Today is Lag b'Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. In addition to the Kabbalists' mystical spin on the Omer season, this seven-week period is traditionally considered a time of mourning and reflection. Lag b'Omer is the one day during the seven weeks when people are given a day off from mourning. Bonfires are a frequent custom on Lag b'Omer, for reasons I still do not know; maybe to celebrate the longer lighter days of spring? (I just made that up.)
The paradox of having a "day off" in the middle of a long stretch of spiritual discipline is giving me pause. Isn't serious spiritual practice supposed to be mindful, rigorous, sometimes even a little tedious? Maybe Lag b'Omer is to remind us of our humanity, to keep the ego from getting a little too self righteous and smug.
To celebrate Lag b'Omer, this morning I awoke even earlier than usual and went out to the beach just as the sun came up. Later I painted my toenails (in lieu of a haircut), and made a Moroccan tagine which is still cooking long and slow on the stove. In the spirit of bonfires, I added extra ginger and cayenne to the recipe to give it a little more fire than usual.
One does not need to fast for days
and meditate for hours at a time to experience the sense of sublime mystery
which constantly envelops us.
–Simon Greenberg, from A Grateful Heart by MJ Ryan