CHAPTER EIGHT

LAG B’OMER – THE 33RD DAY OF THE OMER

 

1  BACKGROUND

 

Lag B'Omer is a minor Jewish festival that falls on the 18th of Iyar. Unlike most Jewish holidays, which have roots in the Bible, Lag B’Omer has been observed for only about 1,000 years.

 

It is the 33rd day of the omer. An omer is a measure of grain. In Biblical times, an offering of barley – the size of an omer – was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem on the second day of Passover. Then fifty days later, on Shavuot, the first offering of the new wheat harvest was brought to the Temple. This seven-week period is called the “Counting of the Omer.” The underlying reason for counting the Omer is because it is written in the Torah to count the days between the two offerings. (Leviticus 23:15-21)

 

This seven-week period is a solemn time. In fact it is a period of semi-mourning. During the time of the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans (132 C.E. – 135 C.E), a plague killed 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva during the seven week period between Passover and Shavuot. Over the centuries, the Jewish People experienced more tragedies such as massacres and pogroms during this same period. To commemorate these tragedies, it has become customary to observe a period of semi-mourning during the “Counting of the Omer.” Weddings and other festivities are not held, music is not heard, and hair is not cut. 

 

However, on the 33rd day of the “Counting of the Omer” we stop our mourning for the day. The origins of this day are obscure. Scholars point to events which took place in Jewish history that led to the celebration of Lag B'Omer.

 

Some scholars attribute Lag B'Omer to the victory of students of the well-known and revered Rabbi Akiva over the Romans. It is even claimed that the victory may have occurred on the day of the recapture of Jerusalem. Rabbi Akiva inspired Bar-Kochba, the brave military leader, to gather a band of soldier-students in order to restore Palestine to the Jews. The fighting lasted more than three years. Bar-Kochba entered Jerusalem, some work was started in rebuilding the Temple and coins were even made showing that Palestine was independent. But the Romans made a final great effort and forced Bar-Kochba to retreat to his last fortress at Betar.

 

Lag B'Omer is also called the “Scholars Festival” because it commemorates the end of a violent epidemic that raged among the students of Rabbi Akiva.

 

Also on the 33rd day of the Omer, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the author of the central work of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) called the Zohar, died. His death is seen as a celebration because on the day of his death he revealed the light of the Torah to his students. Celebrations are held at the site of his tomb in the Galilee on Mt. Meron. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his students had to hide in the forests and study there, because the Romans prohibited them from studying the Bible. The Jewish students used to carry bows and arrows to the forest as if they were going hunting and not studying. Some scholars cite this as the reason for celebrating Lag B'Omer. People go out to the forests, visit Mt. Meron, build bonfires and play with bows and arrows.

 

Lighting bonfires the night before has become a popular custom. This is in remembrance of the Bar Kochba Revolt in the 2nd Century C.E. against the Romans, who had forbidden the kindling of fires which was the signal for the beginning of holidays according to the Jewish calendar. Others claim that the fires are symbolic of the light of the Torah which was revealed by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. The Zohar, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's book of Kabbalah, means bright light.

 

In Israel, many people travel to the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in the northern town of Mt. Meron. Much festivity takes place there. Many Orthodox boys of age three have their hair cut for the first time at Meron.

 

Often school children play with bows and arrows on Lag B'Omer. This play commemorates the warlike activities of Rabbi Akiva's students during the time of the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans. In addition, kabbalists associate the bows and arrows with rainbows, which is a symbol of redemption.

 

It is important that you read the introduction in order to put the activities that follow in their correct framework.

 

 

2  LEXICAL ITEMS

 

bonfire, bow & arrow, haircuts, hot dogs, logs, marshmallows, onions, potatoes, singing, thirty-three.

Rabbi Akiva, Bar Kochba, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai

 

Ideas for different levels

Grade 3:  Choose 5 lexical items and write them on the blackboard in upper case. Have the pupils copy them in lower case and then illustrate them. Use the pupil’s work to build a display of Lag B’Omer lexical items.

Grade 4:  Lag B'Omer word search together with cloze. A word bank can or cannot be included.

Grade 5/6:  The 33rd day of the Omer word search with or without word bank. Find words related to Lag B’Omer and use them in sentences.

 

Answers to grade 4 cloze:

It is Lag B’Omer, the thirty-third day of the Omer. We build a bonfire. We put logs on the fire. We put potatoes and onions into the bonfire. Over the bonfire we toast marshmallows. We sit around the bonfire and sing. People visit the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. He is buried at Meron . We also remember the bravery of Bar Kochba.

 

Activity       Lag B’Omer Word Search and Cloze.

 

Find words connected to Lag B’Omer and use them to complete the paragraph below.

