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Why we celebrate Lag B’Omer

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This article suggests that the rationale for our celebration of Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Sephirah, is to celebrate ראשית צמיחת גאולתינו, the first blossoming of our redemption, a term that has become familiar to many Jews mainly because it is used when we provide liturgical thanks to God for having facilitated the creation of the State of Israel.

Yevamot 62b discusses the origin of Lag B’Omer after a discussion of the verse in Qohelet 11:6, which states:

ו בַּבֹּקֶר זְרַע אֶת-זַרְעֶךָ, וְלָעֶרֶב אַל-תַּנַּח יָדֶךָ: כִּי אֵינְךָ יוֹדֵעַ אֵי זֶה יִכְשָׁר, הֲזֶה אוֹ-זֶה, וְאִם-שְׁנֵיהֶם כְּאֶחָד, טוֹבִים. 6 In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou knowest not which shall prosper, whether this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.

Yevamot 62b follows its citation of this verse by claiming that it applies to Rabbi Aqiba:

רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא אוֹמֵר: לָמַד תּוֹרָה בְּיַלְדוּתוֹ — יִלְמוֹד תּוֹרָה בְּזִקְנוּתוֹ. הָיוּ לוֹ תַּלְמִידִים בְּיַלְדוּתוֹ — יִהְיוּ לוֹ תַּלְמִידִים בְּזִקְנוּתוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״בַּבֹּקֶר זְרַע אֶת זַרְעֶךָ וְגוֹ׳״. אָמְרוּ: שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר אָלֶף זוּגִים תַּלְמִידִים הָיוּ לוֹ לְרַבִּי עֲקִיבָא מִגְּבָת עַד אַנְטִיפְרַס, וְכוּלָּן מֵתוּ בְּפֶרֶק אֶחָד, מִפְּנֵי שֶׁלֹּא נָהֲגוּ כָּבוֹד זֶה לָזֶה.

Rabbi Aqiba said: If one studied Torah in his youth he should study more Torah in his old age; if he had students in his youth he should have additional students in his old age, as it is stated: “In the morning sow your seed, etc.” They said by way of example that Rabbi Aqiba had twelve thousand pairs of students in an area of land that stretched from Gevat to Antipatris in Judea, and they all died in one period of time, because they did not treat each other with respect.

וְהָיָה הָעוֹלָם שָׁמֵם, עַד שֶׁבָּא רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא אֵצֶל רַבּוֹתֵינוּ שֶׁבַּדָּרוֹם וּשְׁנָאָהּ לָהֶם: רַבִּי מֵאִיר, וְרַבִּי יְהוּדָה, וְרַבִּי יוֹסֵי, וְרַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן, וְרַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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