hanukkah and Purim (Lindy played Naomi from the story of Ruth, on two occasions). I count twelve holidays that we observed, or at least mentioned when they fell during the current week:

  • Pesach/Passover
  • First Fruits
  • Yom Hashoah (Holocaust remembrance day)
  • Israel’s Independence Day (5th of Iyar)
  • Jerusalem Day (25th of Iyar, commemorating the Six Day War)
  • Shavuot
  • 9th of Av
  • Rosh Hashanah
  • Yom Kippur
  • Sukkot
  • Hanukkah
  • Purim

Lag B’Omer, on the other hand, completely slipped under the radar. I don’t remember my pastor even mentioning it, nor did our Israeli guests explain it. I gather it has to do with counting the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot, though I don’t recall what makes the 33rd day (today) special. I’ve also heard it has something to do with the Bar Kochba Rebellion, and with the rabbi who founded the mystical Zohar movement. If one of the readers can clue me in, I’d appreciate it. In the meantime, here’s the cartoon the Israeli comic strip “Dry Bones” ran this week, that compared the holiday with modern politics:

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