This coming Thursday, on the 18th of Iyar (May 23 this year) we celebrate Lag B’Omer. Lag B’Omer is especially known for two historic events: On Lag B’Omer, the deadly plague which had attacked the students of Rabbi Akiva ceased. Years later, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai passed away on Lag B’Omer.
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was one of the foremost Talmudic sages. He also wrote the Zohar, the primary text of Kabala.
It is customary to celebrate Lag B’Omer with outdoor activities. Children and students who would normally be indoors studying go out into parks and fields to play and enjoy nature. The intent of this custom is to bring Torah study “into the fields,” to unify all aspects of Torah and Jewish observance with the world around us.
Another custom on Lag B’Omer is to light bonfires in the evening. In Israel, children collect firewood for weeks to assure a big, beautiful (supervised) bonfire!
This custom originates in the idea that on the day that Rabbi Shimon passed away, a great light filled the world because of all of the secrets of Torah wisdom that Rabbi Shimon revealed to his students. These secrets, now revealed, were recorded in the Zohar.
The sun did not set until Rabbi Shimon had revealed all that he was allowed to. As soon as he was done, the sun set and he passed on.
The Zohar also states: “With this book we will come out of the exile with mercy.” may the end of exile and the beginning of the Redemption take place immediately NOW!