Lag B’Omer in Alaska

It’s the time of year where it seems like one long afternoon.  The air is heavily scented with the most beautiful scent.  It’s not quite the scent of flowers blooming, but more like herbs.  The closest thing I can compare it to is that when you walk outside, it smells just like something you’d want to gather up and put inside a chicken before you roast it.  It’s wild and aromatic and fresh and woodsy.  Even in the city, the air is full of it.  It happens every spring and early summer here and yet no one can ever seem to tell me what exactly is blooming to cause it.

It’s against this backdrop, along with the trees now suddenly full of green leaves, that we celebrate Lag B’Omer here in Alaska.

The holiday itself is a minor one, but a happy one, often celebrated with bonfires commemorating the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who wrote the Zohar, the first major work of Chassidic mystical Judaism.  Each year on the anniversary of his death, he asked that people celebrate because that was also the zenith of his teachings.  When he died, it’s said that fire encricled his home and his face shone too brightly to look upon, so bonfires are traditionally made.

It’s also just a great time of the year for a bonfire here in Alaska.  It’s beautiful out, but there’s still just a hint of chill to the air, so a bonfire is perfect.

It’s been a long week in the Safek house.  I was struggling with frail hope and feeling down, just kind of trudging through the week until Shabbat.  Finally, that mood lifted with our first really pleasant Shabbat in the Shabbat RV 2.0.  No one was cold and while I did have to juggle food in and out of the refrigerator to keep it from freezing, nothing froze.  We had a break between the bar mitzvahs of strangers this week and shul was just the regulars.  The rain cleared just in time for the Lag B’Omer party and my hope was ready to be kindled again.

Between Passover and Shavuot, we mourn and prepare ourselves for Shavuot and receiving the Torah.  It’s not the full-on mourning of Tisha B’Av, but in some ways it’s harder because it’s a longer time.  Lag B’Omer is a welcome break from that, a reminder of the joy of Judaism that helps stoke the inner fires to keep going until the happiness of Shavuot.  For me, it was a warm reminder of why I’m working so hard and that one day, there will be completion.

Until then, back to studying and preparing!

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