Lag BaOmer, which falls this year on Thursday, May 3rd, is a minor holiday in our Jewish calendar. The words literally mean “the 33rd day of the Omer.” The Omer is a measure of grain that was brought as an offering of thanksgiving to God in biblical times between Passover and Shavuot. These two holidays were, respectively, the times of harvesting barley and wheat. In Temple times the ancient Israelites were an agricultural society, and the period of the Omer critical to their survival.
Historically, the period of the Omer is a serious time, with some Jews avoiding weddings and other festivities. However, Lag BaOmer is a day on which joyous celebration is permitted. In the time of the great Talmudic scholar Rabbi Akiva, when a plague killed thousands of his students, Lag BaOmer was the day on which the plague ceased, and thus became a day of celebration.
Today, we are not as connected to the agricultural aspects of living in Eretz Yisrael, so when we count the forty-nine days between Passover and Shavuot, we focus on the spiritual meaning and connection between redemption from slavery and receiving of Torah. Yet, as Jews our connection to and longing for Israel as a homeland is still strong. How fitting then that Temple Am Echad’s congregational trip to Israel departs this Thursday on Lag BaOmer!
May God protect us in our going and our coming, and bless our journey with meaning. We look forward to sharing our learning and adventures on our return.
And may this be a good week for all of us.