In Lag B’Omer is a minor festival in the Jewish calendar. It is celebrated on the thirty-third day of the Omer. The Omer is a period of time that occurs between the second night of Passover and festival of Shavuot. On each day of the Omer, the Jewish people count the day in expectation for the approaching festival of Shavuot. In total, there are seven weeks in the Omer.
During this period of time in the time of the great sage Rabbi Akiva, 24,000 of his students were killed in a plague due to their lack of respect and love for fellow human beings. Therefore, it is customary to observe certain mourning customs in the Omer period, such as not getting married, cutting one’s hair or wearing new clothes. On Lag B’Omer the disciples of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying. In addition, this was the day that the holy sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai returned his soul to his Maker and on that day many of his teachings on the hidden part of the Torah were revealed. For these reasons, Lag B’Omer is a day of celebration.
There is a custom for Jewish children to play with mock bows and arrows on Lag B’Omer. The reason given for this is that they serve as a reminder of the revolt of the Jewish people that was led by Bar Kochba against the Romans in 135 CE. The revolt took place sixty-five years after the Second Temple was destroyed and initially the Jews succeeded against the might of Rome both physically and spiritually.
Physically an independent was established by the Jews, under the leadership of Shimon Bar Kochba. The country lasted about five years, minted its own coins and established a formidable stronghold in the city of Beitar.
Spiritually, Rabbi Akiva endorsed the revolt, proclaiming Bar Kochba to be the Messiah. If this was the case then seemingly Bar Kochba really had the ability to be the Messiah. However, Bar Kochba erroneously accused Rabbi Elazar of betraying Beitar and executed him. As a result, Rabbi Akiva immediately withdrew his support as did the other Rabbis.
Bar Kochba was known henceforth as Bar Kosiva, which translates to mean “the son of the lie.” He then tried to push on ahead even without the support of the Rabbis and to challenge the Roman legions. He was defeated in the end by the Romans, Jews were massacred and the independent Jewish state faded, not to be seen again for over two-thousand years.