 

It is Lag B’Omer, the _________ day of the Omer. We build a _________. We put _________ on the fire. We put _________ and _________ into the bonfire. Over the bonfire we toast _________. We sit around the bonfire and _________ . people visit the grave of Rabbi __________________. He is buried at _________ . We also remember the bravery of _________.

 

 

In the word search below you have words going in all directions:

                                                           There are 10 things all related to  

                                                            the title.  

 

 

LAG B’OMER

 

W W C L M E R O N O L P D Y B

Z F O Q N I O A A N L J R C R

C G G N I S A B L I S S I C O

S P S W O W H U W O W G H Z Q

V R F W T C K L Q N O B T P G

V C L C O J K P J S I L Y C G

C L Q K M L B B S K Q J T O W

L T R D X F L C O Q G T R P T

I A H C O Y R A B N O M I H S

B E N X J G W T M P F N H O N

W Y S S L C X O C H X I T I C

D V N P N K E X G Q S D R D I

D V A L B R T G P G W R Z E Q

P O T A T O E S X T W P A N V

I S W O L L A M H S R A M L B

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words to find and use in the cloze.

Bar Kochba,     bonfire,     logs,     marshmallows,     onions,     potatoes,

Shimon bar Yochai,     sing,      thirty-third

 

Activity       The 33rd Day of the Omer Word Search

 

In the word search below you have words going in all directions:

                                                         There are 14 things all related to the   

                                                          title.       

 

 

LAG B’OMER

 

A T H G U Q M F D N O T P S V O V N

H B Y A R P R A E B H H B V A B F L

J O H B I W E E R I S U X M J M R M

H P S C X R T F R S F S R T B G E F

T K N V O A C T P A H G G L Z C M H

V Q V I W K Y U P Z F M Q L O M O O

Z F W R I T R P T Q V R A L W I B T

B X V R H B J A N P S V U L E X G D

O Z G I L N G N B S Y G T M L O A O

W J R B O N F I R E S N O I N O L G

A D A V I K A I B B A R C L S X W S

N D J A M M I M E H G O P E L E G S

D M S H I M O N B A R Y O C H A I B

A P P N E Z P H L Q N T E N R N X Q

R D Y B S Q L Q U D A Z E X G W X N

R D V D M J U Q E T E G W I V C X T

O S B K P S L H O B Y V N W K R J I

W C P Y T M W P D J G G Q P Z U J Z



 

 

Word bank: Bar Kochba,    bonfire,    bow and arrow,    haircut,    hot dogs,    Lag B’Omer,     logs,     marshmallows,     onions,     potatoes,     Rabbi Akiva,     Shimon bar Yochai,     singing,      thirty-third

 

 

 

 

3       SONGS

 

In The Forest (Tune: “Me achorey haya’ar.”)

 

In the forest
There sat three elves
They weren't drinking
They weren't eating
They only sat and chattered.

 

Ants at the Bonfire (Tune: "Skip to My Lou")

 

Ants at the bonfire, what'll I do?

Ants at the bonfire, what'll I do?

Ants at the bonfire, what'll I do?

Guess I'll eat real quickly!

 

Here we go around the Bonfire (Tune:  “The Mulberry Bush”)

 

CHORUS   Here we go around the Lag B’Omer fire,

The Lag B’Omer fire, the Lag B’Omer fire .

Here we go around the Lag B’Omer fire,

Let’s get ready for some fun.

 

We will have fun and play some games,

Play some games, play some games,

We will have fun and play some games 

At our Lag B’Omer bonfire!

 

Repeat Chorus

 

We will have fun and eat some food,

Eat some food, eat some food,

We will have fun and eat some food  

At our Lag B’Omer bonfire!

 

Repeat Chorus

 

 

 

 

 

4  ACTIVITIES

 

Title: The Bonfire.

Level: Gade 3/4.

Materials: Blackboard and chalk, worksheet (BOWS  & arrows).

Aims:

-to practise letter-sound correspondences.

-to practise letter formation.

-to learn/review lexical items connected to the holiday.

Description: 

Play hangman with the word “bonfire.” Make sure the students know what the word means.

Tell the pupils that the class is going to a bonfire and ask what they will need to bring. Elicit logs, matches, and various food items. List the items. Review these items.

Erase the first letter of each word and have volunteers write the letter in.

Erase all the words and do a letter-sound activity. (Have pupils write down the first letter of the lexical item you call out).

Give the pupils the activity page (BOWS  & arrows) in which they have to write the word in the opposite case to which it appears on the sheet.(Do an example with the pupils before they start.)

Correct and have pupils put the completed page in their portfolio.

Activity         BOWS  & arrows

 

Below are different things you need for the bonfire. If they are in capital letters write them in small letters. If they are in small letters write them in capital letters.

