Lag BaOmer – The Uprising of the Maccabees

Lag BaOmer

The thirty-third day of the Omer count is Lag BaOmer, which is a traditional celebration feast for Israel. What do Israelis do in Lag BaOmer? What are their customs?  Let’s deep into one of the most unknown holidays in Judaism.

Before we talk on this terrific holiday, we need to have some background information – what’s the Omer count?

The Omer Count

The Omer is a countdown from Passover till The Feast of Weeks. This period symbolized the journey the Israelites did from Egypt to Mount Sinai, where they received The Tablets of The Covenant. It symbolizes the rebirth and reunification of the sons of Jacob.

The reunification of the sons of Jacob is also blessed because the Israelites have gone into a low point in their relations with God during their time in Egypt. This isn’t just a time of celebrating the unification, but celebrating salvation; from a spiritual low point to meeting the God.

During the Omer Count, people are doing a lot of self-evaluation, and the customs match that. Religious people don’t shave or cut their hair, they don’t listen to music, don’t get married. Nevertheless, some people rid themselves of these customs on Israel’s independence day and the day of Jerusalem.

Lag BaOmer – Sources in Zionism and other religious places

There is a lot of disputes about ending the Omer Count costumes on the 33rd day of the Omer. Some Rabbis reject the idea, while others refer to it as a reason to celebrate the deaths of  Bar Cochva students during the uprising in ancient times. Some religious use this day to praise Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a great Kabala rabbi, that died on that day in the 18th century.

Zionist movements connected between Lag BaOmer and the struggle of Judaism to be free. It’s a day of celebration of the beginning of the Bar Kochva uprising.

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Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai Grave in Mount Meron during the ’50s

Great Fires in Lag BaOmer

The praise of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai happens every year in mount Meron. Tens of thousands of religious and traditional Israelis meet there and celebrate by having big bonfires, singing religious songs, drinking, and celebrating. The origin comes from a custom to visit righteous people’s graves on the mountain by Jews and Arabs alike, mostly Hillel and Shamai, and celebrating the miracle of water during the Exodus. Chabad has parades all over the world, and there are really great fairs.

Secular Israel is celebrating this holiday, too. They are having bonfires to celebrate the heroism of Bar Kochva, bake some potatoes and marshmallows, picnics, singing, parties, and they last till the early morning hours. A lot of Israelis like to go camping and try to shot bows and arrows (usually hand-made bows and arrows).

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Lag BaOmer bonfire, Chaim Halva, Pikiwiki website

Lag BaOmer today

Unfortunately, Lag BaOmer celebrations will not happen due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Nevertheless, we can always mention these things as a lesson; the uprising of Bar Kochva is a great historical subject to learn of. If you’ll ever visit Israel, you could find a lot of remains from those times. If you want to hear more about holidays and Israeli customs, you could just download our app on the Play Store or the App Store and host Israeli travelers in your home.