The Matzav Shmoooze: Confused About Lag Ba’omer

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lag-baomerDear readers,

There is something about Lag Ba’omer that I just cannot understand. I understand that we celebrate this special day for a number of reasons. The talmidim of Rebbi Akiva stopped dying on this day. Rav Shimom bar Yochai revealed to us secrets of the Torah. Three thousand halachos were introduced on the day Rav Shimon bar Yochai died.

There is a true cause for celebration. This inyan is brought in halacha and goes back many generations.

There is also a minhag to shoot bows and arrows. This minhag is brought in seforim and has been performed by many tzaddikim for many years. Various reasons are given for this minhag.

However, there is one minhag I cannot understand and have not been able to find a reliable source.

Many schools around the country celebrate Lag Ba’omer. This is quite understandable. The seforim say it is a day of simcha. But how to we justify minimizing limudei kodesh in honor of Rav Shimon bar Yochai? How do schools take away precious time of tinokos shel bais rabbon learning the heilegeh Torah for a Lag Ba’omer trip? Is this serving as an aliyah to the heilegeh neshama of this holy Tanah?

I was thinking that maybe, to be melamed zechus, there is some explanation. Maybe since the talmidim of Rebbi Akiva died because they did not act properly to each other, we take the boys out to the park with their rabbeim, where the rabbeim teach the children how to act towards each other, even when competing in a sports game. Maybe.

But now this minhag has been developing new twist. There are yeshiva ketanas that have turned Lag Ba’omer into trip days. School turns into camp. They take off from limudei kodesh and take their boys to amusement parks or bowling and the like. L’iluinNishmas haTanah Rav Shimon bar Yochai! Entire schools being mevatel Torah on such a grand scale in honor of this special day! Is this truly in the spirit of Lag Ba’omer? It’s hard do believe and it is difficult to understand. A kumzitz in a park, maybe. But has it gotten out of hand? What are we teaching the children?

And besides all this, we all know that as the weather gets warmer, the harder it becomes for children to concentrate on their learning. It becomes a challenge to motivate a boy to learn in the summer. But kicking it off with a trip so early in the season does not help things at all. It helps set the summer mode in and makes it even more difficult for our precious tinokos shel beis rabbon to continue their holy work.

Anybody have an explanation?

A Puzzled Parent


The Matzav Shmoooze is a regular feature on that allows all readers to share a thought or analysis, long or short, one sentence or several paragraphs long, on any topic, for readers to mull over and comment on. Email submissions to [email protected].

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  1. Just as th Rambam tells us to give children sweets in order to encourage them to learn and assosiate sweetness to learn on their level, we also start a kid off licking honey etc… in order to relate to them the sweetness of Torah. Same with the trips: it helps them relate to the excitment of this special day – the day RSB”Y reveled secrets of the Zohar…

  2. Well, I grew up in a Cheider in EY (some 38 yrs ago) which took it’s orders from R’ Dovid Brisker Shlit”a. We only had a summer vocation of 3 weeks (!), and even during vocation there was an optional program…

    But on Lag Baomer we had a trip. They felt a trip with the Rebbi once or twice a year is important, and what better day to schedual it than Lag baomer when anyway kids’ minds are not all there…

  3. It is postulated that the original celebration was of the inital short-lived success of the Bar Kochva revolt and his rebuilt mikdash. The early pletim to ashkenaz commemorated this with letting the boys out of cheder to play with bows and arrows, but a more pareve story was tacked on to the date. And the “new twist” twists on.

  4. Dear Puzzled Parent,
    You ARE 100% correct.
    Signed, An Equally Puzzled Rebbi

    P.S. Stoliner Yeshiva inv BP has an interesting minhag.
    They do NOT go on a sports trip, rather, instead, they have a fire and all the kids and all the kids in yeshiva ktana sing Bar Yochaii etc. That’s the way to do it.

  5. I can see your point. However, I know for my kids when ever they have a trip or outing with school it invigorates them and adds to there enthusiasm for learning. It helps clear there mind etc…It is all part of the holy work!

