By Rabbi Yosef Shemtov:
Lag BaOmer, the 33rd day of the Omer count this year (April 30, 2021)—is a festive day on the Jewish calendar. It is celebrated with outings (where children traditionally play with bows and arrows), bonfires, parades and other joyous events. Many visit the resting place (in Meron, northern Israel) of the great sage and mystic Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the anniversary of whose passing is on this day. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who lived in the second century of the Common Era, was the first to publicly teach the mystical dimension of the Torah known as the Kabbalah. He is also the author of the classic text of Kabbalah, the Zohar. On the day of his passing, Rabbi Shimon instructed his disciples to mark the date as “The day of my joy.”
Lag BaOmer also commemorates another joyous event. The Talmud relates that in the weeks between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot, a plague raged among the disciples of the great sage Rabbi Akiva (teacher of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai), “Because they did not act respectfully towards each other.” These weeks are therefore observed as a period of mourning, with various joyous activities prohibited by law and custom. On Lag BaOmer the deaths ceased. Thus, Lag BaOmer also carries the theme of loving and respecting one’s fellows (ahavat Yisrael).
As we start the semakhot like engagements and weddings and listening to music again we should remember to increase our love towards our family, friends and community.