hazzan Diana Brewer was ordained through the aleph ordination program. she leads prayer services regularly at the jewish community of amherst, and is on the staff of the davvenen leadership training institute.

Day 33 aka Lag BaOmer הוד שבהוד

Hod SheBeHod. Shazam! Humility, Gratitude within Wow!

Today is a day of Hod on top of Hod. Yes, we usually say "within" but it seemed appropriate to say "on top of" if we're dealing with the Verticality of Hod. As I see it at this moment, having a day of Hod within Hod gives us permission to both receive AND seek Peak Experience. Perhaps we are even encouraged to actively seek Splendor on this day just as, on all the other days, we actively seek to infuse our attribute of the week with the attribute of the day. So, go ahead, be out of balance today, and chase the Hod! 

But maybe I've spoken too soon. Turning the prism of Hod, I am reminded there is a facet which is deep Humility, and Hod becomes a balancing force with itself. In finding and experiencing a Peak Experience, if I remember to give Gratitude, to acknowledge this moment as an emanation from the Divine Source, my feet will stay firmly planted on the ground, even as I reach Skyward. Personally, today I am Humbled by my imperfection as a mother, and finding Splendor in my ability to see where I need to grow, and the willingness to use the tools as my disposal to help me through. And yes, I had to do some seeking to find the Splendor in that. Hod SheBe Hod.

So, what's so special about Day 33, anyway? What the heck is "Lag"? To understand this, we need to understand more about some of the traditions surrounding the Omer. To some readers, this will all be familiar. To others, perhaps not. I hope you will pardon a brief history lesson...

The counting of the Omer is, strictly speaking, a biblical commandment. First found in Leviticus, we are told: "And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering - the day after the sabbath - you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete: you must count until the day after the seventh week - fifty days..." (23:15-16) It marks the time between Passover, the commemoration of our release from Egypt, and Shavuot, the commemoration of the revelation of the Torah at Sinai and the Festival of first fruits.

Spring is a tense time for an agrarian society - planting, waiting, hoping. During medieval times, the period of the Omer made the transition from being merely tense to being understood as a time of semi-mourning. Haircuts, weddings, and other simchas are forbidden. The Talmudic ״origin story״ behind the Omer as a period of mourning has to do with the legend of a plague that killed 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva - a divine punishment for them having treated each other disrespectfully. Historically, it can also be tied to the failed Bar Kokhba revolt against the Romans in 132 CE, in which thousands were killed. The story of the plague and the resultant deaths may have been a metaphor for those lost in the revolt.  

Lag BaOmer is a minor holiday, celebrated in a major way by many, which has several different "origin stories". Before we go there, I'll explain "Lag". It is simply the acronym for the Hebrew letters לג, whose numeric value add up to 33.

One origin story behind this festival goes along with the Bar Kokhba history. It is thought that there may have been a break in the fighting, or a momentary victory over the Romans on the 33rd day of the Omer. The story involving the plague says that the plague ceased on that day. Yet another is tied to Rabbi Shim'on Bar Yochai (known as the "Rashbi"), one of the few of Rabbi Akiva's disciples who survived the "plague", and purported author of the seminal Kabbalistic text the Zohar (not all sources agree). He is said to have died on the 33rd Day of the Omer, and to have instructed his followers to commemorate the date as "the day of my joy." On Lag BaOmer, the strictures against haircuts and weddings, etc. are lifted, daily davveners do not say Tachanun, the series of prayers of confession and repentance found in the daily liturgy. Bonfires are lit, symbolizing the light of the wisdom the Rashbi brought to the world. Hod SheBeHod! Coincidence? You decide.

Today, let us seek the Splendor in the obvious and the less obvious places. Let us enjoy whatever Peak experience seeks us out. Let us remember that it is all part of a much Larger Picture.

For the abbreviated version, visit me on Twitter.

For a couple of different Omer counting guides try mishkan.org or chabad.org.


Day 34 יסוד שבהוד

Day 32 נצח שבהוד