Lag Baomer, the 33rd day of Sefirat Haomer begins in the evening of Thursday, April 29 this year. Unlike the rest of this mourning period, celebrations are allowed on this day and are, in fact, encouraged.
Why do we celebrate?
Because the students of Rabbi Akiva did not have proper respect for each other, a plague passed among them. 24,000 of them tragically died. (The students of Rabbi Akiva were on an extremely high level, and they were certainly very respectful of each other. However, G-d holds righteous people to a very high standard.) On Lag Baomer, the deaths ceased, and this is one reason why we celebrate.
ל”ג בעומר also commemorates the anniversary of the day when Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (one of Rabbi Akiva’s remaining students) was permitted to reveal the זוהר – a basic text of קבלה. We celebrate with song, dance and bonfires symbolizing the power of תורה. Bows and arrows are used in the celebrations, commemorating the righteousness of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.
How so? After the Great Flood, G-d promised never to bring a deluge upon the entire world again – even if the world is deserving of destruction. The sign of this treaty is the rainbow: A rainbow symbolizes that the world is deserving of destruction, yet it is being spared because of Hashem’s covenant. It is thus noteworthy that in Rabbi Shimon’s lifetime, a rainbow never appeared! His great merit protected his generation from being judged as unworthy. Bows and arrows are therefore used to commemorate that the bow of the rainbow was not needed in his lifetime.
Since this was the day that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai revealed his great work, we have a custom to have festivities in his honor. Thousands of people flock to Meron, his burial site, each year. The mourning practices are lifted, so joyous music can be heard playing all over, weddings are scheduled, and little boys who turned three during the sefirah period now receive their haircuts. Some say that since Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai gave spiritual light to the world with the revelation of the Zohar, bonfires are lit to symbolize the impact of his teachings.
How do you plan on celebrating this Lag Baomer? Let us know below!