  6. the method to celebrating Jewish holidays -isnt always more and more Torah learning…

    aderaba – a day in the park is a nice way to recharge in betweeen pesach and shavuous, where music, is finally mutar… etc.
    Many a great memory I had of lag baomer in my youth. singing, BBQ, playing ball with Rebbeim, bonfires, pouring rain 🙂

  7. It’s so interesting that a frequent theme in this column is someone questioning a longstanding custom or relatively harmless entertainment as being too lenient, bittul Torah, emphasizing the wrong middos, etc etc. The net effect is a constant attack on others who enjoy simple, permitted pleasures. Hey, are you in chinuch? I admit, I’m not (although practically everyone else in my family is). If kids learn well all year, they’re entitled to enjoy themselves on chol hamoed (yes, at the circus or Great Adventure). They’re entitled to enjoy–even look forward to–a break, a day outdoors with their rebbe or morah. Especially when that break is channeled towards a mitzvah, it can recharge their batteries. Ribbono shel olam, where’s the harm? Let me ask you a question, Mr. Writer: when you eat bread, do you put anything on it? Salt, butter, mayonnaise, mustard? Why bother? Why not just eat it plain? Same thing here–a kid who isn’t allowed to enjoy anything with his Torah will find it tasteless, or worse–he might even choke on it.

  8. 40 years ago almost all elementary yeshivos took the kids on a trip on lag b’omer. we played baseball with the rebbeim and it was the one day that all kids looked forward to.

  9. For sure. Kids should never have off and always learn. I know of some Yeshivas in Israel where the only days they have off are just Shabbos and Yom Tov. None of this “summer break” nonsense. It is well known that it is better for children to study Hashem’s torah than even rebuild the Bais Hamikdash. How much more so today we need kids to learn and not do all these sports activities and vacations. I would get rid of recess if I can and give a five minute break instead.

  10. Chill out. The kids need an outlet once in a while.
    Besides, can’t you ask the same question about Chanakah? Why do all the yeshivas give time off on Chankah on a yom tov when the torah was attempted to be forgotten?

  11. I agree. There is too much vacation,leisure activities and time being wasted by our kids. I say extend the learning day by 1 – 2 hours, cut Limuday chol down to the bare minimum or eliminate it altogether. We have to refocus the attention of the kids on that which is holy so they can grow to become Gedolay Torah.

  12. You know, this IS a great point. Obviously the author agrees that the outdoor trips/events are nice and even foster achdus and mentchlekeit, some readers may tend to bash this article, naively thinking this is about inappropriate activities or some other ranting by thosewho sont want the rest of us to have any fun or be normal.
    Truth be told -and understood-that there is great and deep beauty in these, our halachos and mesoros. The author seems to only be looking to find some missing pieces to highlight a continuity which will then bring about more of this deep and meaningful beauty.

  13. If the schools would be doing this I would be fine. Instead now it seems this too has become too difficult so instead the kids are either off all day or half a day and home from school. For all those parents who work and are not home what is happening with their kids?

    However dear writer – let me ask you a different question. Other then Lag B’omer what other day in the yiddishe calendar all year do the kids get excited about? Purim so they can get drunk? Fast days so they can fast? Sukkos or Pesach with all the food restrictions of either what or where you can eat? Tu Bshvat when they get the bags of dried fruit that they find so tasty?

    Think in the eyes and minds of the child. What is exciting? Going on a trip is exciting. Going to a park with their friends and teachers is exciting. Listen to the song “ninth man on the team” and you will hear a story of how a day in the park can turn around children and connect them to their Rebbi and teacher. Make Yeshiva Geshmack – and yes 1 day a year of playing ball rather then learning is a fantastic idea. (truth be told every class davens and learns something anyways before they leave so it is not a day of total bitul Torah).

    Take a chill pill and see what you can do to make it fun to be a Yid instead of always shver Tzu Zain a Yid.

