What do bonfires, weddings, haircuts and bows and arrows have in common?
They are all ways that we celebrate Lag Ba’Omer.
Lag Ba’Omer is coming, and with it the ancient tradition of building bonfires, weddings, first haircuts and bows and arrows. The most popular explanations for the origin of this holiday is that it marks the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who is credited as the author of the mystical Zohar and teacher of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). He told his students to celebrate his death and they have traditionally complied by converging on his grave each year on the eve of his death with glowing torches. In Israel, bonfires light up the night even those who don’t light big fires do like to light their barbecues and enjoy grilled food on this holiday.
This holiday takes place on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer and is a break in the 49 day mourning period between Pesach and Shavuot. This year the holiday takes place on April 28th. It is a popular day for weddings, celebrations and first haircuts. Do you know someone getting married on that day? Some families have picnics and bon fires are very popular. It is also customary to give children bows and arrows to play with. Why bows and arrows?
Rabbi Zell of Congregation Tiferet Israel shared this traditional midrash (story) from an unknown source. It connects the bows and arrows to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.
After the flood, God placed a rainbow in the sky as a symbol to Noah that never again would He destroy the world (through water). Throughout the entire life of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai a rainbow never appeared in the sky indicating that through the merit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, God would never even entertain the idea of destroying the world. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai died on Lag B’Omer. He was the “rainbow” and in observance of his yahrzeit (anniversary of his death) young children are given “bows” and arrows.
Share your thoughts or questions about this and other Jewish holidays with Rachelle Weiss Crane firstname.lastname@example.org
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