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Lag B’Omer!  The Holiday of Hiddenness

05/03/2023 05:33:17 AM


Rabbi Rudin

No texts, no prayers, no services…. And no real name!  Lag B’Omer actually means “thirty three days of the Omer Count”! 


So what gives?


The only traditions are mysterious and unique: go out into nature.  Practice archery- but for target practice, not hunting.  Light bonfires, sing songs, enjoy!


Lag B’Omer is called the Scholar’s Holiday when students would conclude the spring semester of traditional studies.   Some would follow the observance by going home for the summer, others would continue a new round of studies. 


But beyond the “summer break” there is much more.  Lag B’Omer is a hidden holiday of when Torah had to go into concealment following the Bar Kochba Revolt, a valiant but ill-fated final attempt of the Jewish people to throw off the Roman occupation of Israel.


In 136 CE, the Roman Emperor Hadrian enacted cruel measures against any who studied, taught or publicly practiced Judaism.  The Rabbis and scholars fled into the hills of northern Israel and went into hiding.  But they were determined to continue to light the flame of Torah. 


They would light bonfires on the hilltops and in the wooded Galilean slopes..  Jewish children, seeing the signal, would grab bows and arrows and head out of their villages, showing the weapons to the Roman guards and telling them they were going hunting.


Indeed they were- but for wisdom, not venison.  Up in the hills, they’d put aside the bows and arrows and greet their honored teachers.  They’d sit and study Jewish lore, hear the beautiful, inspiring teachings and resolve to continue the Jewish odyssey.


And so we continue to affirm, to gather, rejoice, study, play, pray and tell the stories.   Especially the story of the hidden Rabbi named Shimon bar Yochai whose twelve years in a cave on Mount Meron in hiding with his son revealed a mystical Torah, a Torah that emerged from darkness to shine a supernal light.  The Torah of Rabbi Shimon was called the Zohar, the supreme book of the Kabbalah whose wisdom continues to shine to this day.  On Mount Meron in northern Israel, thousands gather at the cave of Rabbi Shimon on Lag B’Omer to sing about the hidden sage and the Torah of hidden light.


And so Jews come together on this day, to gather around the bonfire, remember, and dream.  The fire in the woods only burns for one day- but the fire in the heart?  Let its illumination continue, uplift and inspire!  Happy Lag B’Omer!


Mon, July 15 2024 9 Tammuz 5784