This year Lag Baomer falls on Monday, May 2nd, 2010. As with most Jewish holidays, the day begin the night before and we begin our celebration Sunday, May 1st in the evening.
On the 33rd day of counting the Omer, we celebrate two occurrences in our history. The first is the joy Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai asked of his students to spread on the day of his passing. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was the first person to spread the teachings of the Zohar. It is said that he brought light into this world with his mysticism. Traditionally, we celebrate R’ Shimon’s life, spread his light and joy by ‘lighting up the night’ with bonfires.
In Israel, driving thru almost any city on this night, you will see bonfires everywhere. In Meron, the location of R’ Shimon’s tomb, you can experience the greatest Lag BaOmer celebration. A bonfire that appears to be 3 stories high with thousands of people singing and dancing around it. It is a long drive and there are so many people in this relatively small area that moving around is almost impossible. Nonetheless, it is an amazing experience that cannot be put into words.
The Talmud tells us of another reason to celebrate this day. Rabbi Akiva’s students were suffering from a plague. Over 2600 of his students died between Passover and the 33rd day of the Omer. The Talmud tells us that the reason they were suffering from this plague was due to the lack of proper respect being shown to one another. On this day the dying ceased. Therefore, we have the custom of showing signs of mourning between passover and Lag BaOmer and do not get haircuts, shave or listen to music. On Lag BaOmer we add this to the celebration and no longer show signs of mourning. We make sure to carry on the ‘Ahavat Yisrael’ – our love and respect for one another.