 

                           BOWS                  &        arrows

 

 

BONFIRE

 

 

 

logs

 

MATCHES

 

 

 

onions

 

POTATOES

 

 

 

marshmallows

___________________________________________

 

Activity  -   The scrambled bonfire.

     Unscramble the following words and write them neatly on the line.

befinor ___________      aahllmmorsw ____________

eotaopst __________      inoosn __________

hirtyt-eehrt _________    agl  bemor _________

 

Choose three of the words and write sentences with the words.

 

Title: The Scrambled Bonfire.

Level: Grade 4.

Materials: Blackboard and chalk, worksheet (The scrambled bonfire) –see previous page.

Aims:

-to practise letter-sound correspondences.

-to practise letter formation.

-to learn/review lexical items connected to the holiday

Description: 

Play hangman with the word “bonfire” or “Lag B’Omer.”

Brainstorm for lexical items connected to the holiday. Develop a word map or list on the blackboard.

Hand out the page with scrambled words and have pupils unscramble the words. After the sentences have been written and corrected have each pupil choose one sentence, write it neatly with an illustration and use for a class wall display.

 

Title: Word arrangement.

Level: Grade 4/5.

Materials: Word flashcards, worksheet (Word arrangement.)

Aims:

-to practise both orally and in writing language structures of a sentence.

-to familiarize pupils with facts about the holiday.

-to practise listening skills.

Description:

Teacher puts the first group of flashcards on the blackboard (means / Lag / thirty-three) and calls on the pupils to arrange them into a sentence.

This is repeated with different groups of flashcards. Where necessary the teacher elicits and checks understanding. The number of sentences worked orally will depend on different factors in the class. (Classes with high noise levels are probably better off doing fewer examples orally and more in writing.)

The pupils complete the word arrangement activity.

Read out the correct answer and have the pupils check their own work, thus forcing them to use listening skills.

 

Activity      Word arrangement

 

Arrange the following groups of words into sentences. Make sure you have a capital letter at the beginning and a full stop at the end.

 

bonfires  / We / light

_________________________________________________

means  / Lag  / thirty-three

_________________________________________________

a / But / day  / is /happy / Lag B’Omer

_________________________________________________

did / die / pupils / Rabbi Akiva’s / not

_________________________________________________

a  / is / period / sad / The Omer period

_________________________________________________

Bar Kochba  / remember / We

_________________________________________________

around  / bonfire  / We / sing  / the

_________________________________________________

day  / is  / Lag B’Omer / of the / the  / thirty-third  / Omer

_________________________________________________

is / It / death / of the /of / Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai  / the anniversary

_________________________________________________

 

Now arrange your 9 sentences in order. Give your paragraph a title.




ANSWER TO WORD ARRANGEMENT ACTIVITY:

Lag means thirty-three.

Lag B’Omer is the thirty-third day of the Omer.

The Omer period is a sad period.

But Lag B’Omer is a happy day.

Rabbi Akiva’s pupils did not die

It is the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

We remember Bar Kochba.

We light bonfires.

We sing around the bonfire.

 

Title: Building sentences.

Level: Grade 5.

Materials: Worksheet (Lag B’Omer Night.)

Aims:

-to revise/reinforce lexical items related to the holiday.

-to practise using correct language structures (present progressive.)   

Description:

Begin lesson with a brainstorming session to elicit lexical items related to what one does at a bonfire on Lag B’Omer.

Then give the pupils the substitution exercise.

Correct by having pupils read out their answers.

 

Activity                         Lag B’Omer Night.

 

Choose a word or phrase from each column and write at least 3 sentences.

 

I

My brother

My friend

We

They

The children

 

 

is

 

are

building a bonfire.

collecting wood.

eating  baked potatoes.

singing songs.

toasting marshmallows.

sitting around the bonfire.

 

 

Title: Brainstorming.

Level: Grade 5/6.

Materials: Blackboard and chalk, pictures of lexical items, card with the name of the festival.

Aims:

-to revise lexical items associated with the festival.

-to have students interact together and build a word-map on the blackboard.

Description:

Teacher introduces subject and writes it on the board. Some ideas for introducing the subject include : a) Play hangman, b) Ask some questions such as “Which Jewish holidays have a number in their name? ” c) Hold up a card with the festival written on it and stick it on the blackboard.

Teacher asks pupils for lexical items connected to the festival.

As pupils contribute items the teacher writes them on the blackboard.

At the end of the activity have the pupils repeat the items and check that they understand them.

Optional – have the pupils copy the brainstorming into their portfolios

 

Title: Talking/writing activity.

Level: Grades 5/6.

Materials: Blackboard and chalk.

Aims:

-to have students interact together and build a word-map on the blackboard.

