Lag B’omer’s Musical Traditions in Israel

Lag B’omer is celebrated Wednesday evening, May 22-23. The Omer is the Hebrew term for the 49-day period between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot. This period commemorates the Spring harvest, and at the end, the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people. Lag B’omer is the 33rd day of this period, a Jewish holiday that serves as a break from this period of semi-mourning. It is the only day between Passover and Shavuot where weddings and other celebrations are permitted. Today, many Israelis celebrate this holiday by lighting bonfires and spending time outdoors. The bonfires are a symbolic act reminding all that light is provided by the eternal fire found in the Torah. Many religious Israelis travel to the small northern Israeli town of Meron, the grave site of revered Rabbinic figures Hillel, Shammai and Shimon bar-Yochai. Lag B’omer in Meron is in fact one of the largest annual celebrations in Israel, where nearly one million Jews (from Israel and the diaspora) congregate to light fires, eat, sing songs and celebrate this festive break in the long, somber period of mourning. Some of Israel’s biggest names in religious music come, and it is common to find dozens of jam sessions and groups of people singing traditional, religious songs known as niggunim as well as other Hebrew and even Yiddish folk songs written about the holiday

A video of orthodox men singing and dancing to traditional Lag B’omer songs at the opening ceremonies for the holiday celebration in Meron, 2015. This video is more than hour in length and well worth seeing for the ritual, dance and song it captures. 

Perhaps, one of the most well-known songs sung during Lag B’omer is “HaFinjan” (the coffee pot). It is a lively Israeli folk song written by iconic Palmach band leader, Chaim Heffer and performed by singer Yaffa Yarkoni. The song tells a story of making coffee on an open fire in the land of Israel. A classic tune often sung on Lag B’omer, this song is one example of a secular folk song that has become an Israeli tradition on this religious holiday.