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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lag B'Omer Holiday Tomorrow

Nadene Goldfoot
Long ago in the 2nd Century CE, there was a horrible plague that hit the pupils of Rabbi Akiva, who lived from 50 CE to 135 CE, a mystical rabbi. It is said that no rabbi of the talmudic period made a more profound impression on Jewish history and on the imagination of the Jewish people than this rabbi.

  It finally ended on the 18th of the month of Iyyar, which is tomorrow.  This also is in the period of "counting the Omer" and happens to be the 33rd day of counting this, which goes on for 49 days.   On the 50th day we will celebrate another holiday, Shavuot.  One nice thing about being Jewish is that we always have an abundance of holidays to celebrate, which for a woman means to get out the recipes for that holiday's special treats.  Lag B'Omer is considered the "scholars" feast.

During the 49 days of the Omer period, we are considered to be in mourning so there have been prohibitions of marriage, listening to music, shaving  and even cutting your hair.  On Lag B'Omer this is suspended.  Children get a holiday from school.  In Israel, the custom is to have bonfires and visiting the tomb of Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai in Mt. Meron, who died on this day.

An "Omer" was a measure of grain in bible days.  An omer of the new barley was brought to the Temple on the 1st day of Passover, and from that day on,  new grain was permissible to eat.  Our forefathers were told to count verbally 49 days or 7 full weeks, from the night following the barley offering (Leviticus 23).  The offering was brought to the Temple in the form of 2 loaves of bread.  The counting is a reminder of Israelites going from slavery in Egypt to Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah on Shavuot.  The meaning relates to barley, used mainly for feeding cattle, to wheat, used for us.

Today in the states everyone is so environmentally conscious that there won't be any bonfires, unless they're at the beach.  Even around Mt. Meron in Israel there may be an end to this custom as people are afraid to set off forest fires from bonfire sparks.  Parades will be held in Jewish communities around the world, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson said in encouragement.  I don't think so.  In Portland, this would be very difficult.  There is concern over terrorism, getting the police to go along with it, permits, etc.  We'd be lucky to be able to have a parade around our community centers or synagogues to show Jewish unity, which we also need badly.

The important thing, said Rabbi Amrousi to Arutz Sheva  is to love your fellow man as you would between people and between man and G-d.

Resource: Arutz Sheva  A call for ecological and spiritual Lag B'Omer by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
New Jewish Encyclopedia

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