Parshat Emor recounts the cycle of biblical Jewish Holidays: Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Shemini Atzeret. Details about the timing of the chaggim teach us the middah: “Pay attention to special times.”
Noticing special moments and times is a key practice of Jewish consciousness. Our calendar—with its cycle of chaggim, rashei chodesh, and shabbatot, which shift according to the seasons—reminds us to stay attentive to the uniqueness of each moment. In the daily morning tefillah service, we are reminded that unique events occur:
“בכל עת ובכל שעה,”
“ערב ובוקר וצהרים”
“at every moment and time, evening, morning, and noon.”
We simply need to pay attention to them.
Right now, we are in the midst of another special time: Sefirat Ha’omer—the counting of days between Pesach, our celebration of freedom, and Shavuot, our celebration of receiving the Torah.
Next Thursday, we will celebrate Lag Ba’Omer—the 33rd day of Sefirat Ha’Omer.
Lag Ba’Omer commemorates several historical and spiritual moments in Jewish history. According to the Talmud, it marks the end of a plague that struck 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students; they brought this plague upon themselves through lack of mutual respect. As the period of mourning for Rabbi Akiva’s students comes to an end, many people play music, hold weddings, and get haircuts.
Lag B’Omer also commemorates the wisdom Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai revealed into the world through his mystical book the Zohar. “Zohar” means “splendour,” and many consider the bonfires lit on Lag Ba’Omer to be symbolic of the splendour of these teachings. For others, the bonfires remind us of the signal fires lit by Jewish rebels fighting against Roman rule under the leadership of Bar Kockhbah.
Like many Jewish holidays, Lag Ba’Omer brings together traditions, interpretations, and the community in celebration. This year, we are especially grateful for the opportunity to return to gathering together in song, joy, and celebration for Lag Ba’Omer.
This Shabbat, may we all try to pay attention to special and unique moments and times.