b'WESTERN MARBLE ARCH SYNAGOGUELAG BAOMER CHARLOTTE PASHAI f youve ever been in Israel on the 18th of IyargenerallyaroundMayinourcalendar-youll probablyhavespottedcountlesscelebratory barbecuesandpicnicsgoingon.Theyrein celebration of Lag BOmer, which means, the 33rd day of the Omer. Its name is rooted in Gematria, with the Hebrew letter Lamed amounting to 30 and Gimmel holding the numerical value of 3. The Omer itself is the 49 days we count between Pesach and Shavuot, and there are many ideas around where the concept of the Omer and Lag BOmer came from. One notion is that it is rooted in Biblical times, when the Jewish people were commanded to count the 49 harvest days between the two festivals of Pesach and Shavuot. The Omer was an ancient measurement of grain. As former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes, while the Temple stood, the counting was initiated by bringing an offering of new grain. Since the destruction of the Temple, the command has been fulfilled by counting aloneeach night for seven weeks. Sacksgoesontoexplainthatthereforewhileoneconceptof counting the Omer is the passing of cyclical time, the other is historical time. Some say it acts as a reminder of the journey from slavery to redemption; taking us from Egypt to receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. The counting of the Omer is a period of mourning, but Lag BOmer is a joyous day. Why so? We learn in the Talmud (Yevamot 62b) that shortly after the destruction of the 2nd temple, 24,000 of Rabbi Akivas students - two sets of 12,000 learning partners - died of a mysterious plague during the Omer, because they werent treating each other with enough respect. On Lag BOmer, they stopped dying. During the Omer, we mourn not just their loss of life that occurred during the first 32 days of the Omer, but the lost studies and advancement to Torah learning that may have occurred had they lived. Lag BOmer is also the day on which the renowned mystic Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the Zoharwhich means glow or luminescence - died. The Zohar remains a hugely influential work 52'