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’s cycle of chaggim and shabbatot times, which change depending on the season, reminds us to stay attentive to the uniqueness of each moment.
In the daily morning tefillah service, we are reminded that unique events occur “at every moment and time, evening, morning, and noon” (“בכל עת ובכל שעה,” “ערב ובוקר וצהרים”). 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. Also, today we 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 had brought the plague upon themselves by not treating each other with respect. For this reason, many people play music, hold weddings, and get their hair cut, signalling the end of a period of mourning for Rabbi Akiva’s students.
Lag Ba’Omer also commemorates the wisdom of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, which was 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, of course, the community in celebration. This year, we are especially grateful for the opportunity to join with each other in song, joy, and celebration.
This Shabbat, may we all pay attention to special and unique quality moments and times.