Jewish Holidays

Lag B’Omer
May 22 (begins at sunset) & May 23

There is an interesting connection between Pesach and Shavuot when we count the Omer (a harvesting unit of measure), starting the second night of Pesach until Shavuot, essentially marking the time from the barley to the wheat harvest. As in all agrarian societies, if the weather pattern deviates, it can be disastrous for the community. This is a precarious time, when everyone prays for positive results. Since our ancestors saw this as a somber time, there are many prohibitions during this 49-day period, including no weddings, parties or haircuts.

The one exception during this solemn period is Lag B’Omer — the 33rd day of counting the Omer. “Lag” is from the Hebrew letters lamed and gimel. Lamed has a numerical equivalent to 30, and gimel has the numerical equivalent of 3 — thus the 33rd day. There are different reasons given to explain why this date is special.

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Shavuot
June 8 (begins at sunset) & June 9

Shavuot is a Hebrew word meaning “weeks” and refers to the Jewish festival marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Shavuot, like so many other Jewish holidays began as an ancient agricultural festival, marking the end of the spring barley harvest and the beginning of the summer wheat harvest. Shavuot was distinguished in ancient times by bringing crop offerings to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Shavuot, also known as the Festival of the Giving of the Torah, dates from biblical times, and helps to explain the holiday’s name, “Weeks.” The Torah tells us it took precisely forty-nine days for our ancestors to travel from Egypt to the foot of Mount Sinai where they were to receive the Torah. Thus, Leviticus 23:21 commands: “And you shall proclaim that day (the fiftieth day) to be a holy convocation!” The name Shavuot, “Weeks,” then symbolizes the completion of a seven-week journey.

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