May 12, 2020
Today we celebrate the Jewish holiday, Lag B’Omer.
On the calendar it marks the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, the days between Passover and Shavuot. The days preceding are observed as a time of mourning. It is then that 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva perished as result of a horrible plague. To mark their deaths and to commemorate this tragic event music, joy and celebrations are curtailed. But on the 33rd day we rejoice. Why? Because one of the greatest rabbis of the Talmudic era, Rabbi Akiva, who lived in the second century of the Common Era, passed away on this date.
Rabbi Akiva, the towering sage of the Mishna, exerted a powerful influence on the Torah scholars of his day, to the point that he had 24,000 disciples. Great as the members of this group was, they had one short-coming: They failed to show proper love and respect for one another. The tragic consequence of this shortcoming was a brief but cataclysmic epidemic that claimed the lives of these students – all 24,000 of them. The period during which the epidemic took place was none other than the first 32 days of the Omer.
Lag B’Omer is a powerful reminder to all of us that death may not be a curse. If we can reflect on the days of our lives as meaningful contributions to the betterment of ourselves, our family, our people and our world, if we leave a legacy of good deeds and a life of inspiration to others, our passing can partake of the extraordinary last instruction of the Rabbi who gave us a remarkable holiday – a holiday which is able to turn death into “the day of joy.”
The Omer counting period takes us from wandering in the desert (where we might feel we are in now) and ultimately to Mt. Sinai and eventually arriving in the Promised Land (the light at the end of the tunnel) as we count the days now when we will be out of the woods and make it to the clearing and better days away from this pandemic.
Chief Executive Officer