Thursday, 10 May 2012


“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” - Oprah Winfrey
Many Jewish communities around the world will observe today the Lag B’Omer holiday, also known as Lag BaOmer, which falls on the 18th day of the month of Iyar in the Jewish calendar. The name of this observance means “the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer”. The Counting of the Omer is a time for spiritual growth and some Jewish groups forbid haircuts, weddings, dancing and other forms of entertainment in this period. However, Lag B’Omer is a time of celebration and these restrictions are either lifted for one day or ended. Many people hold picnics or barbecues, sing, dance, and encourage their children to play outside with bows, arrows, bats and balls. In Meron, Israel, three-year-old boys are given their first haircuts on this holiday.

In Israel, Lag B’Omer is a school holiday. In the weeks or days beforehand, children and young people gather waste wood, particularly old doors and boards, to pile into huge bonfires. On the evening at the start of Lag B’Omer, the bonfires are lit. The bonfires may symbolise fires lit to communicate and celebrate that a war or period of fighting has ended. People may also offer “Chai Rotel” by donating or offering 18 rotel (about 13 gallons or 54 liters) of liquid food or drink to pilgrims attending the celebrations at the Hilula of R’Shimon bar Yochai in Meron, Israel. Many people believe that anyone who does this will be granted a miracle. An example of this would be that a woman who cannot have children through pregnancy may miraculously become pregnant.

The Lag B’Omer holiday originates from the time of Rabbi Akiva, a scholar and teacher of Jewish law who lived approximately during the years 50 to 135 CE. In a number of Jewish documents, there are passages, which report that 24,000 of his students died in a plague, because they had not respected each other. The plague ended on the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, a period of 49 days between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot.  Some scholars think that the “plague” refers to the Roman occupation of Jewish lands and that the students died resisting the Roman army, perhaps in the Bar Kokhba revolt in the years 132 to 135 CE. The bonfire connection may be made here, perhaps.

Many visit the resting place (in Meron, northern Israel) of the great sage and mystic Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the anniversary of whose passing is on this day. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (ca 100-160 CE), was the first to publicly teach the mystical dimension of the Torah known as the “Kabbalah,” and is the author of the basic work of Kabbalah, the Zohar. On the day of his passing, Rabbi Shimon instructed his disciples to mark the date as “the day of my joy.” The chassidic masters explain that the final day of a righteous person’s earthly life marks the point at which “all his deeds, teachings and work” achieve their culminating perfection and the zenith of their impact upon our lives. So each Lag B’Omer, the Rabbi Shimon’s life and the revelation of the esoteric soul of Torah are celebrated.

Kabbalah |kəˈbɑːlə, ˈkabələ|(also Kabbala, Cabbala, Cabala, or Qabalah ), noun.
The ancient Jewish tradition of mystical interpretation of the Bible, first transmitted orally and using esoteric methods (including ciphers). It reached the height of its influence in the later Middle Ages and remains significant in Hasidism.

Kabbalism noun,
Kabbalist noun,
Kabbalistic adjective
ORIGIN: From medieval Latin cabala, cabbala, from Rabbinical Hebrew qabbālāh ‘tradition’, from qibbēl ‘receive, accept’.

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