Lag Ba’Omer – 18 Iyar

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It is customary to be joyful on Lag BaOmer. And though during the Counting of the Omer we observe some of the customs of mourning, on Lag BaOmer an exception is made and it is permissible to sing and to dance. In addition, the heartfelt “Tachanun” supplication for God’s compassion is omitted from prayers both on Lag BaOmer and in the afternoon “Mincha” service on the day before Lag BaOmer. Likewise, one is not permitted to fast on this day.
Ashkanazic tradition permits weddings and haircuts on the day of Lag BaOmer, and there are those who are lenient, permitting weddings and haircuts already from nightfall on Lag BaOmer eve. There are differing practices among Ashkanazic Jews concerning how to behave after Lag BaOmer has passed. Some are accustomed to ending all mourning practices on Lag BaOmer, while others continue to observe these customs even afterwards. Only on Lag BaOmer itself do they suspend their mourning customs.

For Sephardic Jews, mourning continues until the thirty-fourth day of the Counting of the Omer and until then weddings and haircuts are forbidden. Only in the case of singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments are they lenient, permitting them on the thirty-third day of the Omer. At nightfall, with the commencement of the thirty-fourth day of the Omer, they return to observing all of the customs of mourning until the following morning. On the morning of the thirty-fourth day of the Omer, all mourning practices are lifted. Moreover, if Lag BaOmer falls on Friday the Sephardic Jews too permit the cutting of hair. There are also, among the Sephardic Jews, some who end their mourning on the thirty-third day of the Omer like the Ashkanazic Jews.

The reason for our joy on Lag BaOmer is that according to an ancient tradition, the students of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying on this day. There are those who claim that in fact the students of Rabbi Akiva continued dying even after Lag BaOmer, but on Lag BaOmer itself Rabbi Akiva began teaching a new group students, among them Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. These students were spared by the plague, and through them the Torah was disseminated among the Jews. Therefore, we are happy on Lag BaOmer. Others say that on Lag BaOmer Rabbi Akiva ordained the five students who were to carry on the tradition of the Torah after him – among them, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Lag BaOmer is also celebrated in honor of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, or “Rashbi,” who died on this day.


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