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  ISRAEL    
 
 
  LAG BA'OMER  
 
MACCABI WORLD UNION, DESCRIPTION & IDEOLOGY, BY RABBI CARLOS A. TAPIERO

Lag BaOmer
By: Rabbi Carlos A. Tapiero, Carlos@maccabiworld.org
Deputy Director-General
Maccabi World Union, www.maccabiworld.org

RABBI CARLOS TAPIERO, MWU DEPUTY - DIRECTOR GENERAL & DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION

 

 

Kfar HaMaccabiah, Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Omer, Lag Ba'Omer, Chol Hamoed, the Feast,

the defeat and the festive spirit

 

Dear Friends,

 

As the title suggests, a dilemma arises intrinsically from the celebration of Lag Ba'Omer, linked with the offering and loss of the Omer, the liberating revolt against Rome, the victory and the tremendous, devastating final defeat.

 

The Omer is in fact a measure of volume / weight[1]. On the second day of Passover, the Children of Israel brought an omer of barley (the Passover harvest) as an offering to the Great Temple, an activity that connected the Jewish People with their spiritual center in Jerusalem, brought them closer to the Feast of Passover and set them on the road from Pessach to Shavuot, seven weeks later.

 

The destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, by the Roman general Titus and his legions[2], the joy sustained between Passover and Shavuot - similar to that of Chol Hamoed - was emptied of content. Only the memory of the Omer remained, but not the physical act of our People's offering. Without our Temple, the Omer became a counting of days, marking into our own times the relationship and mutual connection of Passover and Shavuot.

 

When the Roman Emperor Hadrian imposed Roman rule over the Jewish People, expelled from Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple but still living in large regions of the Land of Israel, our People's situation worsened dramatically. The Omer, neutral in those days - without the joy of the offering in the Temple, but without further sadness - was stained with the blood, death and expulsion when Hadrian crushed the great Revolt of Bar-Kochba and Rabbi Akiva. Not only was Hadrian a mass-murderer of Jews in Eretz Yisrael and in other Jewish Diasporas within the Roman Empire, but also the enforcer of Jewish Exile (the 'Golah' or 'Galut') from the Land of Israel that endured for 18 centuries until the establishment of the Zionist Yishuv, and in 1948, the new State of Israel. From those terrible events in Antiquity and until today, the Omer marks a memory of Jewish pain and mourning - hence, the limitations on expressions of joy (for example, no weddings) that we observe during the seven weeks of the Omer.

 

Our Sages, however, enjoined us to one day of joy during the sadness of the Omer: Lag BaOmer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, is a semi-festive day in the Hebrew calendar that recalls the glorious but all-too-brief triumph of the great Jewish military leader Bar-Kochba over the oppressive Legions of Rome that gave our People three years[3] of freedom and relief from the Roman yoke. Lag BaOmer celebrates victory in battle amidst the bitter loss of our war for liberty and an end to the plague that killed 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiba[4]. Our Sages offered this one sweet taste of honey in the bitter and sour reality we remember in Counting the Days of the Omer.

 

Why enjoin such happiness in a long period of sadness? Our Sages decreed that Lag BaOmer represents the promise of a grand future for the Jewish people: "Today, a victorious battle; tomorrow, final glorious victory: our national reconstruction". So true was this prophetic vision, that the happiest day in our contemporary Jewish calendar - Israel's Day of Independence, Yom Haatzmaut, celebrating restoration of our People's national life - occurs precisely during the Omer and confirming before Lag BaOmer the spirit of hope our Sages inserted at the forefront of our national horizon.

 

When we begin celebrating this Lag BaOmer, let's keep in mind that even in the leanest and most terrible reality, there must be some strong, desired, sustained wishes for happiness and a joyous future. The hope of national redemption intrinsic to Lag BaOmer gave our People the spirit that just two weeks ago facilitated our celebration of 67 years of regained independence. That hope sustained us, and our decisive action translated that spirit into national achievement.

 

May the lights of our bonfires of Lag BaOmer's glory illuminate our present and our promising future, and may we maintain the spirit of national continuity in this festival.

 

Lag BaOmer Sameach!!!

Chazak ve'ematz!!!

 

RABBI CARLOS A. TAPIERO

Deputy Director-General & Director of Education

Maccabi World Union



[1]3.6 liters.

[2] Year 70 c.e.

[3]132 to 135 c.e.

[4]Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 62b.


 
   
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