Sunday, April 25, 2010

Let’s Create Our Own Lag B’Omer Custom

In another week we will be celebrating Lag B’Omer – the 33rd day of the Omer. The Omer is known as period of mourning which began with the death of Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students from a heavenly ordained plague. Legend has it that the plague stopped on this day.

There are several customs associated with Lag B’Omer, which is also the Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, author of the Zohar and father of Jewish mysticism. Some of the customs revolve around the Rabbi and his request that the day of his death be turned into a celebration. Consequently, to symbolize the light he spread to all of his followers, we light bonfires on Lag B’Omer night, singing and dancing around the fire, mock archery contests are held, and (not related to the Rabbi) 3-year old boys get their first haircuts.

How to do all these customs fit in with your school day? Not very well. This got me thinking about the origins of the Omer, some lesser known Israeli customs, and how we can combine all of this into an original school custom.

First of all, what is an Omer? It is a measure of barley. In Biblical times, it was a commandment to bring barley the size of an Omer on the second day of Passover to the Temple in Jerusalem. Counting the Omer is a Biblical commandment found in the book of Leviticus. The days of the Omer run from the day after Passover night – when the Jews physically became free – to the night before Shavuot – when the Jews achieved spiritual liberation through the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai.

Step 2: Little known Israeli customs. On Lag Ba’Omer night many Sephardi Israelis go to Mount Merom, pitch huge tents, serve festive multi-course dinners and enjoy the beat of live music. On Lag B’Omer day, Israeli universities hold open fairs on their campuses in honor of “Student’s Day.”

Step 3: Let’s work out a combination by pitching one tent in the school yard and have a student run fair. One table can be devoted to barley: how it looks, how it grows, barley based food and drink, etc. For instance, do you know that the word barn originally meant barley-house? A second table can be devoted to Rabbi Akiva. Who was he? What was his connection with Bar Kochba? What was the reason for the plague that killed his students? What was his connection with Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai? Recreating a visual “map” of his life could be a challenging and enjoyable activity for your students. Finally, since Jewish mysticism deals with the soul of the Torah, how about singing and dancing to some Jewish soul music.

I hope this gives you some inspiration. Enjoy Lag B’Omer.

No comments:

Post a Comment