“Lag” is the number 33 in Hebrew letters, which are often used to represent numerals. The “omer,” literally a “sheaf” of grain, is the name given to the 49-day period that falls between Passover and Shavuot. “Lag ba-Omer” is then the 33rd day of this period.
In Leviticus 23:10, the Israelites are told, “When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest.” Then, in verses 15 and 16, “From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD.” From the barley harvest at Passover time to the wheat harvest at Shavuot, the Omer is counted daily as an expression of trust in God’s provision.
In post-biblical times the Omer period became one of semi-mourning among observant Jews. Today, most Jewish people are no longer as traditional as in past generations. Most therefore neither count the Omer nor observe the customs of that season. However, among religious Jews, there are no weddings or haircuts permitted during the Omer. According to one legend, 24,000 students of the famous Rabbi Akiva died in a plague during the Omer period. Whether or not that was the basis for the post-biblical customs of the Omer is not known.
In the midst of this time of semi-mourning, the restrictions are suddenly lifted on Lag ba-Omer and the day becomes a time of celebration and joy.
Marriages are allowed (and can take place by the dozens!), young boys get their first haircut, children play with bows and arrows and bonfires are lit.
Because the themes of Jewish mysticism and marriage are part of the Lag ba-Omer traditions, we present articles on these subjects in the sidebar.
For Jewish believers in Jesus, we trust in God’s continued provision through his Passover Lamb, Yeshua, and we look forward to Shavuot, which reminds us further of God’s provision of His Spirit.