La”g Ba’Omer marks the 23rd day of the counting of the days of the Omer (La”g is the Hebrew alpha-numeric equivalent of the number 23). Marking this day as a holiday is a custom that developed in the 13th century.  According to the tradition, the day marks the ending of a plague that killed tens of thousands of students of Rabbi Akiva’s disciples at the beginning of the 2nd Century CE. The reason given for the plague is that the students did not treat each other with respect. According to another opinion, the students died during a revolt against the Roman Empire.

The 23rd day of the Omer counting  also marks the day Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, founder of the Jewish mysticism died.

According to all opinions, Lag B’Omer was established as a day of hope.  Despite the plague – life emerges triumphant; Despite the failure of the revolt – hope remained; And despite the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai – his teachings were preserved.

Happy La”g Ba’Omer

Rabbi Moshe Rice

Director of the Religious Zionism Administration