In addition to UAlbany’s 2019 Commencement falling on the minor biblical holiday of Pesach Sheini (see this post for 3 messages learned from that) it also falls a few days before another minor Jewish holiday called Lag B’Omer or Lag BaOmer. This 2019 Lag B’Omer is Wednesday night (May 22) into Thursday (May 23) so it will be just a few days after graduates arrive home. 

Lag B’Omer is the 33rd day of the Omer Count when we celebrate the end of a plague that killed 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students back in the Mishna times, and also celebrates the Yartzeit/Hillulah (anniversary of passing) of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, an early master of the Jewish mystical tradition. 

Traditionally, Lag B’Omer is celebrated with big bonfires or BBQ’s, people going out in the fields and parks, and in Israel on this day hundreds of thousands (literally) visit the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai atop Mt Meron in the north of Israel with dancing, singing and much festivity (bonfires included). Due to the Rebbe’s initiative dating back to the early 1940’s, Chabad organizes lively parades in city streets all over Israel and around the world with Jewish themes and Jewish pride. 

One more iconic symbol of Lag B’Omer (perhaps associated with springtime out in the fields) is the bow and arrow, usually as a kids plaything. I’d like to use the bow and arrow icon as a life message as students return home from graduation and begin to transition into life “out there” in the “real world”:

The way a bow and arrow works is that you have to pull further inward in order to go further outward. The objective of the arrow may be a distance away, but the way to reach there is to first pull the arrow closer to you. Remember, even as we are outward bound the strength to be effective out there comes from reaching deeper within, closer to who we are – that is the strength which powers and propels the arrow.