This week's Torah portion, Emor, contains this law about counting days:
You shall count for yourselves from the day after the holiday [Passover], from the day you bring the omer of grain offering, and they shall be seven complete weeks. You shall count until the day after the seventh week, fifty days, and then you shall bring an offering of new grain to Adonai. (Leviticus 23:15-16)
Last year, I wrote a post for each week of the Counting of the Omer to describe my journey through the mystical associations of each day. The first week is devoted to the divine emanation of Chesed, or "lovingkindness." The second week is focused on G'vurah, understood as "strength" and "discipline." The third week is Tiferet, the emanation of "harmony," "balance" and "splendor." The fourth week takes us to Netzach, meaning "eternity" and "endurance." The fifth week is about Hod for "humility." The sixth week is based in Yesod, the emanation of "foundation," "groundedness" and "connection." Finally, the seventh week we reach up into Malchut, "sovereignty," "nobility" and "leadership."
Today is the thirty-third day of the Counting of the Omer, the fifth day of the fifth week. It is a semi-holiday called Lag B'Omer. The "Lag" is an acronym in Hebrew for the number 33. (The letter Lamed = 30; Gimel = 3). Like the Omer period itself, Lag B'Omer has many meanings. In Israel, it is celebrated with bonfires and outdoor games. Lag B'Omer also is regarded as the yahrtzeit, the anniversary of the death, of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. That association gives Lag B'Omer great mystical importance.
According to tradition, Rabbi Shimon was the author of the Zohar, the greatest book of Jewish mysticism. He also is the central character of the book. A famous passage in the Zohar (III, 287b -296b) tells how Rabbi Shimon made his final revelation of the Torah’s secrets to his disciples on the night he died, Lag B'Omer. The passage is known as the Idra Zuta, and it describes how Rabbi Shimon did not just die a normal death that night. He left this world in a torrent of supernatural fire that surrounded him as the words of his revelation came pouring out of him in ecstasy. His disciples heard his words, but they were unable to reach him through the fire.
"The light that is revealed is called the Garment of the King," declared Rabbi Shimon from the midst of the divine fire. In language that is obscured by mystical terms that each resonate with multiple meanings, Rabbi Shimon says that all that we know and experience about God is nothing more than an outer garment that hides an unrevealed truth beyond our conception. "The light within, within is a concealed light. In that light dwells the Ineffable One, the Unrevealed."
Finally, Rabbi Shimon's revelation was crowned with the greatest truth of all about the "High Spark," the most hidden truth that lies at the foundation of all reality. Rabbi Shimon cried out, "There is nothing but the High Spark, hidden, unrevealed!” If we were able to truly know and understand God, we also would know that there is nothing but God. Everything that appears to exist is merely a ripple upon the surface of God. That is the great truth, the only truth, that lies at the center of all.
On this day every year, tens of thousands of people travel to Meron, the place where Shimon bar Yochai is said to be buried, to celebrate the revelation of all revelations.