This evening and tomorrow is Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer Period. Not widely celebrated today by non Orthodox Jews it has a fascinating history.
In ancient times, when we were more closely tied to the land, these weeks between Pesach and Shavuot were devoted to the new agricultural season, planting, growing and harvesting the produce necessary for life. To give weight to this period, the sages instituted numerous restrictions to assist the people in the necessary focus on the earth. Except for two days during these seven weeks, the people refrained from celebrations and many social activities, including haircuts! To be devoted to the Land was essential.
But, for many centuries, there were two days when restrictions were lifted. Rosh Chodesh Iyar and Lag B'Omer. Now in our modern times, some religious Jews, mostly Sephardim, are more relax and will plan and attend simchaot, celebrations, after Lag B'Omer. Liberal Jews do not follow these restrictions. Some learned in our youth that Lag B'Omer was created to celebrate the end of a plague that decimated the followers of Rabbi Akiba back in the 2nd Century CE. Other scholars noted that the day signified the end of the Roman-Jewish war.
With the historical and agricultural connections Lag B'Omer, especially in Israel, is a time for picnic and outdoor celebrations. The great rabbi and mystic Shimon Bar Yochai yahrtzeit is commemorated that day. There are bonfires and a lot of hair cutting! Tomorrow, I will have my annual Lag B'Omer haircut, too.
Our teachers and Kabbalists have associated this day of Lag B'Omer with the qualities of Hod in Hod. Each week and each day during the 49 days of Sephora, is linked to spiritual qualities. Rabbi Simon Jacobson offers this teaching, associating Hod with Humility.
"Examine the humility of humility. Everyone has humility and modesty in their hearts, the question is the measure and manner in which one consciously feels it? Am I afraid to be too humble? Do I mask and protect my modesty with aggressive behavior? Learn to cultivate your humility by interacting with people who are more refined than yourself, evoking in your modesty and humility that motivates you to grow.
Humility must also be examined for its genuineness. Is my humility humble? Or is it yet another expression of arrogance? Do I take too much pride in my humility? Do I flaunt it? Is it self-serving? Is my humility part of a crusade or is it genuine? Do I have expectations due to my humility?
Exercise for the day: Be humble just for its own sake."
Come for Shabbes if you can. This week's Parsha is Behar, teaching about our relationship to Land in an amazing utopian vision. Brachot, Reb David