Should Christians Celebrate Lag Ba’Omer?

Saturday, 25 May 2024

What is Lag Ba’Omer?

“Lag B’Omer” means “33rd day of the Omer,” which is the day this Jewish holiday is celebrated annually. This year, Lag Ba’Omer is celebrated on 26 May. This holiday can be confusing because it is celebrated during the 49 days of the counting of the Omer. God commanded the counting of the omer for 49 days leading up to Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost, meaning the 50th day. So, tucked in the middle of this biblically commanded counting of the omer is a man-made holiday, Lag Ba’Omer. Many Israelis celebrate this minor holiday, and orthodox Jews celebrate this day to commemorate the history of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Some believe that in the time of Rabbi Akiva, a plague killed 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva as they were counting the Omer. It is believed that this plague was sent from God because the students were not showing respect for one another. However, on Lag Ba’Omer, the plague stopped, which is why some celebrate this day as a day of joy amid sorrow and loss.

Others believe that this was the day to celebrate or memorialise Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai — a famous leader of the Jewish mysticism belief, Kabalah. Many are still not sure if it was the day he died or just a day to honour him, but either way, some orthodox Jews go to Mount Meron to worship the dead rabbi at his tomb. Many also lay on his tomb hoping to receive some of his spirit.

How do Israelis Celebrate this Holiday?

What is this minor Jewish holiday famous for? ... Bonfires, weddings, and haircuts for 3-year-olds.

On this holiday, you will smell smoke in the air, as some orthodox Jewish people build bonfires in memory of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai to represent the “spiritual light” he brought into the world. Others choose to get married on this day because according to Kabbalistic belief, it is a day of spiritual splendour. And lastly, most commonly among Hassidic Jews, it is tradition to take their 3-year-old boys to the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai to give their sons their first haircut.

Many secular Israelis also celebrate this day by lighting bonfires, and roasting potatoes and onions in the coals, but without the religious significance that the orthodox Jews commemorate. Many schools organise a class activity around that on the eve of Lag Ba’Omer and some families do it just for fun.

What is the Counting of the Omer?

“From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seven Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord.”– Leviticus 23:15-16

The counting of the Omer is a command from the Lord given to the People of Israel to count the days between Passover and Shavuot and to give an offering of grain to the Lord. Because God commanded this in His word, it is biblical for Christians to count these days and celebrate Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) on the 50th day. We also recognize that the 50th day after Passover was when the Holy Spirit was poured out, also known as Pentecost. So, we count the Omer, but we may want to consider whether or not to celebrate Lag B’Omer.

Should Christians Celebrate Lag B’Omer?

At VFI we believe God has commanded us to celebrate the biblical Feasts, and Lag Ba’Omer is not mentioned in the Bible. As we learned, this holiday is steeped in mysticism, worship of the dead, and kabbalistic rituals.

So, what can we as believers in Yeshua do on this day? We can pray! Pray for those here in Israel who believe in these Kabbalistic views to encounter the fear of the Lord, repent from worshipping rabbis, and turn their hearts back to our God. Pray for a spirit of repentance and a heart of worship of the one true God.

It is important to recognize that not every Jewish holiday is biblical. So, let us remember to seek the Lord in His word to discern what is from Him and what is not. And as we continue to count the days of the Omer, let our hearts be filled with expectancy for the biblical holiday of Shavuot. This year may our hearts be fully open to the Lord to offer Him all that we are, and may He fill us afresh with more of His Holy Spirit!

Are you willing to bless Israel, make a difference in the lives of people, and partner with God's plan for restoration of the land of Israel?

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