Archive for May 18th, 2011


Israeli Flag displayed for holiday

Lag B’Omer is somewhat of a lesser holiday in Israel. It occurs between Passover, which celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt via crossing the Red Sea as on dry land, and Shavuot, which commemorates Moses coming down Mt.Sinai with the Ten Commandments. The counting reminds us of the connection between Passover and Shavuot. According to the Torah, “From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks” (Leviticus 23:15). This period celebrates the counting of the Omer. On the second day of Passover, an Omer of barley is cut and brought to theTemple as a wave offering.

Lag B’Omer is celebrated in several different ways depending on the age, situation, and devoutness of the person. Some people celebrate by building huge bonfires. The younger folks enjoy this activity. Youngsters gather anything wood to burn. This means contractors throughout Israel must hire additional guards to protect wooden building supplies. Wooden planks and scaffolding make breathtaking bonfires! Fortunately, the traditional wood gathering begins only about 10 days before the holiday.

Every night from the second night of Passover to the night before Shavuot[1], Jews recite a blessing and state the count of the Omer in both weeks and days. For instance, on the 15th day you would say, “Today is 15 days, which is two weeks and one day of the Omer.” The counting reminds Jews that redemption didn’t just happen at theRed Sea. Completion hinged on their receiving the Ten Commandments.

In the second century, Rabbi Akiva developed the exegetical method that links each traditional Jewish practice back to a basis in a Biblical text. He is justly called the father of the Mishnah.[2] Rabbi Akiva taught “love your neighbor as yourself – this is the great principle of the entire Torah.” Sadly, in about 132 AD during the counting of the Omer, twenty four thousand of Rabbi Akiva’s students died in a divinely sent plague. Jews believe God sent the plague because the students did not show honor to one another. The plague ended on the 33rd day of counting the Omer. The Hebrew letters Lamed and Gimmel create the acronym “lag,” which has the numerical value of 33. Lag B’Omer became the holiday celebrating God’s grace in stopping the plague. Rabbi Akiva began teaching again with a few students who survived the plague and continued to have a great effect on Jewish Torah thinking.

RabbiAkiva’s students disagreed with each other about small details of Torah application. Jesus commanded His disciples to love one another (John13:34). Do our disagreements between Protestant denominations show honor to one another? We learn from Lag B’Omer that loving all denominations and the Jews is critical.

[1] Shavuot or Shavuos commemorates the dayMoses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mt.Sinai. It is also referred to as the Festival of Weeks, Day of the First Fruits, or Festival of Reaping.

[2] The Mishnah teaches the oral traditions by example, primarily using examples brought to judgment by rabbis.

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