The Museum of

       Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays



Friends and teachers from Cheder Yavne, parade with Jewish flags on a Lag B'Omer outing, Makow Mazowiecki, Poland, cir 1932.
USHMM, courtesy of Stanley Glogover

Lag B'Omer

Celebration of the Harvest
Ozarow, Poland

The holiday of the Omer is a celebration of the harvest, lasting from the second day of Passover to the holiday of Shavuot .

But since the failure of the last attempts at independence during the time of Bar-Kochba, the days of the Omer have been a time of mourning. Only the third day of the Omer (Lag B'Omer), when the plague that was destroying the Jews miraculously ceased, is a day of joy.

During the period of the Omer it is forbidden to the Jews to rejoice, to cut their hair, to make music or even to get married, except on Lag B'Omer itself.

During the period of the Omer it is forbidden to the Jews to rejoice, to cut their hair, to make music or even to get married, except on Lag B'Omer itself.

On that day, we also celebrate the memory of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai whose tomb is at Merona near Safed in the Galilee. Jews from all over Israel gather in Merona to dance and light candles at the tomb. There are sports and games of all kinds, and bonfires are lit.

In Ozarow, the children would celebrate the holiday by setting off little firecrackers in the woods. These were harmless products contained in little blue paper tubes that were ejected from little spark-making "rockets", which the children made themselves by attaching the firecrackers to a 25 centimetre string; an old latch key was attached to one end and a nail to the other. At that time you couldn't buy any toy like that. Each cheder pupil would use his imagination to make the strings jump higher.

Some time in 1927 or 1928, a new "Menachel" or principal of the cheder was appointed. He came from Byelo-Russia, where at that time Russian was spoken more than Polish. For Lag B'Omer, this new Menachel organized a picnic for us in the woods close to Ozarow. He taught us a new song for the occasion which extolled the values of one God for the world. The song was a mixture of Russian and Polish, in the rhythm of a march to accompany our walk to the forest.

Our mothers prepared the day's food for each of us, and we gathered in the synagogue square. With each teacher at the head of his class, we marched in twos down the Main Street, singing our new song. All heads turned to look at us, since such a procession of pupils from the Jewish school was a novelty in Ozarow. At the crossroads near Liberty Square we turned right, up Ostrowiecka Street.

At the outskirts of the village, we came upon a Polish blacksmith who was repairing a cart and shodding his horse. Another blacksmith from another village had just arrived also. Surprised to hear Jewish boys singing in Russian, they started to disperse us roughly, accusing the teachers of being Bolsheviks.

The teachers and the Menachel, anxious to a void a pretext for a pogrom, decided to bring us back to the village. So there was no picnic in the woods, but the holiday took place anyway, with the little string rockets and prayers at the synagogue.

-- From Memories of Ozarow, by Hillel Adler


Ożarów 10

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