  14. It is questionable if R Shimon died on
    Lag B’omer. The Chida writes that there is
    no mekor as to when the yorzeit is.
    Although it is mentioned in Pri Eitz Chaim (R Chaim Vital) “yom sh’mes rashbi” however if
    you see the complete text, you will see that it is a mistake and it is supposed to say “simchas rashbi.
    The earliest source that states that it is
    the yorzeit of Rashbi is in the sefer “Chemdas Hyomim” which was written by Noson Hoazosi. He was the novi sheker for Shabti zvi.

  15. This article expresses the sentiment I have long believed. Why should kids have off when adults have to work? Its a different world today and kids need to learn as much as they can before they are catapaulted into the working force

  16. Dear writer,

    Your question is a good one and I would like to express my own opinion on this matter.

    Everyone knows that learning torah is “kineged koolam” and it is our ultimate purposeas yidden to be involved in bein adom lichaveiro and talmud torah.

    School Children who’s maturity is still undeveloped, are taught about the greatness of torah and our tzadikim. The children however usually do not get the same gishmak and satisfaction from learning torah as an adult.

    It is our job as michanchim to train the young minds to love torah and yiddishkeit so that when they are older they will want to be connected to it on they’re own.Children learn torah in school everyday of the year. To make them learn extra on this day will not make them enjoy it more. Taking the children on a trip will give them a very positive association with this day and the heilige taana.When they get older and develop a true love for yiddishkeit this trip will stand out as one of the reasons.This concept is similar to giving children candy in shul. Obviously shul is meant for davening. We give candies to give the children a positive association with tefilah.

  17. bowling? of course
    the pins are lined up in the shape of a rainbow, which we know never appeared during Rashbi’s time 🙂

  18. THe following story is brought in Maaseh Ish.

    A group of avreichim from Yerushalayim went to Meron on Lag B’Omer. On the way, they stopped in Bnei Brak to visit the Chazon Ish.

    The Chazon Ish wondered what could have brought this group of talmidim out so far in the middle of the zman. When he heard that they were going to Meron for Lag B’Omer, he is reported to have asked incredulously, “V’chi sogrim es hagemara v’nosim leMeron?” – “You closed the Gemara and went to Meron?”

  19. Lag Ba’omer is nowhere to be found in Shas or the Rishonim. Nowhere. Therefore,the claim that “This inyan is brought in halacha and goes back many generations” is a misrepresentation of both halacha and minhag.

  20. There is very little in classical Halacha seforim about the contemporary ways of celebrating Lag B’omer. Unless your readers can convince me otherwise.

  21. In the days of the Rishonim, before Lag Ba’omer’s main focus was Rebbi Shimmon Bar Yochai, the Yeshiva took the day off. They had a big parade. You can find this in the Maharil.

  22. The Minhag in Mainz and Worms is to say Tachanun on Lag Be”omer (see Maharil). Just trying to bring some balance to your article.

  23. let’s stop applying the standards suitable for beis medrash to little kids. Children are children, for heaven’s sake. We can’t work them like mules. Sometimes more is less – how many kids have gone off the derech because they found no joy in it?

    There was an article in a frum publication recently about teenage bochrim drinking on Friday night – “to ease the tension.” Kids in a normal matzav don’t need to get drunk. What are we doing to them that it’s now an issue?

    And please don’t tell me it’s the environment. The kids in Europe lived and worked in contact with non-Jews – known to be heavy drinkers – all the time. How come it didn’t “cross over” then? Let’s examine our system and see where it can be improved to help our children stay happy and shomer Torah u’mitzvos. Because believe me, if they aren’t happy they aren’t going to stay shomer Torah u’mitzvos.

  24. I agree to all the points of the letter and to those of the comments.

    It is nice for the Rabeim to go to the park for a few hours and connect and bind with their talmidim.

    However, this should and could be done in a ruchniusdike atmosphere. Like in a park. Some other venues which have been taken up by some of our schools, are just not in the spirit of Bar-Yochai.

    I just do not understand why the children cannot first learn their regular hours in the morning, and go to the park in the afternoon! The Rabeim can spend some time giving over lessons and stories about R’ Shimon and R’ Akiva, focus a little bit on sefira, and then go to the park in the afternoon!!

