“There is nothing more whole than a broken heart,” said Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk (1787–1859), also known as the Kotzker Rebbe. Tonight the Jewish people welcome a lesser known, somewhat mystical, Jewish holiday, Lag B’Omer. MyJewishLearning summarizes it’s key elements in this great article.
As a child, I remember this fun holiday featuring BBQs, bonfires, and whiffle ball games with friends and family. Most of that is not possible right now.
It is fascinating that tonight we are instructed to take a break from this “period of semi-mourning,” as we arrive at the 33rd day of our count off from Passover to Shavuot (Sferat Ha’Omer). A popular notion is that on this day the mysterious plague which killed 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students suddenly ended. This very well might have been Akiva’s students’ death count in the Bar Kochba rebellion (132 C.E.) against the Romans, and the rabbis needed to choose their language carefully for the political ramifications. But I find it a little strange that of all things, it is a plague that is the chosen description for this massive loss.
Most of us have never experienced a pandemic. It is hard reading the daily news, let alone juggling all of the challenges that this intense disruption of our normal lives has created. But I would like to remind us all that spiritual highs in life are almost always preceded by lows. Perhaps you can think of bending an elastic band back to give it the maximum thrust forward. That might be where we are at right now. If you feel that you are experiencing a low point in your life, this might be a perfect time for you to recognize that you are generating spiritual energy that will bring you to a higher consciousness. Whenever we are going through hard times, there is an opening to your heart. You become more compassionate, more thoughtful, more soft and loving. These spiritual qualities will lead you to a better destiny.
I hope that this newsletter finds you and your loved ones healthy. And I pray that our own mysterious plague will end soon. But in the meantime, happy Lag B’Omer, and I hope that you can recognize when your spiritual energy is building despite any low points you encounter.
Ready to celebrate Lag B’Omer on Sunday on May 14th? Need a quick refresher on the background? No worries. MyJewishLearning has a great overview of why we are celebrating this holiday, and what we are commemorating.
Bonfires (or campfires) are a fun way to observe Lag B’Omer. And if you’re going to have a bonfire, you really ought to have s’mores to go with it. S’mores don’t really need a recipe, but here is one from Jewcy with a fresh take on the idea.
If you’re a more adventurous chef, here are some Israeli inspired recipes for Lag B’Omer from Joy of Kosher.
And did you know that archery is also associated with Lag B’Omer? Did you ever take archery as a kid in summer camp? Check out this short article from the blog: Rabbi on a Narrow Bridge that explains a bit more about the connection between archery and Lag B’Omer.