Coming a month and a half before the spring equinox and two months before Passover, Tu BiShvat provides a glimmer of springtime at a time when winter can often be at its cruelest.
Rabbi Shimon fled to the cave to escape a death sentence for publicly criticizing Roman culture. According to folk tradition, during his twelve years of isolation, he engaged in mystical meditation and wrote the Zohar, the central work of Kabbalah.
Lag BaOmer was completely off our radar when we lived in the United States. We never had any real exposure to it until we made Aliyah, and now its approach is easily recognizable by kids walking down the street, schlepping huge pieces of wood, old furniture, sticks, and anything else that burns.
Lag BaOmer is a break, a time out, a moment to recall an ancient plague that may or may not have occurred, and perhaps a moment for reflection.
The Hebrew letter equivalent of 33 is pronounced Lag (lamed gimel), giving rise to the name Lag BaOmer for this particular day. There is no one particular reason that this day stands out from the other 48 days counted between Pesach and Shavuot, yet many fascinating traditions surround the special nature of this day.
Driving across the Jezreel Valley these days, you can't miss the biblical echoes of the landscape. On Pesach we are to eat only cereal products made from the last year's harvest, baked with no leavening – and at the same time we are to clean out completely any remnants of any grain products from the old supply.