Remember when nothing much happened for Jews between Passover and the High Holy Days? Those days are long gone, especially in South Florida.
Exhibit A: Lag B’Omer, the so-called Scholars' Holiday, which falls this year on Sunday, May 22. The day starts with a mere counting of seven weeks from Passover to Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks and anniversary of the giving of the holy law.
But as with most ancient festivals, Lag B’Omer has acquired a crust of other traditions:
- Honoring Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a great contributor to the Mishna, part of the Talmud -- and author of the Zohar, a foundational document of Kabbalistic Judaism.
- Remembering the end of a plague that was ripping through the students of Rabbi Akiva, another sage of the time.
- Archery and bonfires, recalling a time when religious students pretended to do sports in the fields to fool the Romans. When the soldiers left, the story goes, the students would whip out their texts and resume their studies.
"It's not like Yom Kippur; it's more like Independence Day," says Rabbi Cheryl Jacobs, director of Jewish education at Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El. "It's when we went from tyranny in Egypt to the time of the Ten Commandments."
The Plantation-based temple will hold a large Lag B’Omer celebration on May 21 at Markham Park. Starting at 6 p.m., the family-focused event will feature singing, dancing and a good old-fashioned bonfire.
Non-members are welcome as well, but must register beforehand. Rabbi Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com or 954-358-4200. Tickets are $5.
The Chabad Lubavitch movement -- whose late grand rabbi, Menachem Schneerson, encouraged its celebration -- is planning it big in South Florida.
The 100-plus Chabad Lubavitch centers in South Florida will hold a six-hour Lag B’Omer observance starting 10 a.m. May 22 at Gulfstream Park, 901 S. Federal Highway, Hallandale. The free event drew more than 12,000 last year, according to Chabad Lubavitch.
Included will be a parade, music, dancing, clowns, a barbecue and a traditional bonfire. Musical performers will include Dr. Laz, the Jewish Reggae Skafyah Band and Yossi Bayles and his YBO Orchestra.
For information, call 561-998-5391 or visit JewishUnityParade.com.
Here’s what other groups are planning.
Family barbecue, 3:30 to 6 p.m. May 22 at Colohatchee Park, 1975 NE 15th Ave., Wilton Manors. Food, music, children's program. Presented by Chabad Lubavitch of Fort Lauderdale. Cost: $18 per person, $13 per family. RSVP: 954-568-1190.
“Stillness, Awareness and Wisdom,” lecture, 7 p.m. May 22 at Chabad of East Boca, 120 NE First Ave., Boca Raton. With Rabbi Laibl Wolf, a psychologist, Kabbalist, lawyer and Hasidic rabbi. Cost: $10. Info: 561-417-7797.