The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah

Lag B’Omer

Posted in holidays by Juliet on May 3, 2010

Seacliff Beach in the Santa Cruz-area town of Aptos is the perfect setting for a beach bonfire, as the cement ship looks quietly on in the distance.

It might be the most fun you can have on a Jewish holiday you’ve never heard of.

I have never celebrated Lag B’Omer, though I’ve wanted to ever since learning about it from one of the Hebrew teachers at Temple Sholom of Ontario years ago.

Shifra grew up in Israel and told us stories of all the fun they had as kids and later as teens, building bonfires and staying up late to celebrate. During her service in the Israeli army (girls are drafted and serve alongside boys as teens and may be called up to serve again throughout their lives), they ate bonfire-roasted potatoes.

Air pollution in Israel goes up after Lag B’Omer because there are so many bonfires.

Why bonfires? I like this article’s clear explanation of the history and tradition around the holiday, which this year falls on May 2-3.

Here is another interesting and quick read from the Tel Shemesh, which seeks to combine Judaism and earth-based or nature-based religious practice. (Hey, we have plenty of JuBus, or Jewish Buddhists; why not JuPags, or JuWis?)

Rabbi Castiglione theorized during his Passover lectures that some of our traditionally-Jewish practices are rooted in ancient pagan festivals absorbed by the many times and places in the ancient world where Jews migrated. It certainly sounds plausible that a bonfire tradition could have pagan roots too, doesn’t it? Plus who doesn’t love a good bonfire?


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