on Lag B’Omer, via Lma’an Yishme’u
photos from Lag B’Omer celebrations in Eretz Yisroel.
On Lag Ba'Omer, Rashbi was illuminated by the light of Moshiach, thereby attaining the highest level of his lifetime, and partially revealed that light to his talmidim. Hence, Lag BaOmer each year is a day of the revelation of pnimiyus haTorah, the inner, mystical dimension of the Torah.
(סדור עם דא"ח שער ל"ג בעומר, סה"ש תש"ד ע' 124)
The AriZal taught that it is a mitzva to rejoice on Lag BaOmer, because Rashbi called his yahrzeit a hillula, a celebration. This joy is meaningful to every Yid, for Rashbi protects the entire world from judgment.
(לקו״ש חכ"ב ע' 138)
A Holy Celebration
For the Mitteler Rebbe, Lag BaOmer was an exceptional Yom-Tov. From the time he settled in Lubavitch, he renewed the minhag of celebrating Lag BaOmer in a field outside the city, with a light seuda and LeChaim. He too would say LeChaim, something he did not usually do for health reasons, and the chassidim would sing and dance. The Rebbe would perform miracles, bentching many childless women to have sons who would grow up to be true chassidim. Though he usually sent such requests to his brother, Reb Chaim Avrohom, on Lag BaOmer he would bentch them himself. People waited all year long for Lag BaOmer.
After delivering a maamar, the Mitteler Rebbe would ask the eltere chassidim to relate their Lag BaOmer memories of earlier years, and share the words of Torah and stories that used to be related. Even after he left, the chassidim would continue to farbreng until evening.
(היום יום י"ח אייר, תו"מ ח"א ע' 60, סה"ש תש"ו-ה'שי"ת ע' 412)
At a seudas Shabbos in the home of Rebbitzin Rivka before Lag BaOmer תרנ"ו, the elder chossid Reb Hendel related: "From the time that the two chassidishe land-managers settled near Lubavitch, the celebration was held on their grounds, together with a large, festive seuda. A week or two before Lag BaOmer, a raffle would be drawn to decide whose field would be used. Whoever had the zechus of hosting the celebration would invite the local yoshvim (the men who learned full time in the Rebbe's beis midrash) and the other guests to come on erev Lag BaOmer, and after an early Mincha, a full seuda of fish and meat would be served. At the table maamorim were taught, chassidishe stories were exchanged, and we would sing and dance. Generally, the chassidim would remain awake the entire night. Early in the morning we would daven Shacharis together, with a minyan - at length, ba'arichus. At eleven o'clock, a milchige seuda and LeChaim would be served, and then from three o'clock, we would eagerly await the arrival of the Tzemach Tzedek.
"Throughout the entire winter of תר"ד, the Rebbe forbade the chassidim to come to Lubavitch, due to a libel of the maskilim, and in the course of that winter delivered a maamar of Chassidus only six times. With the approach of Shabbos HaGadol he permitted the chassidim to visit Lubavitch and delivered a maamar of Chassidus publicly. For Lag BaOmer that year, about four hundred guests arrived, prominent among whom were the eminent chassidim, Reb Aizik Homiler and Reb Hillel Paritcher. On the Shabbos before Lag BaOmer, the Rebbe delivered three maamorim. The simcha in the air was incredible.
"That year, the last of the BeHaB fasts fell on erevLag BaOmer. However, the senior rabbonim present paskened that because of the great simcha, the fast would be held only until Mincha, and then they would hold the customary seuda. Due to the great joy, the day passed quickly, and the following afternoon the Rebbe participated in the farbrengen for two hours and delivered another maamar."
(סה"ש תש"ו-ה'שי"ת ע' 412)
Similarly, in a letter to his chassidim before Lag BaOmer, the Alter Rebbe writes: "Rejoice on the day of Rashbi's celebration, because we drink from his wellsprings of Chassidus. Celebrate by singing praises to HaShem from Tehillim, and not chas veshalom by lightheaded frivolity."
(יערות דבש ח"ב דרוש י"א, אג"ק אדה"ז ח"א ע' קי"ז)
Bows and Arrows
Why do children traditionally play with bows and arrows on Lag BaOmer? The tzaddik, Reb Mendel of Rimanov, explains that the rainbow is a sign of HaShem's anger, and no rainbow was seen throughout the lifetime of Rashbi, for in his merit that entire generation was protected.
A further explanation is given by Reb Mendel's holy talmid, Reb Zvi Elimelech of Dinov, who is known by the title of his sefer as the Bnei Yisaschar. It is written in the Zohar that an especially bright rainbow indicates the imminent revelation of the light of Moshiach - and since a foretaste of this light is revealed in the Zohar, we play with bows and arrows.
The Rebbe explains the connection of this custom to young talmidim of cheder age. An arrow is able to overcome an enemy even from a distance, before it comes dangerously close. This ability alludes to those activities of kedusha, such as davening and giving tzedaka, that overcome the Yetzer HoRa in advance, so that the individual is then able to study Torah undisturbed.
(בני יששכר חודש אייר מ"ג או"ד, תו"מ ח"ג ע' 77)
In a letter addressed to all Yiddishe children, the Rebbe writes: On Lag BaOmer, you should assemble to speak of Rashbi and his greatness, to discuss his teachings and to firmly commit to fulfill them with joy. In addition, you should organize a parade in your area, to publicize your connection to Torah - like Rashbi, whose main occupation was studying Torah. The zechus of Rashbi will help you fulfill the Torah and its mitzvos happily, and will bring the Geula soon.
(תו"מ תשמ״ז ח"ג ע' 209)