Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lag B'Omer - Omer Day 33

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

In the second century, 24, 000 of the students of a famous rabbi, Rabbi Akiva, were killed by a plague. The reason? According to the Talmud, they did not treat each other with respect. This day, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, marks the lifting of the plague that killed them, as well as the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shim’on Bar Yohai, one of the students who survived.


The counting of the Omer reminds us of the link between Passover and our redemption from slavery, and Shavuot and the revelation of the Torah. The counting reminds us that our redemption from slavery is not complete until we once again receive the Torah. The period of the Omer is traditionally a time of partial mourning, in memory of the plague, with no weddings, parties, dinners with dancing, or haircuts.

Because the plague was lifted on Lag (meaning, literally, 33) b'Omer, it is a day of celebration. Traditional activities include lighting bonfires and having picnics.

Thus, two ideas come together on Lag B'Omer - respect and eating outdoors.

The modern-day plagues of climate change and the poisoning of land, air, and water are killing the inhabitants of the Earth, and the cause is our lack of respect - for the Earth and all it contains.

Sitting on the ground outside, we form a physical connection to the Earth, we acknowledge our personal relationship to itIn celebration of Lag B'Omer, sometime between Wednesday evening and Thursday evening, I invite you to:
  • sit on the ground;
  • eat something outdoors;
  • open your heart to all that is around you;
  • think about what it means for you to respect the Earth;
  • make a commitment to a specific way of treating the Earth and its inhabitants with more respect.
Today is Day 33, which is four weeks and five days of the Omer.
Today is Day 33, which is four weeks and five days of the journey from bondage to revelation.

Rabbi Katy Allen is a board certified chaplain and serves as a Nature Chaplain and the Facilitator of One Earth Collaborative, a program of Open Spirit. She is the founder and rabbi of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long. She is a co-convener and coordinator of the Boston-based Jewish Climate Action Network.

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