Lag Ba’Omer in the context of nature
/ from the Shitim Institute Archives
The agricultural meaning of this festival transpires from the name of Lag Ba’Omer, and it being one of the days of counting the Omer. Counting the Omer is the period between Passover and Pentecost. On the eve of the first day of Passover they would offer the sheaves, the first harvest of the barley to the Temple. And from this day, pursuant to the commandments of the Torah they would count seven weeks until Pentecost.
"'From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the offering, count off seven full weeks. Keep counting until the day after the seventh Sabbath, fifty days later.” (Leviticus 23:15-16).
There are those who explain the customs of mourning during this period based on the period of the harvest that falls in this season. According to this opinion the farmers used to minimize their joy during this period due to a concern of various problems that could harm the crops because it is a difficult time for agriculture: the weather is unstable, the tough heat waves could cause the crops to mature too quickly, and the rains at the end of spring and the strong winds cause damage to wheat, wheat is sensitive to various diseases and when it matures there is a great concern of fire: “Keep us from the bad winds and the heavy dew. And from when? The seven weeks between Passover and Pentecost”. (Leviticus Rabbah 25:3).
Testimonies can also be found in:
“As the world is in sadness from Passover until Pentecost, the crops and the trees, therefore the Holy One Blessed Be He commanded us to count these days, in order that we remember the sadness of the world so that the crops will be good, for they are the reason for our life, because if there is no flour there is no Torah!
(The Book of Abudirham – 1340 AD,)
“And the author of the Book of Consciousness says: These seven weeks, as they are dependent on livelihood all the year for plenty or heaven forbid for famine, and in which we open the treasures or blessing or heaven forbid a curse for the entire year....due to this (the days) shall be counted from the Omer to see how many days there are between harvest and harvest, and not with troubles and they are innocents and they shall pray that they will all be innocents until the end of counting them, and the harvest of wheat shall have blessing and satisfaction and life for the whole world the entire year....as the days are days of strengthening the laws and continue for five consecutive days, we are very anxious that they all pass safely”
(The Book of Consciousness)
The concern of harm to crops by winds, pests or fire led the farmers to be afraid of being joyous until the harvest would be over and it would be possible to be joyful. It is possible that the end of the days of mourning symbolized the ceremony of bringing the two loaves on Pentecost to the Temple, as a sign of thanks for saving the crops.