Lag BaOmer 2013

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Lag LaOmer, is a Jewish holiday celebrated on the thirty-third day of the Counting of the Omer, which occurs on the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar. According to the Talmud and Midrash, this day marks the hillula (celebration, interpreted by some as anniversary of death) of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a Mishnaic sage and leading disciple of Rabbi Akiva in the 2nd century, and the day on which he revealed the deepest secrets of kabbalah in the form of the Zohar, a landmark text of Jewish mysticism.

In modern Israeli culture, the holiday has been reinterpreted as a commemoration of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire. The Talmud states that during the time of Rabbi Akiva, 24,000 of his students died from a divinely sent plague during the counting of the Omer. The Talmud then goes on to  say that this was because they did not show proper respect to one another, befitting their level; they begrudged each other the spiritual levels attained by their comrades. Jews celebrate Lag BaOmer, the 33rd day of the count, to celebrate the end of the deaths. The images were taken last night April 27 in Bnai Brak, a town adjacent to Tel Aviv heavily populated by ultra-religious Jews. The “ceremonies” involve dancing and a bonfire. The latter was a specific request by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai of his students. Some say that as bar Yochai gave spiritual light to the world with the revelation of the Zohar, bonfires are lit to symbolize the impact of his teachings. Not an excuse, BUT as a woman I could not get close or create an eye contact with those photographed. It is highly important to respect their customs and traditions.

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