We are commanded by the Torah to count forty-nine days starting from the second day of Passover. On the fiftieth day, we celebrate the festival of Shavuot, commemorating the giving of the Torah. This 50-day period is called “Counting the Omer.” The Omer was a barley offering brought to the Temple on the day we start counting, the second day of Passover. “Lag Ba’Omer” is the thirty-third day of counting the Omer. The word “Lag” means 33 because it is comprised of the letters “lamud” and “gimmel,” corresponding to the numerical values of “30” and “3.” In the time of Rabbi Akiva, who witnessed the destruction of the Second Temple and who was the greatest Torah Sage of his generation, twenty-four thousand of his disciples died in an epidemic during the counting of the Omer. Since the epidemic was suspended on the 33rd day, Lag BaOmer has become a joyous day of celebration, complete with bonfires – especially in Israel.
Lag BaOmer 2013/5773