Monday, May 15, 2006

Happy Lag B'Omer!

Most Jews in America today have never heard of the festive holiday known as Lag B'Omer, which begins at tonight sunset, and that's a real pity. After all, the Lag is a holiday of pure joy and celebration for Jews, and we certainly need to take advantage of these since our history has unfortunately been dotted with so many tragic events that require our mourning and sad reflection.

So, what is this unusual Lag B'Omer holiday, you ask? Well, I'll be happy to try and explain it, but understand first that it's a bit mysterious and complicated (hey, what isn't with us Yidden?), so I'll try and keep it as simple as possible.

First, the definition of Lag B'Omer. Lag is the Hebrew alphabet numerical value for number 33 (the "lamed" is 30 and the "gimmel" is 3), while "Omer" represents the Hebrew term for the "offerings" that were made to the Holy Temple.

Between Passover and Shavuos there are 50 days, with each day counted to as an "omer" representing the grain offerings mandated for to the Temple in the days between Pesach and Shavuos.

So, why is number 33 significant? The reasons are both historical, mystical, and symbolical, and I'll briefly explain them in that order.

Historical

The Holy Temple, or Beit HaMikdash, was destroyed in the year 70 CE. Between 132CE and 135CE, a powerful Jewish military leader named Simon Bar Kokhba led successful a revolt against the Romans and recaptured much of Judea.

Rabbi Akiva, perhaps one of the greatest Rabbinical scholars ever, succeeded in persuading the Sanhedrin to back Bar Kokhba and anointed him as the Messiah.

Soon, coins were minted and Bar Kokhba assumed the title of Nasi, or Prince, of Judea.

Then, on Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer, Bar Kokbha successfully liberated Jerusalem from the Romans and began planning to rebuild the Holy Temple itself. Of course, as we know this wasn't meant to be, as the Romans eventually regrouped and crushed Bar Kakhba and decimated the Jews, but, that revolt represented the last time the Jews ever would hold possession of the Temple Mount (even to this very day it is still under moslem jurisdiction in modern Israel).

Mystical

More mystically inclined Jews tend to focus on Lag B'Omer being the Yarzeit (anniversary of the death) of the great Kabbalist, Simeon Bar Yochai, who is credited with being the original author of the Zohar.

Yochai happened to be a student of Rabbi Akiva, which is tied into the third reason that Lag B'Omer is celebrated.

Symbolical

Rabbi Akiva, the great Rabbi who is heavily quoted throughout the Mishnah, had underneath him the greatest Rabbinic scholars of that era. Unfortunately, when the Romans conquered the Jews after Bar Kokhba's Revolt they killed Akiva and nearly all of his students. One of those who survived was Simeon Bar Yochai, who fled to the mountains and hid in a cave. It is there that it is believed he penned the Zohar, and Lag B'Omer is celebrated by Jews as the day when Rabbi Akiva's students stopped being killed by the Romans (or plague as some other scholars believe).

An important final point. It is said in the Talmud that the Bar Kokhba revolt failed, and Rabbi Akiva and his students were killed, because the Jews failed to properly get along with one another. Let's hope an end of today's infighting will come sometime soon, that self-loathing Jews will return to the fold, and we will see the Messianic era like the one Rabbi Akiva had hoped for nearly 2,000 yrs ago will finally come to fruition. We certainly have a very long way to go.

Oh, and you may have noticed that Rolling Rock, the official "Lager of the Lag", is adorned all over this post. Look at the bottles closely and see if you can figure out why for yourself. To read more about why Rolling Rock is the official "Lager of the Lag", click here, and then bottoms up to Lag B'Omer!

-MZ

41 comments:

  1. Thanks for the history. Josephus would be proud. 33 has been my 'lucky' number for may years. Rolling rock is one of my favorite beers. I am a Guinness man now. When I can afford the price and the carbs.

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  2. Rolling Rock? Guiness? Oh gosh. I'm more of an English Cider fan myself--Strongbow! Nice history MZ, interesting to know more about Bar Kokhba. I read somewhere that the Roman retaliation in 135 CE was even worse than in 71, so much so that they ran out of trees for crucifixions. I truly wish modern Jews would see themselves for who they really are--God's Chosen people. Self-loathing is pitiful. Thanks for blogrolling me, will do the same for you as soon as I get home.

