The History-Why we Celebrate

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Historical background-What occurred on Lag BaOmer?

It is accustomed to increase slightly in joy on Lag BaOmer.[1] Various reasons behind this celebration have been recorded.[2] The classical reason recorded in Poskim[3] is that on this day, Lag BaOmer, the last of the 24,000 students died. Others[4] however write that the students of Rebbe Akiva did not stop dying on Lag BaOmer and hence the increase in joy is due to some other unknown reason.[5] Others[6] write the reason is because on this day Rebbe Akiva gave Semicha to Rashbi and his other four remaining students.[7] Some[8] write the reason for celebration is because on this day the Mun began to fall for the Jewish people in the desert.[9] Others[10] write it is because on this day we have reached the Sefira of Hod Shebehod, which contains mystical significance. All the above however only explains why we cease practicing the mourning customs on this day, it however does not explain the exorbitant joy expressed on Lag BaOmer, with the various customs associated with it, hence turning Lag BaOmer to a day almost equal to other Holidays.[11]

Hilulla Derashbi: The true reason behind this day of joy is based on Kabala, as on this day, the 33rd day of the Omer which is the 18th of Iyar, the author of the Zohar, Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochaiy, passed away, Hillula Dirashbi.[12] Before his passing, Rebbe Shimon requested that the day of his death be celebrated[13], and it is thus a Mitzvah to fulfill the request of the deceased and celebrate on this day.[14] Due to this, “One is to rejoice with all his heart and soul and make a day of feasting and joy on the 18th of Iyar, and sing praise to Hashem from the book of Tehillim, however he is not to enter into drunkenness and frivolity, Heaven forbid.[15]


Summary of the reasons for celebration:

  1. The last of the 24,000 students died on Lag BaOmer.
  2. The five remaining students of Rebbe Akiva, including Rashbi, received Semicha on this day.
  3. Unknown reason.
  4. The Mun began to fall for the Jewish people in the dessert.
  5. On this day we have reached the Sefira of Hod Shebehod, which contains mystical significance.
  6. On this day, the 33rd day of the Omer which is the 18th of Iyar, the author of the Zohar, Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochaiy, passed away. Before his passing, Rebbe Shimon requested that the day of his death be celebrated.


The Oxymoron:[16]
Why do we celebrate the end of the death of the students of Rebbe Akiva and at the same time celebrate the death of Rebbe Shimon who was one of the 5 surviving students of Rebbe Akiva? It seems that the two explanations behind the celebration are self contradictory. If we are joyful that Rebbe Akiva’s students ceased to die then why celebrate the fact that Rashbi, which was amongst his five remaining students, passed away? The explanation is that the celebration in Rashbi’s death is not in the fact that he passed away, but in the fact that on the day of his passing all of his work that he accomplished throughout his life becomes spiritually revealed within the worlds. Rebbe Akiva’s students died as a result of their lack of Ahavas Yisrael, and hence the end of their deaths on Lag BaOmer represents also a Tikkun for this sin, thus causing celebration. At the same time, Rashbi outlived the other students being that he did not partake in this sin of the 24,000 students and on the contrary led a life of the epitome of Ahavas Yisrael. Rashbi passed away with a fulfilled life of Ahavas Yisrael. Now, since on this day all of the Rashbis work and accomplishments becomes revealed throughout the worlds, therefore we celebrate the lifework of Rashbi which represented the exact opposite of that of the 24,000 students that deceased.


Does Lag BaOmer have any relation to the Bar Kochba revolt?[17]
No. This is an unfortunate [and sometimes deliberate] revision of history to try to secularize the event of Lag BaOmer, and bring it more to the hearts of the secular public. There is no source, neither in historical or religious Jewish texts, which attest to such relations of events with Lag BaOmer. The tradition of generation from generation never knew of such an assertion. The relation of the revolt of Bar Kochba to Lag BaOmer is the invention of creative imagination of the Maskilim [Jewish intellectuals of the 18th century] who later formed the reformed movement, which have an excellence in revisionism.



The greatness of Lag BaOmer

Purim and Lag BaOmer:
The weekday that Lag BaOmer is celebrated is always the same weekday that Purim was celebrated that year.[18]  This emphasizes the happiness and joy that one must have on Lag BaOmer.


Ray of Moshiach:[19]
In Rebbe Shimon shined the light of Moshiach. On Lag BaOmer this ray of Moshiach shines, just as it did on the day the Rashbi passed away.


