Celebrate Lag Ba'Omer with Your Students
Lag Ba'Omer often arrives after the end of the school year, too late to experience the fun and connect with Israel. This year, however, the holiday falls on April 30, so you can introduce this "Picnic Holiday" to your students.
Lag Ba’Omer, a break during the 49 days of mourning between Passover and Shavuot, dates back to the time of the ancient Romans. Its precise purpose is debated, but the main reasons are the ending of a plague that afflicted the students of famed Rabbi Akiva and the rebellion led by Bar Kochba again Roman oppression.
Today, this holiday is a joyful time for taking children on picnics and sharing stories of our scholars and heroes who kept the light of Torah learning alive. Israelis typically mark Lag Ba'Omer with giant bonfires, usually made from scrap wood gathered by children weeks in advance. It's a big holiday there, and Israelis living in the United States are often surprised at how little we know about Lag Ba'Omer.
Here are some idea for teaching students about the holiday:
- Hide a picture of a cave somewhere in your room. Playing hot or cold (you can also do this via Zoom), have students find the cave where Shimon bar Yochai is hiding.
- Have a picnic. You can do this all together outdoors or if remote, have everyone head outside with their devices.
- Share the story book, A Holiday for Ari Ant by Apples & Honey Press. Ari Ant wants to celebrate Lag Ba'Omer with the children at their picnic and campfire. But when he bites into a plastic cookie, gets covered in sand, and steps in a puddle of glue, will he ever get to join the fun? Finally he gets to enjoy the best of what the holiday offers - stories, picnics, and a campfire with friends. An author’s note at the end explains the origins of Lag Ba’Omer. Written by Sylvia Rouss, award-winning author of the Sammy Spider series.
Grades 3 and up
- Since Lag Ba'Omer is a time when we honor teachers, have students pair off and write (or draw) the characteristics they have found in their favorite teachers.
- Have students design and create an Omer calendar. Make room for seven weeks, plus one extra day on the calendar. Number the days of the Omer period. Mark in Passover, Lag Ba'Omer, Shavuot, Yom Ha'atzma'ut, Yom HaShoah, and Rosh Chodesh (twice).
- Have a parent, rabbi or another teacher dress up and come to class (in person or online) pretending to be Bar Kochba. The class can interview Bar Kochba and ask questions related to the events in his life and his accomplishments.
- Have students create a diary as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who spent 13 years living in a cave while hiding from the Romans. Encourage them to describe how it feels to be hiding from the Romans and teaching students in secret.
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