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Families and friends gather together for a bonfire or a picnic on Lag
B'Omer, often on Mount Meron.
Traditionally this practice is thought as
memoriam to the great Torah and kabbalistic scholar Rabbi Shimon Bar
Yochai. This Rabbi authored the great kabbalistic work “ The Zohar”
which brought forth a great spiritual light onto the world. The bonfires
commemorate that great light. Another source focuses on the Bar Kochba
revolt. Historically, before the revolt of Bar Kochba, there were
decrees set forth by the Romans, forbidding the Jews from marking the
new month by setting bonfires. Upon Bar Kochba’s temporary victory,
bonfires were reinstituted. Today we celebrate that freedom with the
lighting of bonfires.
Upsherin - First Hair Cuts:
Many Jewish families refrain from cutting boys' hair before they reach
three years of age, the qualifying age for a tot to begin the study of
Torah. The first haircut, the "upsherin" (Yiddish, to cut off), is
nowadays celebrated by many chassidic and traditional families.
This custom, though not Talmudic based, dates back many generations. In
the sixteenth century, the famed rabbi, Reb Yitzchak Luria, a.k.a. the
holy "ARIE" (1534-1572), celebrated the third birthday of his son, on
Lag b'Omer, at the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yoachai in the city of
Meron in northern Israel. He is believed to have attributed the
celebration to "the well-known tradition."
Biblical references to the right of passage of "weaning" can be found in
Genesis 21:8, where we find that Avraham "made a great feast the same
day that Yitzchak (Isaac) was weaned. The 11th century sage, Reb Shlomo
Yitzchaki, or "Rashi," the famous biblical commentator, writes that
Yitzchak then entered his third year.
Bows and Arrows:
On Lag Baomer kids go out into the fields to play with bows and arrows.
There are two schools of thoughts as to what this custom commemorates.
One opinion cited in the Midrash is that during the time of Rabbi Shimon
Bar Yochai no rainbow was seen. It was after the great flood that God
promised Noah that he would never bestow that kind of devastation on the
world again. The rainbow, according to Talmudic commentators appears
when God deems the people of the world as deserving severe punishment
for wrongdoing. It was due to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s merit that the
world was protected from punishment and the warning sign of the rainbow
was not needed. The other reason given for youngsters going out into the
fields to shoot arrows is that it commemorates Bar Kochba’s temporary
victory over the Romans
It is customary in some Jewish communities to eat carobs on Lag B’omer.
This is done to memorialize the miracle that occurred to Rabbi Shimon
Bar Yochai and his son while they were hiding in the cave, after fleeing
Roman persecution. For thirteen years, Rabbi Shimon and his son
sustained themselves on carobs and water from a tree and spring that God
had miraculously provided for them.
Mazor Guide to Lag b'Omer brings you much more about the holiday, its
meaning and its traditions... See the links below.
MazorGuide Recommended Reading
A Tzaddik in Our Time : The Life of Rabbi Aryeh Levin
by: Simcha Raz / Hardcover / Published 1989
An amazing tale of an amazing man who lived in amazing times.
A story of goodness and kindness in action!