YomTov, Vol. I, # 22
by Rabbi Yehudah Prero
Lag B'Omer means "the 33rd day of the (counting of the) Omer. This day is
observed as a day of rejoycing because on this day, the students of Rabbi
Akiva (who we discussed in # 20) did not die. We therefore are permitted to
take haircuts, listen to music, hold weddings etc., because the signs of
mourning which we have been observing are not necessary on this day of great
Lag B'Omer, the 18th day of Iyar, also corresponds to the date of the death
of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, one of the great sages from the era of the
Mishna. Although the death of a great sage is usually not marked with
rejoycing, but rather with sadness, we treat Rabi Shimon bar Yochai
differently. The Zohar in Parshas Ha'azinu tells us that on the day Rabbi
Shimon passed away, a great light of endless joy filed the day, because of
the secret wisdom he revealed to his students. That secret wisdom was
written down and recorded in the holy Zohar. The happinesson that day was to
him and his students like that of a groom while standing under the canopy at
his wedding. On that day, the sun did not set until Rabbi Shimon had
revealed all that he was permitted to. As soon as he was done, the sun set,
and his soul returned to its Maker. Because of the happiness back then, we
celebrate with happiness now, as well.
In Israel, people flock to the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in the city
of Meron. There is dancing, singing, bonfires are lit. Many people wait
until their son is three before cutting his hair, and on the Lag B'omer of
his third year, they cut the boy's hair. There is also a custom that
children play with bows ("keshet" in Hebrew) on Lag B'omer. A reason given
for this is that in all the days of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's life, a
rainbow was never seen. A rainbow is a sign that the world was due for a
flood of the proportion of that in Noach's time. However, beacuse Hashem
promised Noach that such a flood would never be brought again, Hashem lets
us know when we are deservant of such punishment by placing a rainbow
("Keshet" in Hebrew) in the sky. In the merit of Rabbi Shimon, the world was
never deservant of such punishment in his generation, and the appearance of
a rainbow was never necessary. Therefore, children play with bows, which in
Hebrew share the same word as rainbow.
Check out all of the posts on the Omer! Head over to
http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov to find the newly redesigned YomTov Home Page, and click on the holiday you are interested in to find all of the archived posts on that topic.
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.
BAMIDBAR AND SHAVUOS:
The Giving of the Torah
Dr. Meir Tamari - 5762
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5761
Everyone Loves a Parade
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759
What's For Desert?
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5766
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5770
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5763
The Discerning Element Between a Torah Scholar and a Torah Sage
Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky - 5765
Time and Space
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5760
The Customs of Shavuos
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756
When It Really Counts
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5759
Eventually, We Get There!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5760
"Get a Spiritual Life"
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5770
Growth Through Reading
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5760
How Do You 'Do'?
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5761
The Material of Spirituality
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766