Lag B’Omer is coming up on May 14. In brainstorming content for the holiday, we hit a bit of a wall. We couldn’t define or describe, without cheating, what, exactly, Lag B’Omer is. We couldn’t even figure out how to spell it correctly (like Hanukkah, this holiday has many acceptable spellings). You’d think we would be able to answer this question, given all three of us are Jewish and one even has a master’s degree in Judaic studies. But no such luck.

So we took an informal survey of our friends and coworkers to find out if anyone knows what Lag B’Omer is really about. Can you figure out what it is based on their responses? (Spoiler alert: We couldn’t.)


“I’ve heard a few different things but mainly I know it as the bonfire holiday in Israel.”

“I think it’s the midway point, or some point in the middle, between Passover—liberation—and Shavuot—Sinai—when one is ‘counting the Omer,’ which I think are the days between them? The thing that sticks with me about it is that it’s the only time during the counting of the omer that you’re supposed to do things like get married. But I have no idea why that would be, so I feel like I’m making it up. I also might be mixing my interfaith traditions and that part is actually about something like the third Sunday of Advent….”

“Lag B’Omer: Think of it as a Jewish Burning Man festival without so much self-actualized testosterone.”

“Haha, I know nothing about it.”

“There’s a bonfire. It’s after 33 days of counting the Omer. You can start shaving and cut your hair, if you are male. Shavuot is next and that’s the holiday with lots of dairy and learning all night.”

“When I think of Lag B’Omer, I always think of awesome bonfire celebrations in Israel. Israelis get together on the beach for big parties, which sounds fun but is hard to replicate in the U.S. I know the name ‘Lag B’Omer’ has to do with the date, like many Jewish holidays, and it’s the 33rd day of the Omer, the 40 days between Passover and Shavuot. Beyond that, I can never really remember why or what it is!”

“It sounds like a word from an H.P. Lovecraft novel.”

“Without googling, I would say it’s a good excuse for Israelis to go to the beaches and have bonfires. Other than that, I think it’s the Jewish ‘Earth Day.’ But maybe I’m getting it confused with another holiday.”

“Counting of the Omer—God only knows what that is—and bonfires. I really don’t remember; I can’t keep all the holidays straight!”

image001“I know nothing!”




“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

“Lag B’Omer was raised in Dublin but discovered he had deep ancestral roots in Judaism. He decided to follow in his descendants’ footsteps and took a walkabout through the deserts of Israel. It was on this journey where he ‘found himself,’ felt intensely connected to his ancestry, and decided right then to convert to Judaism. He has since dedicated his life to helping others trace their roots and reconnect to their Jewish heritage. Obviously.”

“It’s the time between Pesach and Shavuot. Also something about fire or bonfires.”

“It’s the…um…33rd, I think, day of the Omer, the days we count between Pesach and Shavuot. It makes a break in the limitations of that time, like listening to music and getting your hair cut and getting married—some people will do those things after Lag B’Omer but not before, or only on that day. I know there’s more but I can’t remember without googling.”

“There is something about bonfires. Though I assume no s’mores, given the gelatin in the marshmallows.”

“The first thing that pops into my head is fire. I can’t really tell you much more. When I lived in Israel for a year, that day at the park there were just a million giant bonfires. It was so crazy and like a big fire party.”

“My guess is that it’s a type of drink, like a Jägerbomb—maybe a shot of whiskey dropped into a Blue Moon.”

“My best guess is that Lag B’Omer is an agricultural holiday, as most are, that involves some sort of counting.”

Based on these riveting explanations, here’s what we deduced Lag B’Omer to be:

“A perfect opportunity to eat s’mores?”

“It’s like the opposite of that birthday of the trees holiday, where we bless them, for on this one, we BURN THEM!”

“…but why bonfires?”

We, clearly getting nowhere, asked Rabbi Philip Sherman of Temple Beth Elohim for clarity:

“Lag B’Omer is the 33rd day of the Omer, the time between Passover and Shavuot when, traditionally, many mourning rituals are observed, such as abstaining from weddings, live music or cutting one’s hair. Some people remember the students of Rabbi Akiva who died from a plague at this time.

“The 33rd day of the Omer is the anniversary—yahrzeit—of the death of the great mystic sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. On this day, in his memory, which is expressed with great joy, the mourning rituals of this period are suspended. This is why many weddings and other joyous occasions are observed on Lag B’Omer. Others celebrate this day with bonfires, dancing and parades.”

So, it appears that, in general, Jews love a good party. And fire.