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Overview of the Yom Tov: Lag B’Omer

Rochel Gross

Here we are, in the middle of the sefiras haOmer, a time of mourning for Rabi Akiva’s 24,000 talmidim, who passed away for the sin of not treating one another with enough respect. We refrain from cutting our hair, listening to music, performing weddings, and wearing new clothes. But then, the thirty-third day of the sefirah is a day of great rejoicing and festivity. Why the celebration?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What makes the 18th of Iyar, better known as “Lag B’Omer,” such a special day? Two very significant events occurred on this day.

  1. The talmidim of Rabi Akiva stopped dying.
    Can you imagine what a terrible tragedy it was that so many thousands of Rabi Akiva’s holy talmidim, who were great talmidei chachamim, passed away in one terrible plague? Of course, when the plague stopped — on Lag B’Omer — it was cause for rejoicing.
  2. Rabi Shimon bar Yochai passed away.
    Hey, just a minute! Isn’t the passing of such a holy Tanna a sad event? Shouldn’t we be fasting instead of celebrating?
    On the day that Rabi Shimon bar Yochai (“Rashbi” for short) was niftar, he revealed very lofty, great secrets of the Torah to his talmidim (this later became the holy sefer haZohar). Never before had this knowledge been revealed. Miraculously, the sun did not set until Rabi Shimon finished telling his talmidim everything that Shamayim allowed him to disclose, and so the day was much longer than usual. Lag B’Omer is a very happy day for us because that is when we received all this wondrous knowledge and discovered the hidden part of the Torah (nistar). Rabi Shimon himself instructed future generations to rejoice on the day of his passing.


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