05/13/2009 77 °F
Lag B'Omer is a holiday celebrated in Israel 33 days after Passover. In Hebrew, letters have a corresponding number. The letters L and G are the equivalent of 33. Omer is the name of the season. The season of Omer lasts 49 days as defined in Leviticus 23:15-16. The significance of the 33 day of Omer is defined by historical events and by Kabbalistic custom.
In the spirit of the holiday, kids begin stockpiling scrap wood or sticks a week or more before Lag B'Omer. Some kids get so into it that I have heard of contractors hiring a nightwatchman to keep an eye on scaffolding and lumber lest an overly zealous youngster nab it for his own Lag B'Omer fire! The holiday officially begins the night before with families lighting a bon fire using the stockpiled wood. When I woke up the next morning I was glad I had closed all my windows because the air outside was still very smokey! For the most part, in Israel today it really is just a school holiday (which is why I had the day off from Ulpan) although I noticed a few stores were closed too. There was loud music and speeches coming from somewhere for most of the afternoon. I walked all over town to find the source and expected to maybe find a crowded street with lots of festivities but as far as I could tell it was just a regular day (plus extra leftover smoke in the air). I think the music and speeches were coming from a local synagogue but I am still not really sure. Traditionally it is a day for BBQ's, picnics, singing and dancing, and out door games. The day before, while I was in class, there was a large group in another classroom singing loudly; maybe they were practicing for a Lag B'Omer picnic?!
Along with the season of Omer come several prohibitions but for Lag B'Omer all of those prohibitions are suspended. It is the traditional day for weddings (supposedly hundreds of weddings take place on Lag B'Omer) and a little boys first hair cut.