-to have students practise their writing skills.

Description:

Class discussion: Introduce the festival (can use a game of hangman, simply write it on the blackboard, show a picture, ask a question such as “Why will you stay up very late on _____?”)

What can you tell me about this holiday? Teacher writes keywords on blackboard. Pull the discussion together by having students write something for their portfolio. Ideas for this include:

·                   Words I learnt from our class discussion. Have the pupils list the words, use them in sentences, and/or prepare a word search with the new words.

·                   Sentences. Have the pupils write 5-10 sentences about what they learnt from the class discussion.

·                   Letter. Have the pupils write a letter explaining this holiday to someone who does not live in Israel.

 

Title: Guided writing activity.

Level: Grades 5/6.

Materials: Blackboard and chalk, activity sheet (Lag B’Omer).

Aims:

-to have students interact together and build a word-map on the board.

-to have students practise their writing skills.

Description:

Class discussion: Introduce the festival (can use a game of hangman, simply write it on the blackboard, show a picture, ask a question such as “Why will you stay up very late on _____?”)

What can you tell me about this holiday? Teacher writes keywords on blackboard.  Pupils complete activity sheet of forming sentences by adding an arrow to each bow.

 

Answers to Lag B’Omer Activity: 

Lag B’Omer is a semi-holiday or a minor holiday.

Lag B’Omer is celebrated on the 18 Iyar,

Lag B’Omer is the thirty-third day of the omer.

We remember the end of the plague that killed Rabbi Akiva’s students.

We remember the bravery of Bar Kochba.

People visit the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is buried at Meron.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is the author of the Zohar.

On Lag B’Omer we light bonfires.

There is a custom that children play with bows and arrows.

 

Activity                Lag B’Omer

 

 Write correct sentences by choosing an arrow to go with each bow.

 

BOWS

 

Lag B’Omer is                            

Lag B’Omer is celebrated

Lag B’Omer is

We remember the end of

We remember the

People visit the

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is

On Lag B’Omer we

There is a custom that

ARROWS

 

buried at Meron.

the plague that killed Rabbi Akiva’s students.

the author of the Zohar.

on the 18 Iyar,

light bonfires.

grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

children play with bows and arrows.

the thirty-third day of the omer.

bravery of Bar Kochba.

a semi-holiday or a minor holiday.

 

 

Write your answers on paper.

 

 

Title: Rabbi Akiva.

Level: Grade 6.

Materials: Activity sheet (Rabbi Akiva), question strips.

Aims:

-to revise question writing.

Description:

Begin the class by asking some questions. Stick question strips on blackboard. Then tell the class they are going to meet a famous person. In order to find out whom the person is, play hangman with the name Rabbi Akiva. Elicit some simple facts about Rabbi Akiva.

Have pupils do the activity sheet (Rabbi Akiva).

After correcting the work, have pupils place their work in their portfolios.

 

 

(Answer to coded message: Rabbi Akiva was tortured and killed by the Romans when they caught him teaching the Torah.)

 

Question strips –  make your own along these lines.

What is your name?

What did you do when you were very young?

What is your sister’s (brother’s/mother’s / friend’s) name?

How old were you when you started school?

 

      Activity            RABBI AKIVA

 

1.        Write questions to complete the dialogue.

 

Interviewer: _______________________________________________

R.Akiva:      My name is Rabbi Akiva.

Interviewer: _______________________________________________

R.Akiva:      Yes, my family was very poor.

Interviewer: _______________________________________________

R.Akiva:      When I was young, I worked as a shepherd.

Interviewer: _______________________________________________

R.Akiva:      My wife’s name is Rachel.

Interviewer: _______________________________________________

R.Akiva:      I was forty years old when I started to study.

Interviewer: _______________________________________________

R.Akiva:  Because I promised my wife that I would learn to read and write.

 

2.        Now find out how Rabbi Akiba died. (The code is back to front: a=26, b=25….)

 

__ __ __ __ __     __ __ __ __ __      __ __ __      __ __  __ __ __ __ __ _

 9  26 25 25 18     26 14 18  5  26       4  26  8        7  12   9   7   6   9  22 23

 

__ __ __    __ __ __ __ __ __     __ __       __  __ __       __ __ __ __ __ __

26 13 23    16 18 15 15 22 23       25  2         7   19 22        9  12 14 26 13  8

 

__ __ __ __      __ __ __ __      __ __  __ __  __ __        __ __ __

 4  19 22 13       7  19 22  2       24 26   6  20  19  7         19 18 14

 

__ __ __ __ __  __ __ __           __ __  __        __ __  __ __ __ .

 7  22 26 24 19  18 13 20            7  19  22         7  12  9  26 19     

 

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