I received the following message about Lag B’Omer via email from my rav in the US, Rabbi Benjamin Samuels:
This Sunday marks the 33rd day of the Omer, Lag Ba’Omer, the day on which the plague that took the lives of Rabbi Akiva’s students subsided so many years ago. Lag Ba’Omer is treated as a semi-holiday, and according to Ashkenzic practice, the mourning practices of the Omer are suspended, and according to Ramo, are fully ended. Haircuts and marriages may take place from here on out.
Since Lag Ba’omer fall on Sunday this year, many authorities permit haircuts on the preceding Friday, i.e. tomorrow, in honor of the Shabbat.
This Lag Ba’Omer find a way to celebrate with family and friends.
Traditional practices include bonfires; singing and dancing; studying the Zohar, as it is its inspirational author, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s yahrzeit; pilgrimages to Rabbi Shimon’s burial place atop Mt. Meiron near Tsfat in Israel; first haircuts of three year old boys; roasting whole lambs; and my own childhood favorite, kickball at the park.
Most importantly, we celebrate Lag Ba’Omer as an affirmation that the health and healing of our people relies on our unity and shared destiny and that we can only approach and stand at Sinai to receive the Torah, כאיש אחד בלב אחד – as a single body with a common heart.
Wishing all a good Shabbos and a happy Lag Ba’Omer.
Since making aliyah, we’ve learned the ropes about Lag B’Omer in the Zionist Paradise. Here are the rules:
1) Start collecting wood well in advance. Don’t let your kids dismantle park benches (I’ve seen it done), but scrounge around the edge of town to get fallen branches, or save up prunings and yard waste from the year. (And when foraging, watch out for snakes; they wake up in the spring.)
2) Close all windows prior to sundown. And keep them closed.
3) Learn the safety rules of bonfires. The week preceding Lag B’Omer is National Fire Safety Week in Israel, and fire stations all over the country host school groups (I accompanied Banana’s two-year-old gan to the one in Beit Shemesh) and teach the kids how a proper bonfire should be constructed, lit, and extinguished.
4) Find a good spot away from buildings with minimal vegetation near it.
5) Stock up on campfire foods (hot dogs, baked potatoes wrapped in foil, and marshmallows)
6) Bring instruments (guitar, accordion, your voice)
7) Nap the afternoon before. Especially the kids. (This should be easy, since this year Shabbat precedes Lag B’Omer.) Teenagers often stay out all night, and when our kids were out shrieking at nine o’clock in the morning on Lag B’Omer, a neighbor gently informed us that the sanctity of a quiet morning is observed on Lag B’Omer just as it is on Shavuot (when many have the custom of staying up all night studying Torah).
We used to have a lovely (makeshift) bonfire pit near our shul which has since been paved over. But sabra neighbors (who apparently have firm ideas about bonfires) have found a new spot a little farther away, and the mom and I have coordinated wood, a mangal (portable charcoal grill), and food to make this possibly our most festive Lag B’Omer ever. Beans asked if we could take a table to eat our food on. No, honey, with smoke in our hair and soot under our fingernails, this is a dirty-butt venture.
Have a happy, safe Lag B’Omer.