What Occurred on the 33rd Day of the Omer?
Tomorrow (meaning beginning from tonight), G-d willing, will mark the 33rd day of the Omer (commonly known as Lag Ba’Omer), which is celebrated amid great joy and when Tachanun (confessional prayer found after the Amida prayer) is omitted for it marks the day when the secrets of the Torah were revealed, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was saved from his death sentence and Rabbi Akiva started teaching his five students that would eventually spread the Torah to the rest of the world, as we have already discussed. This is based on the words of the Poskim, the saintly Ari z”l, and Maran Ha’Chida.
Mourning Customs on the 33rd Day of the Omer
Regarding all of the customs of mourning that have been customarily observed during the Omer period (due to the passing of the students of Rabbi Akiva), for instance, abstaining from getting married, taking haircuts, and shaving, there is a dispute among the Poskim whether these customs must be observed until the 33rd day of the Omer or until the 34th day of the Omer (i.e. the morning of the 34th).
The custom of the Ashkenazim is to permit weddings beginning from the night of the 33rd of the Omer, for they are of the opinion that Rabbi Akiva’s disciples ceased dying on the 33rd of the Omer. This is indeed the ruling of the Rama (Chapter 493) in the name of several Rishonim (including the author of the Sefer Ha’Manhig) who have accepted by way of oral tradition that the students of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying on the 33rd day of the Omer. Some Ashkenazim have the custom to permit weddings even from the night of the 33rd of the Omer.
Nevertheless, the Sephardic custom is to abstain from holding weddings or taking haircuts until the morning of the 34th day of the Omer, which falls out this year, 5780, this coming Wednesday morning, G-d willing.
The reason why we customarily abstain from these things until the 34th of the Omer is based on the words of the Sefer Ha’Manhig (page 72b, authored by Rabbeinu Avraham bar Natan Ha’Yarchi, the Ra’avan, who lived in Lonil and passed away in the year 4975 ) in the name of Rabbeinu Zerachya Ha’Levi (the Razah, Ba’al Ha’Maor) who found in an early manuscript found in Spain, that all of Rabbi Akiva’s students passed away from Pesach until “Half of Shavuot,” and this refers to half of the period prior to Shavuot, which is thirty days, as the Mishnah tells us, “One must begin to inquire about the laws of Pesach thirty days before the holiday”; thus, half of thirty is fifteen days before the holiday of Shavuot. Several other Rishonim write accordingly. Thus, if we subtract fifteen from the forty-nine days between Pesach and Shavuot, the difference is thirty-four. Nevertheless, beginning from the morning of the 34th day of the Omer, it is already permissible to hold weddings, for regarding mourning, the rule is “A portion of the day is considered like the entire day” and since some of the 34th day has already passed, one need not continue to observe the mourning customs.
May the merits of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar, protect us all and may we all merit repenting fully and taking part in the Final Redemption, speedily and in our days, Amen.