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by Efraim Levine

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HaGoan R' Aaron Levine zt"l
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Hadrash Ve-Haiyan

Lag Ba'omer

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The Mechaber (Orach Chaim 428) notes that Lag Ba’omer always falls out on the same weekday as Purim. Further, he notes that the word palag, translated “part” serves a mnemonic for this phenomena. This Hebrew word is comprised of three letters pei, lamed and gimmel. The mnemonic is interpreted to mean that the weekday of pei which represents Purim will be the same for lamed-gimmel which stands for thirty-three or Lag Ba’omer as we know it.

We may ask what symbolic relationship is there between Purim and Lag Ba’omer in that they both share the same day of the week.

When studying the commentaries we discover that many important events occurred on Lag Ba’omer. Let us present two such events. The first is the mabul. The posuk records that “on the seventeenth day of the second month all the fountains of the great depth were opened and the windows of the heaven were opened. There was rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights” (Bereishis 7:11,12). Rashi here notes that the forty days of rain do not include the first day. This is because the rainfall of the first day was incomplete due to the fact that it did not rain the prior evening. Thus, according to Rashi although the windows of the heaven along with the fountains of the great depths were opened on the seventeenth, the mabul did not begin until the eighteenth day of the second month. The seventieth day of the month was just the warm up period. There is a dispute in the gemara if the months of the Torah are calculated from Tishrei or from Nisan. If we follow the opinion that they are calculated from Nisan, it emerges that the mabul stared on the eighteenth day of Iyar, which is the same day as Lag Ba’omer.

The commentators explain that this is one reason for the custom that children play with bows and arrows on Lag Ba’omer. The Hebrew word for bow is “keshes.” This is the same word used for rainbow. The rainbow was designated by Hashem to serve as a sign that He would never again bring a mabul to the world. We remind ourselves of this sign on the anniversary of the mabul.

The Chasam Sofer notes that Lag Ba’omer was also the day that the ma’an began to fall from heaven. The Torah records that the Jewish people came to rest in the desert of Sin on the fifteenth day of the second month. On the sixteenth day of the month the Jewish people complained to Moshe that they had nothing to eat. The next day on the seventeenth of the month, Hashem told Moshe that on the following day, the eighteenth, the ma’an would begin to fall (Shemos 16). As mentioned above, the eighteenth day of the second month is Lag Ba’omer.

Both of the above events share the characteristic that the heavens miraculously opened. However there is a major difference between the two. The first event was the beginning of forty days of complete destruction whereas the second event was the beginning of forty years of great blessing.

We may derive that the eighteenth day of Iyur is an auspicious time for Hashem’s revelation. However, this revelation may come in the form of blessing or punishment. In preparation of this day it is incumbent upon us in to pray and repent so that Hashem’s revelation manifest itself in the form of blessing and not destruction.

We find this also to be true of Purim. Purim day was originally designated for the annihilation of the Jewish people. However, due to the prayer and repentance of the Jewish People this day was transformed to one of great joy and salvation for all time.

On both Purim and Lag Ba’omer the stakes are high. Hashem will make Himself known in one way or another. We must prepare ourselves so that we deserve that this revelation come in the form of blessing. 

Alternatively, we may note that Lag Ba’omer is the day that Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai revealed the secret kabalistic teaching of the Torah. Indeed, many have the custom to celebrate this day by visiting his grave in Maron.

Both Purim and Lag Ba’Omer represent the revelation of what is hidden. The miracle of Purim enabled us to discover in retrospect Hashem’s hidden guidance of the world. Similarly, Lag Ba’omer is the time when we discovered the hidden secrets of the Torah. Both Purim and Lag Ba’omer are associated with great rejoicing for there is great enjoyment in the revelation of what is hidden.

In parshas Emor the Torah lists all the Biblical holidays. The commentators note that the rabbinic holidays are alluded to as well. For example, after Torah concludes the laws of Shemini Atzeres it proceeds to discuss the Menorah. This section alludes to the holiday of Chanukah when we celebrate the miraculous lighting of the menorah that occurred in the time of the Chashmanoyim. The next section in the Torah is the Shulchan and Lechem Hapanin. This alludes to the holiday of Purim. Purim is time of great celebration and demands a lavish feast. This is symbolic of the Shulchan, which also represents festivity.

We may now ask where do we find a hint of the holiday of Lag Ba’omer in the list of festivals?

With the above idea in mind we may suggest that Lag Ba’omer is part of Purim and include in Shulchan and Lechem Hapanim. We may further suggest that this is why the showbread of the Shulchan was divided into two parts with six breads in each arrangement. The holiday of revelation is divided into two parts. The first part is celebrated as the holiday of Purim and the second part as the holiday of Lag Ba’omer. Indeed the mnemonic mentioned above is “palag” which is translated as “part.” This indicated that each holiday is one part of a whole.

We may further note that there are exactly sixty-four days between Purim and Lag Ba’omer. Sixty-four days is equivalent to eight multiplied by eight.

Between Pesach and Shavuos we are obligated to count seven times seven. Seven represents the physical world, which was created in seven days. The multiplication of seven by seven represents the totality of the physical world. In the days between Pesach and Shavuos we master our ability to infuse the physical world with spirituality.

Similarly we may suggest that there is another counting of eight multiplied by eight. The number eight represents the spiritual world. The multiplication of eight by eight represents the totality of the spiritual world. As mentioned above Purim and Lag Ba’omer are one holiday that is broken up into two parts. The holiness of this single holiday begins on Purim. On this day Hashem reveals his hidden guidance of this world. We then spiritually refine ourselves in sequences of eight until we reach the eighth of the eighth, which is Lag Ba’Omer. We then merit to discover the secrets of Torah. The period between Purim and Lag Ba’omer is the time we master our spiritual understanding of Hashem and his Torah.


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Efraim Levine 5761/2001