27 Apr HALACHICALLY SPEAKING: LAG B’OMER
Lag B’omer is a day which people celebrate with great simcha and joy. What is the reason for this great celebration? When does it start? At night or by day? Why do so many people go to Meron on Lag B’omer? Should one go to Meron for an Upsherin? All these questions and many others will be discussed in this issue.
Lag B’omer will always fall out on the same day of the week as Purim.
What Happened on Lag B’omer
Many different happenings took place on Lag B’omer. Some say it is the day Rav Shimon Bar Yochai came out of the cave that he and his son were in for thirteen years. Rav Shimon Bar Yochai died on Lag B’omer and revealed to us the Zohar. The Rama also died on Lag B’omer and many have the custom to go to his kever on Lag B’omer.
The Simcha of Lag B’omer
On Lag B’omer we are happy. Some say the reason is because the talmidim of Rav Akiva who died throughout the days following Pesach stopped dying on Lag B’omer. Some poskim ask if so many talmidim died why is this a reason to be happy? The answer may be we are happy that the talmidim which Rav Akiva acquired afterwards did not die. The talmidim of Rav Akiva died because they did not show respect to each other. Some say they spoke loshon hara about each other. Others say although each talmid grew to higher levels of Torah, they were treated by each other as if they had not grown at all, because they were still friendly from the olden days.
Others say the reason is to show honor for Rav Shimon Bar Yochai. Some say the mon started to fall on Lag B’omer. Others say the reason for the joy is based on reasons of kabbalah.
The Greatness of the Day
Lag B’omer is a segula for parnasa. Some say it brings one to yiras shomayim. It is a day for one to ask for his needs through tefilla. It is a day where one can ask for salvation in any area of life.
Meron and Lag B’omer
The custom to go to Meron on Lag B’omer dates back to the Rishonim. One should not go to Meron by himself. Some say going three days before and after has some meaning as well. Although some question the inyun of going to Meron on Lag B’omer, the custom is to go. It would seem that one who does not live in Eretz Yisroel does not have to be matriach himself to go to Meron on Lag B’omer. One who can not go to Meron should learn the teachings of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai.
Today, when one goes to Meron he can see animals being shechted on the side of the road. One should make sure that these animals are shechted properly and salted etc according to halacha. This is usually not the case, and one should be careful not to eat from animals that were shechted in this way. Furthermore, when going to Meron one should be careful to avoid the areas that people walk around dressed immodestly.
Lag B’omer and Rav Shimon Bar Yochai
Any person who is asked will tell you that Lag B’omer is the day that hundreds of thousands of people go to Meron to the kever of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai. Why is this so?
As mentioned earlier, Rav Shimon Bar Yochai was niftar on Lag B’omer. Normally when a tzadik dies the yartzeit is not a day of simcha and joy, rather one fasts. However, Rav Shimon Bar Yochai is different. Before he was niftar he called his students and revealed to them the secrets of the Torah. These secrets were written down and are contained in the Zohar. Therefore, we are extra happy and rejoice on the day that these secrets were given to us. Others say since a miracle happened to Rav Shimon Bar Yochai that he did not die when he was in the cave, we celebrate his yartzeit by being happy. The day Rav Shimon Bar Yochai died three-thousand halachos were introduced. This is another reason why we are happy on Lag B’omer.
Anytime it says in the Gemorah Rav Shimon without any other name, it means Rav Shimon Bar Yochai. He was the talmid of Rav Akiva and Rav Yehoshua.
The day that he was niftar is referred to as the “yom hilulei” of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai.
Tachnun is not recited both on Lag B’omer and on the day before at mincha which is the thirty second day of the omer. One recites lam’natz’eiach yancha etc. on Lag B’omer. However, others say that it should not be recited; this is not the overwhelming custom. When Lag B’omer falls out on Sunday (as it does this year) one does not recite tzidkascha tzedek at mincha on Shabbos.
One may fast for tannis chalom on Lag B’omer. One should not fast for a yartzeit on Lag B’omer.
When getting married on Lag B’omer those who have the custom to fast on their wedding day should do so. Others are lenient. Even one who did not fast should still say viduy at mincha. When a fast day precedes the day of the chuppah one should still fast on the day of the chuppah. The same would apply if a fast follows the day of the chuppah.
The custom is that one is permitted to get married on Lag B’omer. Some say that the only time that one may get married on Lag B’omer is by day. The Sefardim have the custom to marry on the thirty-fourth day of the omer. The overwhelming custom is that one may get married the night of Lag B’omer. However others have the custom not to get married on Lag B’omer as well. A wedding that started on Lag B’omer by day may continue into the night. Dancing and music are permitted at a wedding on Lag B’omer.
It is interesting to point out that one who goes to a chasana during the time he is observing the restrictions of sefira may only dance after the chosson and kallah come out from taking pictures, since before they come out the dancing is not considered being mes’ameach the chosson and kallah. Even those who hold like the Arizal and are noheg the issur of taking haircuts on all days of sefira, may make a wedding on Lag B’omer. No weddings are permitted on the night before the thirty second day.
According to the opinion of the Mechaber one may not take haircuts until the thirty fourth day in the morning. The Rama holds one may shave on Lag B’omer. Many say this means even at night (because no tachnun is said already from erev Lag B’omer), while others say it means first thing in the morning because if one waits a little in the morning it is as if one waited a whole day. This is known as miktzas hayom k’kula. The custom of many seems to be that shaving or taking a haircut is permitted after neitz hachama.
When Lag B’omer falls out on Sunday (as it does this year) shaving etc is permitted on Friday because of kovod for Shabbos. The reason why it is kovod for Shabbos is because by the mincha before Lag B’omer one does not say tachnun, so technically shaving would permitted on Shabbos, but since one can not do so, the allowance is pushed back to Friday. One may not shave etc. on Motzei Shabbos when Lag B’omer falls out on Sunday. Furthermore, many say that shaving etc. in the above situation is not permitted on Thursday night if one has time to do it on Friday. One who started shaving etc. on Lag B’omer may continue after shekia as well (even if he holds no shaving after Lag B’omer).
According to the opinion of the Arizal shaving is not allowed even on Lag B’omer. Shaving is permitted on Erev Shavuos even for those who go with the Arizal’s opinion.
Meron and Upsherin
Hundreds, if not thousands of people, cut their children’s hair in Meron on Lag B’omer. This was the custom of the Arizal. Some say the reason is because the holiness of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai should be a zechus for the child. Others say the reason is because hair is part of the yetzer hara and this was taught to us by Rav Shimon bar Yochai when he gave us the Zohar. Many have the custom to go to Meron on Lag B’omer and cut the child’s hair even before the child has actually reached the age of three. Others say only if the child was born during sefira should one go to Meron. If the child was born after Shavuos or before sefira then one should not go to Meron to cut his hair. Some question the reason to go cut hair at a kever of any tzadik.
Saying “Today is Lag B’omer”
Some poskim say one who has not yet counted the sefira of Lag B’omer should avoid telling someone else today is Lag B’omer, since doing so may be considered counting the day. Other poskim permit this since his intention is not to count the day, rather he is referring to the name of the day since it is a day of simcha. This seems to be the minhag ha’olom.