Why do we observe Lag BaOmer with bonfires?

Answered by
Rabbi Daniel B. Syme

Lag BaOmer is the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer(the) Omer הָעֹמֶרThe 49-day period that begins on the second night of Passover and ends on Shavuot. . It corresponds to the 18th day of the Hebrew month Iyar.

Lag BaOmer is not mentioned in the Torah and only hinted at in the Talmud. Consequently, there is no formal ritual, but rather a series of customs. In Israel, parties and picnics abound and many attend evening bonfires. The Jewish historian Josephus recorded Lag BaOmer as the date in 66 C.E. when the revolt against Rome began. There was a great victory on that day. It is therefore likely that the bonfires of today commemorate the bonfires kindled almost 2,000 years ago in celebration of successful Jewish resistance to oppression.