Lag ba-Omer is the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. Throughout history, following the tragedies that befell the Jewish people during this period (the Crusades), and particularly the death of 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiba from a plague (in the 2nd century CE), these days have become days of semi-mourning, during which certain prohibitions apply, such as the prohibitions against cutting one’s hair or holding weddings.
To get a better idea of the impact this tragedy had on the Jewish People for posterity, consider the following facts: Virtually, all of the Torah that we possess and study today, all the interpretations, perspectives, dimensions and legal applications in the Talmud, were coined and formulated mainly by FIVE students of Rabbi Akiba, whom he taught after the loss of his first group of 24,000 disciples. Each Torah personality who immerses himself in Torah adds his own understanding and flavor to the Torah, thus enriching the Torah which will be passed on to the next generation.
Imagine how richer and deeper our understanding of the Divine Torah would have been had we received the full breath of Rabbi Akiba’s Torah, as assimilated and interpreted by 24,000 disciples, along with their unique individual perspectives and interpretations. The demise of the first group of students essentially resulted in our receiving only a fraction of Rabbi Akiba’s Torah. Instead of its full amplification by 24,000 great human beings, we have only the interpretations of five.
Besides the lives that were cut short, we mourn the lost dimensions of Torah, that were lost by their death.
VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION:
How do they celebrate Lag Ba’Omer in Israel?
Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024