    Wouldn’t that be so much nicer and in the spirit of the day?

    I think that part of our problem today is that we think we have to show our children that Yidishkeit is geshmak by showing them that even though we are Yidden, we can have fun like the goyim.

    This is wrong. A good mechanech should be able to show their talmidim that learning Torah and doing mitzvos can be geshmak all by itself!! They should be able to show the sweetness and beauty of Yideshkeit from learning the Torah and doing Mitzvos.

    If we show our children that we must do other things to have fun, they will always run to those other things.

    A mechanech that can not do this, is in the wrong profession!!

  25. Where you ever a student? As a yeshiva bachur I can say that kids need a break. They need something to enjoy instead of just sitting in a classroom for 12 hours a day. Why lag boemar? What better day than to do it on lag boemer when the weather is getting nice and the kids need time to get some fresh air to be able to learn for the next few weeks. This kind of activity could also be far more effective than teaching with textbooks when a rebbi is out with his talmidim having fun you can learn so much about how a yid is suppose to act. Of course there has to be time for the classroom. However kids have time for that aprox. 250 days so if they have one day out of 250 to enjoy themselves your going to complain. I would be very upset if my parents complained about me having any fun let them enjoy.

  26. I agree. Not sure where baseball came into the picture. I can’t imagine the Tanayim rounding the bases! Go Heat!

  27. While this may be true, it does not change anything. In our days with the lack of tznius and bitul torah a parade for ANYTHING will lead to the Sitra Achra.

  28. Isn’t it brought down that it is a minhag to spend the day in the “fields” on lag beomer and that is why we take school children to the park! It is not made up to ease the kids learning etc.

  29. What a bunch of killjoys. Can’t you stand children enjoying themselves. they are children not small adults. They need breaks – they learn better with some time off.

  30. Most of the year, 6 days a week we learned with power. Our rabbeim pushed us beyond where we knew we could go and we learned a tremendous amount, much of it bal peh.

    1 day a year the Rabbeim and students bonded unlike any other. The entire yeshiva watched the Rebbe/8th Grade baseball game. Together. We learned that our Rabbeim were people too, and this made them so much more relatable. And it made my memories of yeshiva that much greater.

    There is nothing wrong with a pre-scheduled, kosher, breath of fresh air. It is up to the mechanchim and leadership of the yeshiva to decide how and when. That’s why they call them professionals. If you disagree, send your children somewhere else. For me, it was an incredible experience.

  31. Going out on a field trip is a traditional Lag B’Omer activity and has nothing to do with “giving kids a break.”

    Lag Ba’Omer was one of the Mitteler Rebbe’s (R’ Dov Ber, 2nd Lubavitcher Rebbe) particularly noteworthy festivals. He and the Chassidim would go out to the fields that day, and although he did not wash and break bread, he did partake of mashkeh (strong drink), which he was not allowed to do for health reasons. Many wonders were seen at that time, most of them involving the blessing of children for childless couples – and all year long people waited for Lag Ba’Omer.

    (HaYom Yom 18 Iyar)

  32. It’s in the end, where a Talmid writes anecdotes about the Maharil. He writes one story about someone who humiliated a Yeshiva student during the Lag Ba’omer parade, and the Maharil put him in Cherem.

  33. Rav Shimon Shkop said the talimidim from America had better heads because they learned limudei chol. They were more well rounded. I think allowing our children to play is just as important.

  34. This Shmooze seems to have more of a problem with the concept of Simcha than with Lag Ba’omer. Lag Ba’omer is accepted by the author, but the idea that any time from learning be taken off is not.
    I am 56 years old, but I do remember my childhood. Lag Ba’omer was a day in the park for our day school. On years when it rained and they had regular school instead of a day in the park, I felt that a big part of my childhood had been stolen.

  35. In order to have more torah learning we must eliminate the wasted time with TV, Internet etc. altogether. This is what we must focus are kochos in.


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