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After 32 days of mourning, we celebrate on the 33rd day with the light of hope.

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The 18th day of Iyar on the Jewish calendar, falling 33 days into the count between the festivals of Passover and Shavuot, became a significant holiday for the aspirations of Zionists , religious study and outdoor games (Photo: smartphonemodel.com)

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The counting of the Omer takes place during the 49 day harvest period between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot. 

April 30th, which is the 18th day of Iyar on the Jewish calendar, is the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, Lag B’Omer (aka Lag Ba’Omer). There are several references as to why we celebrate this particular holiday.  

On this day in history, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, credited by many as the author of the classic text of the Kabbalah, the Zohar, passed. Rabbi Shimon instructed his disciples to mark the date as the “the day of [his] joy.” 

It is said that Rabbi Shimon’s righteousness shone with such vigour that, while he lived, there were no rainbows in the sky. That is why children play with Bows and Arrows on Lag B’Omer. 

Huh? Not to worry.The answer is simpler than you might think.

The Hebrew word for rainbow is the same as that for the bow of bow and arrow fame. Since we can’t play with actual rainbows, we make do with the other kind. Chabad.org provides a deeper look at the use of the bow and arrow on Lag B’omer. 

The bow and arrow symbolize the power of inwardness—the power unleashed by the inner, mystical dimension of Torah. 

​An arrow must be pulled back toward one’s own heart in order to strike the heart of the opponent. The more it is drawn inward, the more distant an adversary it can reach.​

The most powerful weapon we have to confront and conquer our fears, demons, foes and inadequacies is drawing our bow to ourselves: discovering and strengthening our inner essence, knowing who we are, and knowing why we are here. 

Conquering even the most pervasive darkness begins by first lighting up the candle of our soul. 

Lag B’Omer is also recognized as the end of a horrible plague which claimed the lives of 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students. As is traditional amongst Jews, what better way to emerge from tragedy than with a showing of our capacity to celebrate life? 

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According to PJ Library, other sources say Lag B’Omer celebrates a victory for the armies of the Jewish leader Bar Kochba. Some associate Lag B’Omer with stories about Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a student of Rabbi Akiva and writer of an important Jewish text.

Other traditions which occur on Lag B’Omer is the celebration of upsherin (first haircut for three-year-old boys) amongst many Chasidic Jews in the city of Meron. The occasion is also marked by the father’s distribution of sweets and wine.  

Many people also get married on Lag B’Omer (Ashkenazie Jews, Sephardic Jews wait for Lag B’Omer, the 34th day) as this is the earliest time in the Spring when a wedding may occur for those who do not partake in celebrations between Pesach and Lag B’Omer. 

Jewish youth in Wyszkower, Poland joined Maccabi in 1927; their blue and white flag appeared on the streets of the town on Lag B’Omer “as they marched with the resonances of the orchestra that played Zionist songs. The enthusiasm of the Jews was boundless.” (Photo: jewishgen.org)

The occasion rose to great prominence in Poland about 100 years ago.

As reported in sztetl.org, “in inter-war Poland, the holiday was widely celebrated both in religious and Zionist communities B’Omer … in the spirit of a 1920 decision by the Central Committee of the Zionist Organisation in Poland that considered the holiday a day of celebrating the assignment of Palestine to Jews”.

In celebration, “Cheders and yeshivas were closed on that day. Thousands of orthodox Jews came to Krakow to visit Rabbi Rema’s grave. Annual parades and holiday competitions that attracted crowds of students and members of youth organisations were organised in Warsaw since 1915. The Polish State Railways offered organised groups 66% discounts on return trips. The Jewish National Fund urged people to offer their one day’s earnings for the Palestinian cause.”

“School youth took part in ceremonial synagogue services, and then went to the sports grounds run by Maccabi, an organisation that since 1928 treated Lag B’Omer as the day of Jewish sports.”

Whatever tradition you ascribe to and whichever way you celebrate, we wish you a safe and joyous Lag B’Omer.

Rav Corey Margolese is the founder of JTeach.ca, a not-for-profit organization that offers training and resources in the dangers of antisemitism, Holocaust education, and in Judaic traditions, culture and religion. He is a public school teacher.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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