Lag BaOmer occurs on the 33rd day of the Omer. What is the Omer? The period of the Jewish calendar between Passover and Pentecost (Pesach and Shavuot). The 33rd day falls on the 18th of Iyar.
The day marks the anniversary of the death of Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century disciple of the famous Rabbi Akiva. According to legend, he spent 12 years living in a cave with water and carobs for sustenance. He spent all that time studying the Torah, and learning the deepest and most intricate layers of the Bible’s meaning.
When he emerged from the cave, he revealed the Zohar, a crucial part of the Kabbalah. His death is marked in Meron, a town in the north of Israel near the infamously mystical Safed where Shimon Bar Yochai was buried. It’s now a focal point for Lag BaOmer celebrations.
Lag BaOmer is celebrated in various ways. The Omer is a period of mourning, but all the restrictions are lifted for the remaining days. Families go on outings, and children traditionally play with bows and arrows.
The most common Lag BaOmer practice is lighting bonfires. This came by request of Shimon Bar Yochai himself: he believed the bonfires represent the bright light of spirituality from the Zohar. The night is filled with bright, flickering light, symbolising the famous rabbi’s contribution to the world of Torah study.