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To the best of my knowledge we celebrate on Lag B'Omer as this is the day the students of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying. This reason seems incomprehensible. The reason they stopped dying was because there was no one left.

Imagine someone has eleven children. One by one they pass away. Finally the father buries his last child, would he celebrate???

Then how are we supposed to understand Lag B'Omer?

Sourced answers please.

  • There were 5 left,no? – sam May 23 at 2:15
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    @Sam There were 5 new ones that Rabbi Akiva aquired after all his students passed away. – Gershon Gold May 23 at 2:17
  • Seemingly we're just happy to be done with mourning. It's not much of a reason to actively celebrate to any great degree, and that is consistent with Lag BaOmer being an incredibly minor "holiday". – Double AA May 23 at 2:28
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    The Chidah asks your question aish.com/atr/Why_Celebrate_Lag_BOmer.html – code613 May 23 at 3:40
  • @code613 that would make an excellent answer – Josh K May 23 at 4:39
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This exact question was asked by R. Hezekiah Silva in his commentary to the Shulchan Aruch where it says that the students stopped dying.

Peri Chadash O.C. 493:2

ומיהו יש לדקדק בשמחה זו למה ואי משום שפסקו מלמות מה בכך הרי לא נשארו אחד מהם וכולם מתו ומה טיבה של שמחה זו

However, there is [a need] to clarify why we have this joy. If it's because they stopped dying, who cares? Not one of them was left and they all died! So what is the nature of this joy?

He suggests the following answer:

ואפשר שהשמחה היא על אותם תלמידים שהוסיף אח"כ רבי עקיבא שלא מתו כאלו

Perhaps the joy is for those students that R. Akiva added afterwards who did not die like these.

  • This might be corroborated by what the Pri Eitz Chaim writes about the Rashbi, that Lag BaOmer was יום שמחת רשב"י (and not יום שמת רשב"י), I believe because he didn't die like the other talmidim – robev May 23 at 12:38
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    Hm. Good example where the question is stronger than the answer. – Aron May 23 at 14:55
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There is in fact little reason to believe that this reason for celebrating the 18th of Iyar is true. The "students" of Rabbi Akiva most likely refer to those followers who fought in the Bar Kochva revolt, which lasted a full 4 years, and ended in late summer with the defeat of Beitar according to the Talmud as well as contemporary Roman historians.

The only source for the belief that his students suddenly stopped dying on the 18th is a 12th century rabbi who reported another rabbi reading so in an unknown old book. To quote the Chatam Sofer on this topic:

אמנם ידעתי כי שמעתי שעכשיו אכשיר דרי וממרחק יבואו ידרושו את ה' בע"הק צפת ביום ל"ג בעומר בהלולא דרשב"י ז"ל ... אבל לקבוע מועד שלא נעשה בו נס ולא הוזכר בש"ס ופוסקים בשום מקום ורמז ורמיזה רק מניעת הספד ותענית מנהגא הוא וטעמי' גופא לא ידענא

שו״ת חתם סופר יורה דעה, רל״ג

So, "What are we celebrating on Lag B'Omer?" It seems no one really knows, but we do know that this was not originally related to Rashbi's death, as can be seen here: https://seforimblog.com/2011/05/printing-mistake-and-mysterious-origins/

  • Would you consider translating your source and give its location? – Kazi bácsi May 23 at 19:05
  • @Kazibácsi - Source added. The translation roughly mentions his objection to celebrating a holiday in which "no miracle occurred and was moreover not mentioned in the Talmud or later Poskim". – nbubis May 23 at 19:09
  • Consider adding this piece of information to the answer – Kazi bácsi May 23 at 19:52
  • He says that it's allowed to tsom in lag baomer – kouty May 24 at 11:55

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