SUNDOWN SATURDAY, MAY 1: Some Jews pay tribute to the mystic Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on Lag BaOmer. (Chabad.org explains more.) Traditionally, children play with bows and arrows and bonfires are lit, while others journey to Meron, in Northern Israel, where his body rests. Jews also recognize, today, a plague that occurred between Passover and Shavuot during the time of Rabbi Akiva, and mourn this event.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai lived in the 2nd century CE and was the first to teach publicly the Kabbalah, or “esoteric soul” of the Torah. It’s recorded that his house was once filled with “fire and intense light,” and so in memory of this, Jews light bonfires on Lag BaOmer. (An article from My Jewish Learning details this rabbi’s life.) Today, the largest Lag BaOmer celebration takes place in Meron, although similar events occur elsewhere—such as in Brooklyn, New York, where the Great Parade takes place. At Meron, attendees dance, sing and celebrate around the clock, as Lag BaOmer—at least the focus on Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai—is a time of joy. (Wikipedia provides origins and customs.)
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
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