Lag BaOmer is Gematria of Moshe:
The words Lag BaOmer have the same Gematria as Moshe.[20] This is because the Rashbi was a spark of Moshe, and he had received from the same level of Divine light that Moshe received when he received the 2nd Luchos.[21]  



[1] Admur 493/5; Rama 493/2; Maharil 157

[2] See sources listed in coming footnotes, and Maaras Hayin of Chida in Likkutim; Shem Aryeh 14; Sdei Chemed Asifas Dinim 6

[3] Rama 493/2; Admur 493/5; Biur Halacha 493 “Yeish”

[4] Michaber 493/2 as explained in M”B 493/7; Tosafus brought in M”A 493/5; P”M 493 M”Z 1

[5] P”M 493 M”Z 1

[6] Shaar Hakavanos p. 57; Peri Chadash 493, brought in Kaf Hachaim 493/26; Chida in Maaras Ayin Likkutim 7, brought in Sdei Chemed ibid

[7] These were Rebbe Yehuda, Rebbe Elazar Ben Shamua, Rebbe Meir and Rebbe Nechemia. On this day there was a special spiritual revelation which allowed these students to receive Semicha. [Shaar Hakavanos ibid, brought in Kaf Hachaim ibid]

[8] Chasam Sofer Y.D. 233; However, see also Chasam Sofer O.C. 163

[9] This follows the opinion of the Midrash, however according to the Gemara Shabbos 87b the Mun began falling on Shabbos the 15th of Iyar, and according to Tosafus there it began falling on Sunday the 9th of Iyar, which is before the 18th of Iyar. So is also apparent from Kiddushin 38a that the Mun lasted for 40 years minus 30 days, and the Mun ceased on the 16th of Nissan, hence proving it began falling before the 18th of Iyar. See Igros Kodesh 29/157

[10] Siddur Yaavetz, recorded in Chasam Sofer Y.D. 233

[11] So questions Peri Chadash 493/2; Chasam Sofer ibid

[12] Peri Eitz Chaim Sefiras HaOmer 7 “Rebbe Shimon requested that the day of his death be celebrated”; Mishnas Chassidim Iyar 1/6 “On Lag BaOmer it is a Mitzvah to celebrate the Simcha of Rashbi”; Letter of Rav Ovadia Bartenura [printed in Darkei Tziyon, brought in Taamei Haminhagim p. 266] “The 18th of Iyar, the day of his passing” [However some historians claim that the above part of the letter is forged]; Admur in Siddur Im Dach; Igros Kodesh Admur Hazaken p. 117 “The 18th of Iyar the Yom Hillula of the Rashbi”; Sefer Hamamarim 5564 p. 101 “To understand the Hillula of Rashbi”; Chida in Birkeiy Yosef 493/2 and Morah Bietzba 8/123; Ateres Zekeinim 493; Bnei Yissachar Mamar Lag BaOmer 3/3; Sdei Chemed Eretz Yisrael 6; Minchas Elazar 1/60; Divrei Nechemia 34 “It has already been publicized in the entire world for many generations the Hillula of the Rashbi on Lag BaOmer.”; Chayeh Adam 131/11; Aruch Hashulchan 493/5; Kaf Hachaim 493/27; Igros Kodesh 4/277-277: “Many reasons have been recorded regarding the festival of Lag BaOmer. We only have the reason written in the Kisvei Arizal and brought in Dach”

Other opinions regarding if Rashbi passed away this day: Many Poskim omit the fact that Lag Baomer was the day of the passing of Rashbi and is cause for celebration. [Peri Chadash ibid; P”M ibid] Other Poskim even state that in truth there is no source for this statement that the Rashbi passed away on this day and it is based on a mistaken wording in the Eitz Chaim. [Chida in Maras Ayin Likkutim 7, recorded in Sdei Chemed ibid] In truth, in Shaar Hakavanos ibid, no mention is made regarding the fact Rashbi passed away on this day. However, it does explicitly discuss the great joy experienced on Lag Baomer and the pilgrimage to Meron. These points are not debatable to have been followed by the Arizal.

Other opinions regarding if one should celebrate the day of his passing: Some Poskim question why one should celebrate the death of Rebbe Shimon when in truth one should fast on the day of the passing of a Tzaddik. [See Chasam Sofer 233 and Toras Moshe Vayikra; Toras Moshe Vayikra; Shole Umeishiv Chamisha 39] For this reason the Chasam Sofer did not desire to move to Eretz Yisrael, in order so he is not forced to participate in the new holiday, as he referred to it. [Chasam Sofer 233] In addition, he claimed that the tragedies associated with the Tzfas earthquake in 1836 was due to their choosing to live in Tzfas near Rashbi and not in Yerushalayim. [Toras Moshe ibid] The Rebbe however answered their question by stating that since Rebbe Shimon himself asked for this day to be celebrated, therefore it differs from all other days of passing of Tzaddikim. [Likkutei Sichos 7/343]

[13] Peri Eitz Chaim Sefiras HaOmer 7

[14] See Shach Y.D. 344/9 in name of Rav Yaakov Viyal [Mahariv]; Likkutei Sichos 3/1002; 32/256

[15] Igros Kodesh Admur Hazaken p. 117;

[16] Likkutei Sichos 22/138 [printed in Shaareiy Hamoadim 284]

[17] See Igros Kodesh 9/64 “To say that Lag BaOmer is connected with Bar Kochba runs contrary to the Talmud, even though this statement is found in a number of books written by the Maskilim”  

[18] Michaber 428/1

[19] Siddur Shaar Lag BaOmer; Igros Kodesh 4/276-7

[20] Shaar Yissachar Tishreiy; Kodesh Hilulim p. 38; Likkutei Sichos 7/337

[21] Emek Hamelech 2/4

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