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  3. the number "33" of course! when i say i need some "r & r" rolling rock is what i mean :]

    is not the lamed also the letter that symbolizes learning AND teaching?

    your version of these stories are always the best, madze - shalom!

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  4. oh, o.t. and btw - we have a new member of the family at longrange - i just don't know how warren is going to introduce it...and i didn't even know one of us was pregnant!

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  5. I think I have an idea who. I will wait. I am sure I am wrong.

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  6. Happy Lag B'Omer! Drinking Rolling Rock is a great idea...never thought about the 33 on it in that way.

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  7. Thanks, Surfer. I try to incorporate beer into things whenever possible.

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  8. Nanc, are you expecting? Easy on the lager.

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  9. Oh, boy...mixed some Lagers with some scotch with a monster martini...oy vay. And I'm having a big LagBQ tomorrow!

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  15. Rolling Rock tastes like water, but I like water, so that's O.K. If I ever get the chance to drink one again, I'll remember your story.

    So why haven't I seen any jewish beers out there?

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  16. Yikes! Sorry for the multiple copies! Please erase them before anyone else sees them.

    This is what happens when I wake up in the middle of the night.

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  17. the merry widow5/16/2006 8:42 AM

    Jeff-Multiple personalities? Or thread hijack? I think you need some coffee!
    Good morning and G*D bless! Especially Jeff, I think he needs it more!

    tmw

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  18. I have mercifully deleted your repetitive posts, JB. I figured perhaps you were just trying to make added emphasis.

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  19. i see them too! busted, j.b.

    dear G-d no, madze! no more babies for me - we do have a new addition to the family though - a fawn whose mother abandoned it about a week ago - she's a beauty and just like a pet. pretty much housebroken now and wakes us when she's hungry, about eight pounds. she took to the bottle, well mostly because she was forced. as soon as time allows, warren will post some photos of her.

    the addition to longrange - well, you have to see it for yourself.

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  20. j.b. doesn't know about the little can at the bottom left - or he'd know he could erase his posts by left clicking it and i'm not going to tell him...not me...

    yeah, then mr. mercy-full comes along and erases them...

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  21. madze - have you seen this yet today:

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1145961350957&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

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  22. I am with JB on Rolling Rock but I am not a huge beer drinker. I am a simple man a simple Miller Genuine Draft or Budwieser is all I need.

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  23. Come on Beaker! Get Int'l beer like Strongbow or my favorite Spanish Favorite San Miguel....there's tons of good European beer out there and much better than the watered down American flavors.

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  24. Florian,

    haven't you tasted any of the American craft beers? They're great. They're so good that Bavarian brewers come to America to learn their brewing techiniques. It used to be the other way around. Whether you like ales, stouts, porters, Heveweizens, bitters (yuck,) lagers (urine,) or pilsners (weak urine,) or even barleycorn (tastes like rot-gut,) there's a beer and a brand for you. Plenty of other styles too. Sierra Nevada, Samuel Adams, Bridgeport, Redhook, Rogue Brewery, Pyramid, Empyrean and way too many other breweries to mention here, put out great products. I recommend Michael jackson's guide to beer. (No not THAT Michael Jackson.) It's cheap, informative, and will fit in your jacket pocket. I don't agree with all of his beer ratings of course (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is overrated and Pete's Wicked Ale is underrated,) but the book is still informative and useful.

    I also recommend visiting your local craft brewery/micro brewery for a tour. They're usually cheap or free, and end with beer sampling. Just bring a designated driver, because the sampling session will put you way over the legal limit.

    San Miguel is pretty good, but Strongbow doesn't ring a bell (I haven't indulged my hobby since my kids were born,) is it English? It does sound familiar.

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  25. JB, kids are all the more incentive to indulge. Time to get back on that horse and ride, old man!

    BTW, kids plural? I was under the impression that you just had your first. How many do you have?

