After 32 days when we mourned the historic deaths of Rabbi Akiva‘s students – Torah sages that could have changed the way the world regards Torah – we’ve come to the 33rd day when deaths of the students no longer occurred. Of the 24,000 Rabbi Akiva had, only 5 were left including Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Bar Yochai went on to become the greatest teacher of his generation and the author of the Zohar. Last eve, motzey Shabbos, and carrying on until nightfall today, we celebrate Lag Ba’omer. Lag Ba’omer commemorates the anniversary of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai‘s death. Around the world this day is celebrated with pilgrimages to Rabbi Shimon‘s kever in Meron, bonfires in the evening and a day of general mirth, as the cycle of death stopped.
Last eve, I happened to be in the Marine Park neighborhood, having stayed at a friend’s house for Shabbos. and on motzey Shabbos, we went to see a local bonfire in honor of the occasion on East 33rd and Avenue P….
The crowd sang the famous Bar Yochai pizmon and the spirit of comradery united all those present, regardless of ethnicity and religious customs…
Truly, a beautiful and heart warming evening!