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Lag B'Omer
Behind Every Great Man is a Great Woman Print E-mail
Thursday, 15 May 2014

Lag BaOmer, the thirty third day of the counting of the Omer ,falls out this year on Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night) and Sunday.


One of the reasons why Lag BaOmer is celebrated is because it marks the day that the plague which killed many of Rabbi Akiva’s students ended.


Why did 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva die during this period? According to Tractate Yevamot 62b, the students did not show sufficient honor to each other.


After the tragedy, Rabbi Akiva was left with only five students. Rabbi Akiva made sure to tell those five students not to make the same mistakes that their friends made and he continued to teach the concept of “Love your fellow as yourself.”


How did Rabbi Akiva become such a great man?


According to Tractate Ketubot 62b, Rabbi Akiva was originally a shepherd for Ben Kalba Savua, a very wealthy man. Rachel, Ben Kalba Savua’s daughter saw that he was modest and of fine character (even though at that point he was an ignorant shepherd). She asked him if he would go study Torah in the Yeshiva. He said yes, they got married secretly and he went away to study in the Yeshiva for twelve years. When Rachel’s father heard who she had married he made a vow prohibiting her to benefit from his possessions. After twelve years at the Yeshiva, Rabbi Akiva returned with 12,000 students. When he was almost home, Rabbi Akiva heard an elderly man ask Rachel how much longer she will live a life of widowhood. Rachel answered that if it was up to her, he would go back to the Yeshiva for another twelve years. After studying at the Yeshiva for twelve more years, Rabbi Akiva returned with 24,000 students. When Rachel heard that he had returned she went out to greet him. The first person who saw her was extremely disrespectful and told her to borrow some suitable clothing. When she reached Rabbi Akiva, his attendants tried to push her away. When Rabbi Akiva saw this he said: “Leave her alone! The portion of Torah that is mine and the portion of Torah that is yours belong to her.” Rachel’s father heard that a great scholar came to town. He didn’t know that it was Rabbi Akiva. He finally decided to annul his vow. Rabbi Akiva admitted that he in fact was Rachel’s husband and Ben Kalba Savua gave them half of his possessions.


We see from here that Rabbi Akiva became a great scholar because of his wife Rachel’s encouragement and not only did he not forget that fact, he was proud to acknowledge it.


It is clear from the story of Rabbi Akiva and Rachel that behind every great man is a great woman!


As we celebrate Lag BaOmer let’s remember to follow Rabbi Akiva’s teaching: “Love your fellow as yourself.”

The Pyromaniac Holiday Print E-mail
Friday, 26 April 2013
As soon as Pesach ends, children in Israel of all ages begin to collect pieces of wood. Everywhere you walk in Jerusalem you see children carrying everything from small twigs to old wooden doors and cartons. What are these children, some as young as three years old, going to do with all of this wood?


The children are preparing for their Lag B’Omer bonfires.


Just one month after Pesach, children of all backgrounds, religious, traditional and those who would consider themselves to be secular Israelis head to open spaces with their wood to build bonfires.


What exactly is going on?


As far as we know, Lag B’Omer is the date that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai passed away (although the Chida and Ben Ish Chai disagree). The custom was to light candles at his grave.


The Lag B’Omer bonfires in Meron began in the 16th century. Some see the bonfire as a giant Yahrzeit (Memorial) candle to show us how much light Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai brought into the world.


The custom of having a bonfire in memory of an important person who passed away is actually a pagan practice that was later adopted by the Christians to honor deceased saints.


The Modern Zionist State of Israel celebrates the Bar Kochba Revolt (132-136 CE) on Lag B’Omer (the day of the victory). The bonfires represent the signal fires that the Bar Kochba rebels lit on the mountain tops to relay messages. They also remind us that the Romans did not allow the Jewish people to light bonfires to signal the start of the Jewish holidays and now we have the freedom to be proud Jews.


Whatever the reason, the important thing is to make sure that the children stay safe during the holiday and that the bonfires are supervised.


As Smokey bear says: “only you can prevent wildfires.”


Why is Lag B'Omer a day of celebration? Print E-mail
Thursday, 29 May 2008

The Gemara in Yevamot 62b explains that during Sefirat HaOmer (the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot) 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva died since they didn’t treat each other with proper respect. During Sefirat HaOmer mourning is observed. Weddings, haircuts and live music are prohibited.

Rabbi Menachem HaMeiri explains that their deaths ceased on Lag B’Omer (the 33rd day of the counting of the omer). For this reason we refrain from fasting on this day.

The Rama rules that there is an increase of joy on Lag B’Omer and Tachnun is not recited.

What is the real cause for celebration on Lag B’Omer?

Even after the deaths of 24,000 students, Rabbi Akiva did not give up hope. He continued to teach Torah. According to the Pri Chadash, on Lag B’Omer Rabbi Akiva began to teach the Rabbis in the south: Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yossi, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Rabbi Elazar ben Shamua. These were the Rabbis who preserved Torah during that time.

We learn from Rabbi Akiva never to give up, no matter how difficult things may get.

As reported on Arutz Sheva, in March 2007, David Hatuel, whose wife and four children were murdered in a 2004 terrorist attack, welcomed a daughter to the world. Hatuel’s first wife, Tali, was murdered while driving near her home in Gush Katif. The couple’s four daughters, ranging in age from two to eleven years old, were killed as well. Tali was eight months pregnant with the Hatuel’s first son at the time of the attack. She and her daughters were shot at point-blank range by Islamic Jihad terrorists, who launched their attack from abandoned buildings near the road which the Israeli Supreme Court had forbidden the army to remove.

After mourning his family, David Hatuel explained that he had two options: to fall and let the tragedy destroy him, or to choose life.

Choose life and be careful with your bonfires.