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  26. Hey Jeff: you and I got called "racist" by some anonymous hustler down at jasonandjuddspeakout.
    Anyways. I'll take your advice on visiting a microbrewery--I love BEER!!! San Miguel is the King of Spanish beer, unfortunatley it's provincial so you can only get it in certain regions of Spain. Strongbow is a cider out of the English Midlands. It is English, yes sir. And a fine tasty one too.
    I agree with your assesment on pilsners and lagers--damn nasty to say the least. I drank a bit too much American water (budweiser, miller, coors, Pabst, michelob) in college years so I'm a bit teed off from them. I recently have tried out my share on Asian beer. Some taste exactly the same as American beer sadly. Mexican beer is definitely good--interestingly, all the Mexican breweries were started by German immigrants, so they taste pretty darn good. Corona, XX, Tecate, Sol, Indio and Carta Blanca to name a few. As far as dark beers go, I had a bad experience with Guinness and now it tastes like tar to me. Will settle for light colored beers now. Cider's are my favorite though. There's also a brand called "K" which has a hint of wine in it--great and smoothe. Good to know a guy who appreciates beer as much as I do.

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  27. madze - remember when j.b. announced the birth of his second son at your blog way back a month or so after mbc closed? taking lag b'omer to the limit?

    i love japanese beer - asahi and sapporo - of course with hot sake - two or five pitchers...

    foster's lager, blue labatts...that's what i'm talking about.

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  28. Somehow I though that was his first, nanc. Getting old, I guess.

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  29. Lots of deleted comments can only mean one thing....we had a shahid encounter! Oh my!

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  30. no greg - it was a commenter with the hiccups!

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  31. the merry widow5/17/2006 8:18 AM

    And not enough coffee! Or to little sleep!

    tmw

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  32. MZ,

    Michael Alan was born on 12-15-04, and Daniel kevin was born on 12-15-05. Mike is only a month older than your girl.

    It's funny you mentioned the beer. I was planning on buying some today. Whayt the hell. It probabbly isn't all that much more fattening than wine, and it tastes a lot better. This will be my excuse to start exercising.

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  33. Florian,

    Modela negro is my favorite Mexican beer. I don't care for Corona or Dos Equis (sorry!)

    What happened to you with Guinness? It must have been horrible, because the pub draft version of Guinness is world class. It goes perfectly with beef and potato dishes. Big surprise on the potatoes. If there's one thing those Micks can do, it's brew beer and cook potatoes. I know, that's two things, and I probably pissed Nanc off by suggesting that the Paddies like their alcohol.

    The last time I went to a genuine Irish pub, I ended up in the back room after closing time getting hammered with the employees and a couple other customers. I had to have my assistant drive my UPS truck the next day (1 hour later,) because I was still drunk. I'm lucky I didn't get canned. I'm also lucky it was the Christmas holiday season or I wouldn't have had an asistant.

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  34. i love modela! i'm not mad - hell, indians and paddies love their alcohol! i don't drink much but there is really nothing like an ice cold snob beer on an extremely hot day...or a cold day...or a spring day...in an iced mug...my husband alway says, "i only have one beer...one right after the other!" a friend of mine says, "doesn't it bother you that your husband drinks beer?" i said, "no, actually, it bothers me when he doesn't..."

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  35. Hey Jeff,"snob beer" is an Arkie term, I don't think nanc got that in Californy.

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  36. Hey, I'm an old timer, when I'm out of Miller High Life, I'm out of beer!
    Although I drink Mexican beer occasionally,...when mine is not available,....I "kinda" believe that old saying,....hey California, flush your toilets often,....Mexico needs the water!

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  37. Hey, how about Fosters Lager, I think an Aussie beer?
    Aye me laddie, so it's a fight ye want?
    Not a bad beer though.

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  38. Tazz--flush your toilets so Mexico has better water? I cant believe I never heard that one. I grew up in California, how did I miss it?

    I'm going to dedicate my next steaming dump to the beaners who deserve it. The bottled version will be cleaner than their drinking water. I should charge them money.

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Thank you for commenting. Respectful debate and dissent are welcomed. MZ reserves the right to censor for any reason without explanation.