Tuesday, May 16, 2006

On La"G BaOmer

Indeed, we are in the period known as the Counting of the Omer, during which we count 49 days from the Second night of Passover until Shavuot. And yes, this past night and day were La"G BaOmer, literally the 33rd [count] in the Omer. It was on this day that the plague that had killed 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's students stopped, and it is also the day on which Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, of blessed memory, died (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai delivered the holy Zohar to the world, thereby introducing the Kabballah to the public (as public as it could be at the time)). La"G BaOmer celebrations are esepecially intense in Meiron in Israel, where Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is buried.

Now, Ben Baruch of Shabot6000.com brought up a good point today: Why do we celebrate when 24,000 of the greatest scholars just died? Moreover, it is the day on which one of the greatest kabbalists of all time died! And why is this such a celebratory day, when most of the people who celebrate La"G BaOmer davka say Tachanun on Yom HaAtzma'ut? Will one of our esteemed rabbis or resident scholars please enlighten me?

Also, in response to Netmessiah's post, there are in fact numerous different customs regarding the Omer, as Chabad.org explains: The Chabad custom, as put forth by the holy kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, is to observe the mourning practices "beginning on the day after Passover, up until (but not including) the day before Shavuot;" another custom is to mourn "[f]rom the first day of the Omer Count until the 33rd day of the Omer;" another is "[f]rom the 30th of Nissan (the first day of Rosh Chodesh Iyar) until the 3rd of Sivan in the morning;" another is "[f]rom the second day of Iyar until the day before Shavuot;" another, which is the prevailing Sephardic practice is "[f]rom the first day of the Omer until the morning of the 34th day of the Omer" which is the only custom where La"G BaOmer actually isn't observed as a day of rejoicing.

On La"G BaOmer, it is customary to have bonfires, barbecues, enjoy live music, let kids play with bows and arrows, and to give young boys (three year olds) their first haircuts.

I also wanted to share this great drash I read in Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky's Vedibarta Bam regarding Rabbi Akiva's students' plague:
QUESTION: One reason we celebrate Lag BaOmer is that the epidemic which caused the death of Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 disciples ceased on that day (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 493:5).

Rabbi Akiva defined the commandment to "love your fellow as yourself" (Vayikra 19:18) as "a fundamental principle of the Torah" (Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9:4). How could his disciples have departed from his teachings so drastically that their interpersonal conduct resulted in an epidemic?

ANSWER: Since every person is unique in his [or her] nature and thought processes, he [or she] has a unique path in the service of Hashem, in the study of Torah, and in the fulfillment of mitzvot. For example, one individual may be motivated by the love of Hashem, while another is inspired by the awe of [G-d]. Similarly, each of Rabbi Akiva's disciples had his [sic] own personal approach to Divine service. Because they were highly developed individuals, each had internalized his [sic] own particular approach to the point that it affected every aspect of his [sic] personality.

Operating from within his [sic] own perspective, each of them perceived any approach different form his [sic] own as incomplete and inferior. And because Rabbi Akiva emphasized the commandment to "love your fellow as yourself," each of his students tried to influence his [sic] colleagues to accept his [sic] own approach.

Being all intensely involved in their own path of service, however, none of them would change. The tension between them began to escalate as the deep commitment every student felt to his [sic] own particular approach hindered a proper show of respect for colleagues who followed a different path.

The deficiency in their course of action -- highlighted by the severe punishment they received -- teaches a very important lesson: No matter how deeply one is involved in one's own service of Hashem, one must always be broadminded enough to appreciate that someone else may have a different approach. Although, from one's own perspective, the other person's path may appear inadequate, this perception may stem from one's own shortcomings and not from that of the other person. (לקוטי שיחות ח''ז ע 337)
I hope everyone enjoyed La"G BaOmer. Next year in Meiron!


Blogger Fedora Black said...

To add a little more to G-d Squad's clarification, everyone agrees that the morning practices of the Omer is 33 days, the question is when it starts. Interestingly, those who base their practice one the Arizal, which is in no way limited to Chabad, also keep 33 days, even if they observe mourning practices the whole Omer. This is because the days of Chol HaMoed, Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and Lag B'Omer, don't count as days where mourning is allowed. Thus when one subtracts these days from the 49 days of the Omer, one gets 33 days. So according to the Arizal, the epidemic lasted 33 days, but had periods where there were breaks.

Wed May 17, 12:49:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous G-D SQUAD said...

Shkoiach FB!

Wed May 17, 01:10:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do kids play with bows and arrows on Lag Baomer?

Wed May 17, 04:39:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Fedora Black said...

There are a number a reasons given for the bow and arrow.

One is that Lag B'Omer had a certain meaning in the Bar Kochbah rebellion and that it was the failings of the students of Akivah that caused their deaths and that made Bar Kochbah fail at being moshiach. So the bow and arrow has a certain connection to the weapons used in the rebellion.

Another is that during the whole life of Shimon bar Yochai, a rainbow was never seen in the world. A rainbow is "keshet" in Hebrew, the same word used for "bow". The rainbow is a sign between G-d and the children of Noach, reminding them of the flood and that even when the world merits a flood, G-d withholds it. Because or the high level of holiness of Shimon bar yochai, there was no need to show this sign, as the world was never in danger due to his merit.

Yet another is that the secrets of the Zohar were made public on that day (or at least more public than they had been), and that the bow and arrow reflects certain principles of kabbalah according to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Unlike a sword, which is directed away from ones body in order to affect somone, an arrow must first be drawn towards oneself to affect another. Furthermore, the more one draws it towards oneself the more powerful the fore of the arrow becomes once it is fired.

Next, the theme of arrows figures quite a bit in the tales of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. In "The seven Beggars", the beggar with no hands has the power to "retrieve arrows". This is the power of a Tzaddik to rectify sins. Arows are also compared to prayers. He also speaks of the 10 poisen arrows which correspond to the famous shmashing of the vessles, wich is a prime component of kabbalistic thought. A great tzaddik has the power to remove all of these. In addition, in the story "The Master of Prayer", the figure known as the Warrior has lost his bow when he finds the seven golden hairs, each one a different color...just like a rainbow!

Thu May 18, 01:11:00 AM 2006  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home