|Spiritual Renewal and Lag B’Omer|
The springtime Jewish custom of counting the Omer is in remembrance of the Jews who perished resisting the Roman Army during the Bar Kochba Revolt in 132-135 CE. During the Omer, many Jews refrain from getting married, listening to music or getting haircuts. The 33rd day of the Omer, called Lag b’Omer, is a holiday that celebrates the return to life and hope after mourning. Today in Israel, this is the most popular day to get married, many children have their first haircut, and the day is celebrated by large music concerts. Many people make bonfires and invite friends for a BBQ. The Jewish message is that mourning and loss, should be given their due place and respect, but there must be a path back to life renewed. Lag b’Omer provides a way to move from despair to hope.
There are two heroes of Lag b’Omer. The Jewish General, Shimon Bar Kochba, serves as an inspiration for many Jews to bravely and physically defend their right to exist as a community. A bit more sublime is the second hero of Lag b’Omer (and another Shimon), Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Tradition tells us that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, (also known by his initials, “Rashby”) was born and died on Lag b’Omer. Rashby is the author of the Zohar, the most famous book of Jewish Mysticism, which many claim is about how to spiritually find hope and faith when living under physical oppression. Rashby rallied the Jewish people to spiritually resist the Romans by continuing their Jewish education and to hold secret meetings of Torah study for children and adults. He believed that everyone should be both a teacher and student, and that the key to Jewish survival was to immerse ourselves in Jewish learning for spiritual sustenance and renewal.
In Israel today, Lag B’Omer is the time of “Teacher Appreciation,” when students thank their teachers with gifts and poems. Here at Temple Shaaray Tefila, I want to encourage you to say thank you to our wonderful and tireless teachers of our ECC and Religious School for inspiring our young people and teaching about Jewish life and Jewish values. In particularly, I want to recognize one teacher in our community who is also a student. Amanda Weiss, a Rabbinical student from the Hebrew Union College has been a teacher in our community for the past two years. She has beautifully led learning sessions for virtually every age group. This Friday night will be her last Shabbat with us. I invite you to join us this Friday in-person to thank Amanda for teaching us Torah. In September, we will welcome a new rabbinical student intern, Ashira Boxman. Inspired by Lag B’Omer, may our engagement with Torah and Judaism strengthen us and our community.
Wishing you Shabbat Shalom and a Happy Lag b’Omer,
Rabbi David Wilfond