Sign up to TorahFax


Monday, Iyar 17, 5783 (Hakhel Year) 32nd Sefirah / May 8, 2023


Tonight (Monday night)and Tuesday is Lag B'Omer – the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. It is a dayassociated with two episodes which took place with two of the greatest sages and leaders of their generation, Rabbi Akiva, and his student, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai


Lag B’Omer is related to Rabbi Akiva because a plague which claimed the lives of thousands (24,000) of Rabbi Akiva’s students, miraculously stopped on Lag B’Omer. As a result, this day is celebrated each year with great joy and festivities. It has special significance for children and students, as the miracle was associated with his students.


Weddings are not held during most of the Sefirah days, between Pesach and Shavuot. However, due to the stoppage of the plague on this day, Lag B’Omer is such a joyous day that weddings are performed on this day.


Rabbi Akivalived about 2,000 years ago, at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, when the land of Israel was occupied by the Romans. Rabbi Akiva was one of the "Ten Martyrs." He was brutally murdered by the Romans for teaching Torah.


Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, or as he is commonly called by the acronym of his name, “Rashbi,” passed away on Lag B’Omer. He and his son, Rabbi Elazar, are buried in Meron, Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Jews visit Rabbi Shimon’s gravesite on Lag B’Omer. Bonfires are lit in Meron and throughout Israel on Lag B’Omer, in honor of Rabbi Shimon. There are festivities, dancing, and parades in Israel and throughout the world in honor of the Yartzeit (day of passing) of Rabbi Shimon.


Last year, unfortunately, 45 people died and 150 were injured in a stampede at the festivities in Miron,

Israel, on Lag B’Omer. May their souls rest in peace in Gan Eden.


Q.Why is the day of Rabbi Shimon’s passing a joyous day? Shouldn’t it be a sad day?


A.On the day of his passing, Rabbi Shimon revealed to his disciples the deepest secrets of the Torah and mystical teachings of Kaballah. On his last day in this world, he accomplished the greatest level of holiness a human can accomplish. Rabbi Shimon instructed his disciples to mark the day of his passing as a day of joy and happiness. May the Merit of Rabbi Shimon’s holiness bring G-d’s blessings to all.


Q.  Why are bonfires lit in honor of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai?


A. The Zohar says that on the day Rabbi Shimon died, a great light of endless joy and holiness filled the day because of the Torah secrets he revealed to his students. A fire surrounded the house, preventing anyone but his closest students from approaching, because the level of holiness was so great.


To commemorate this great spiritual light and holiness of this special day, bonfires are lit on Lag B'Omer.