What Is Lag BaOmer? All About the Festive Jewish Holiday

The Jewish holiday Lag BaOmer is approaching, and it's one of the most festive days in the Hebrew calendar. If you see a lot of Jewish celebrants at bonfires, street fairs and practicing archery—or hosting big weddings or even just getting haircuts—Lag BaOmer is probably why. Learn about when Lag BaOmer is in 2023, why it's celebrated and more.

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What is Lag BaOmer?

Lag BaOmer is a Jewish holiday that usually falls in the spring. According to Chabad, Lag BaOmer celebrates the life of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who was the first to teach the Kabbalah part of the Torah. He is credited as the author of the Kabbalah text called the Zohar.

When is Lag BaOmer 2023?

Lag BaOmer is always on the 18th day of the month of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar. In the secular calendar, the holiday begins at sundown on May 8 and ends at sundown on May 9, 2023.

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Why is Lag BaOmer celebrated?

Lag BaOmer is celebrated for two different reasons. One is the end of a deadly plague that is believed to have killed a whopping 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva Ben Yosef. Lag BaOmer marks the end of a 32-day grieving period for Akiva Yosef's followers.

The other is a celebration of the life of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a highly respected Jewish sage who lived around the same time as Ben Yosef and asked that the end of his life be marked as a joyous occasion, not a sorrowful one.

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What do you do on Lag BaOmer?

Lag BaOmer is often celebrated with bonfires, street festivals and parades. Many celebrants spend time outdoors taking in the beauty of nature.

Marking the end of a mourning period, many Jewish people hold weddings and other big parties on Lag BaOmer. There are huge city-wide celebrations in Meron, northern Israel, where Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is buried.

Many people eat carob, a fruit native to the Mediterranean, during Lag BaOmer as a tribute to Rabbi Shimon, who survived on it with his son when they were hiding from the Romans, Chabad notes. Eggs are also often eaten as a symbol of mourning.

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What does Lag Ba'Omer mean in Hebrew?

Translated from Hebrew, "La Ba'Omer" literally means "33rd [day] of Omer." Think of it in terms of our "Fourth of July" or "Cinco de Mayo," but obviously with a much different significance.

Are you allowed to get a haircut on Lag BaOmer?

You can indeed get a haircut on Lag BaOmer. In fact, for some of the Jewish faith, it's the date when their children get their very first haircuts.

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What do bows and arrows mean for LagBaOmer?

Children often play with archery-themed toys and at times actual bows and arrows for Lag BaOmer. This stems from the word "keshet," which translates to both "bow" and "rainbow" in Hebrew, according to Chabad. In the Jewish faith, it is believed that after the Great Flood, God used a rainbow as a sign that he would never destroy the world by flood ever again; rainbows have been associated in the religion with the world (or portions of it) deserving punishment. Sages proclaimed that during Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's life, rainbows weren't necessary and didn't appear because his goodness protected the entire world. The bows and arrows signify that following his death, rainbows are now needed.

Lag BaOmer greetings

There is no specific greeting for Lag BaOmer, but many celebrants wish one another "chag sameach," or "happy holiday."

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