Lag BaOmer is an extremely festive holiday, which falls out this year on May 3rd (or the 18th of Iyar, in the Jewish Calendar). The name “Lag BaOmer” translates to the “33rd day of the Omer” because it is the 33rd day of the 7 week count between Passover to Shavuot (Pentecost) which is mentioned in Leviticus 23,15. This day is significant for two reasons.
The first reason the 33rd day of the Omer is celebrated is because it is the yartzeit (anniversary of passing) of a great Torah Scholar named Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, from the second century. He told his disciples that upon his passing,they should celebrate and not sit in mourning. So, according to his wishes and in commemoration of his teachings and good deeds, hundreds of thousands of people flock to his grave site in Meron during Lag BaOmer to partake in the festivities.
The second reason why the 33rd day of the Omer is celebrated with joy and festivities is because it marked the day a great epidemic ceased. During the times of Rabbi Akiva (Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s teacher), there was a plague that wiped out thousands of his students. This plague transformed the counting between Passover and Shavuot into a mournful period. But it is also why, on the 33rd day of the Omer, we stop and celebrate! On this day the plague ended.
Lag BaOmer is celebrated with bonfires, parties, hikes and picnics outdoors, young boys getting their first haircuts, and people visiting Meron en masse.
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