L'ag B'Omer is a holiday celebrated on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, the 49-day period of semi-mourning which spans from the 2nd night of Passover to Shavuot. This year it falls on Thursday May 23rd. L'ag is an acronym for Lamed Gimmel, which has the numerical value of 33 based on the gematria of the Hebrew alphabet (Lamed = 30, Gimmel = 3). The day is festive and marks the "hilula" or death anniversary of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), one of the greatest sages who revealed the secrets of Kabbalah in the Zohar - the primary text of Jewish mysticism. This has led to the annual custom of celebrating at the Rashbi's tomb on Mount Meron in northern Israel where visitors can connect to the spiritual light he revealed and left behind in the world. To represent this spiritual light, and as per his request to his students at the time, Jews in Israel and around the world light bonfires on the holiday. The annual event now draws over 500,000 visitors from around the world. Outside of Israel, many people make the connection through the study of the Zohar and other Kabbalistic works.
Since the Omer is a period of semi-mourning, many observant families plan weddings, haircuts and other festive events on L'ag B'Omer since they are prohibited from doing so during the other days of the Omer. It is a custom for three-year old boys to be given their first haircut (upsherin) on this day as well. L'ag B'Omer is also considered to be the day on which a terrible plague was stopped. The plague killed 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva because they did not treat each other with human dignity and respect. The Rashbi was one of only five students that survived the plague and then went on to reveal the inner secrets of the Torah with the Zohar. In modern Israel, many view L'Ag B'Omer as a symbol for the fighting Jewish sprit and a commemoration of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132-136 CE. Regardless of spiritual or secular perspective, L'ag B'Omer is considered a day of great joy and an opportunity to connect to the Light of the Zohar.