Beauty of the Jewish Calendar
The Jewish calendar is never dull and there is always something on the agenda. The weeks preceeding the holiday of Pesach are known to be especially hectic with all the many details that the preparations for this beautiful holiday require. Just as you think you’re done with all the spiritual workout and can enjoy the well deserved rest, comes the second night of Pesach and you enter a new time zone, known as Sfirat Ha Omer.
On its simplistic level the Sfirat Ha Omer are 7 weeks or 50 days that separate between the holiday of Pesach to the holiday of Shavuot the day when we Jews received our precious gift from G-D- the Torah. However, the Sfirat Ha Omer has also the Kabbalistic side to it, with each week referring to a specific sfirah (trait) that is present in the spiritual makeup of the world. Each week and each day of the specific week we meditate on a specific sfira and on its harmony with other 6 traits.
Sfirat Ha Omer
This period should have been one of joyous expectation and yearning similar to that of a bride in anticipation of her wedding, However because of certain historical occurrences it is commemorated as a sad time period. Approximately 50-135 C.E there lived a great scholar named Rabbi Akiva, he started out by being an illiterate shepherd, but when at age 40 he started learning Torah he eventually turned into one of the biggest sages that Jewish history has ever known.
He had 24000 students (followers) who themselves were people of great spiritual stature. Each one could explain the most difficult passages in the Holy Scripts, and offer explanations to most complex problem, however they was one drawback to their Service. Each one was so convinced that his opinion was the only correct one that he forgot to honor and take into consideration the opinion of his fellow. In heaven it was decreed that such behavior was not suitable to people of such stature, and it was decreed from above that they should all perish in a plague. All this happened during Sefirat HaOmer, all 24000 students died throughout the 7 weeks of Sfirat HaOmer. However. On the 33rd day of Sfirat HaOmer the day known as Lag BaOmer the students didn’t die.
Lag BaOmer or 33rd day of the counting of the Omer is the most special day of the 7 weeks of Sfirat HaOmer. This day is celebrated by Jews worldwide mainly because, according to tradition, the plague which had decimated the students, suddenly ceased on that day. But Lag BaOmer, the 18th day of Iyar, is also the Yahrtzeit, the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai a great sage and author of one of the greatest Kabbalistic works known as the Zohar. On the day of his death he told his students that instead of mourning he wants this day to be celebrated with joy and happiness, with lighting fires (to resemble Rabbi Shimons’ soul that burned like fire for the love of G-D), with singing and dancing.
On this day Jews gather around huge bonfires usually built (but not lit) by schoolboys, they sing songs about Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai and Rabi Akiva and they’re greatness. We remember the students that perished during Sfirat HaOmer(counting of the Omer) and remind ourselves that even more than scholarly knowledge and wisdom what is very important in the eyes of Heaven is when Jews treat each other with love and respect. It is a widely spread custom to give haircuts to little boys on this day and celebrate weddings and other happy events.
It is our hope that soon the day will come and the human race will know no more sadness, that tears will turn into laughter and pain will rein no more on the face of the earth. And all will come to know G-D and treat each other with dignity and respect.