Lag B'Omer: A Day of Celebration
The days between Pesach and Shavuot are known as the Omer. These 49 days are counted as we anxiously await the commemoration of the giving of the Torah. These 49 days are also related to the harvest, and the bringing of the new fruits to the Temple on Shavuot to give thanks to Hashem for the harvest.
The famous question is; why then do we have a period of mourning until the 33rd day of the Omer, known as Lag Ba’Omer? During this period people do not get married and we conduct ourselves as though we are mourners. What happened that turned a seemingly joyous period into one of tragedy?
The answer to this lies in the story of Rabbi Akiva and his students. Rabbi Akiva lived through the destruction of the Temple and was a great teacher of the Oral Torah. The Talmud in Yevamos (62b) tells us that he had 12,000 pairs of students. All of these students died during the Omer. The Talmud goes on to tell us that the reason they died was a lack of respect for one another. This seemingly small lapse in social morals led to the destruction of a generation of Torah, and almost caused the loss of the Oral Torah.
This harsh lesson can serve as a paradigm for us today, warning us of the gravity of honoring and treating all Jews with respect. Each and every one of us is created B’Tzelem Elokim (In the Image of G-d), and we each have a “piece” of Hashem in us. That alone demands that we respect those around us.
The celebration of Lag Ba’Omer can be viewed as a fresh beginning for a life of respect and honoring others. By recognizing the strengths and positive powers each individual person has we will be able to afford them the respect they deserve as fellow Jews. Living a life with the perspective that everyone is a wonderful creation of G-d, and a pure gift to mankind, is a great way to surround our personal lives with positivity, helping us lead a more productive and happy life.
May we all merit to see our fellow Jews as the beautiful Neshama they are, and afford them the proper respect, so that we may see the Day of Redemption soon in our time.