Day 33, May 18: The Hod in Hod

Another "double Sefirah" for Day 33: the Hod in Hod. We'll get to this in a moment, but first...

Traditional Jews observe a number of semi-mourning customs during most of the counting of the Omer: no haircuts or trimming of beards, no weddings or other parties, no music. This is said to commemorate a number of tragic events (pogroms and massacres) that occurred throughout history on these days. Hence, the semi-mourning practices.

However, this 33rd day of the Omer (Sunday, May 18) is actually a minor Jewish holiday. Because in gematria (Jewish numerology) the number "30" is represented by the letter lamed, and the number "3" by the letter gimel, we put the two letters, lamed and gimel, together, to make the nonsense word, "lag (pronounced log). Thus, today is the holiday of Lag B'omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. What's special about day 33 of the Omer count?

It is said that the disciples of Rabbi Akiva, who was a leader of the failed Jewish revolt against Roman occupation between 132-135 CE, suffered some sort of deadly epidemic or plague between Passover and Shavuot in the midst of the uprising. But, according to tradition, on the 33rd day of the Omer, the epidemic subsided. Thus, celebration is allowed on this day. In Israel, Lag B'omer is observed with picnics and bonfires. Lag B'omer is also marked as the day of death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who lived in the second century CE. Tradition attributes to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai the authorship of the Zohar, ("Radiance,") the central text of Kabbalah. It was "discovered" in 13th century Spain by the writer Moses de Leon, who attributed it to Rabbi Shimon bar Yohchai, although most modern scholars believe de Leon to have been the actual author.

So what do we make of the Splendor in Splendor?

In his book, God In Search Of Man (a book every Jew should read at least once, IMHO) Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel speaks of "radical amazement," the amazement at Being itself, the amazement that there is anything.

It is the wonder of the child who keeps asking "Why?" And the awe of the questioning adult who, after all "why's" have been exhausted, asks, "Who is asking the question?"

But Heschel takes it a step further, in a typically Jewish and modern way. From amazement we are led to see life as a gift, and ask, "What am I do to with this gift?" And from this we are led to a life of purpose and service.

What in your life leads you to splendor/awe/amazement? And how do you honor life?


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