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Festival of Lag BaOmer resonates during pandemic



The Jewish festival of Lag BaOmer should resonate emotionally during this pandemic since it commemorates the end of a vicious medieval plague.


Beginning on the evening of May 11 and ending the evening of May 12, Lag BaOmer is traditionally celebrated with songs, feasts and a bonfire. Next week, Rabbi Israel Rubin (whose son Mordechai oversees the Chai Jewish Center in Colonie) is preparing a Lag BaOmer parade Tuesday at 10 a.m. that thanks the essential workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Between 10 and 20 vehicles decorated with rainbows, signs and posters will roll along New Scotland Avenue between Albany Medical Center and Saint Peter’s Hospital. 


The parade is called “Saluting Our Helpers.” Israel Rubin names the helpers in a statement: “They are the first responders, farmers, mail carriers, grocery store employees, pharmacists, factory workers, health care workers, delivery drivers, civil service employees, journalists – anyone working to keep us safe, healthy, informed and as close to our normal lives as possible.”


Lag BaOmer memorializes both a historic tragedy and a joyous landmark. 


The pestilence killed thousands of people before it was over, including 24,000 disciples of the renowned Talmudic sage, Rabbi Akiva. 

But Lag BaOmer also honors the day when one of Rabbi Akiva’s leading disciples revealed a luminous treasure, the Zohar or “Book of Splendor.” The Zohar’s wisdom plumbs the mysteries of psychology, God, man’s place in the universe and the Kabbalah’s mysticism.  

Lag BaOmer celebrates the resilience of the Jewish spirit. This year, the Rubins hope Americans can feel it as celebration of the human spirit.


Normally, Lag BaOmer celebrants gather around a bonfire that symbolizes spiritual light. There are songs and feasting. Mordechai Rubin says his father plans a Zoom program with music. Instead of a virtual bonfire, celebrants are invited to light candles at their homes.

“The Parade Saluting our Helpers will share the message that kindness, love and patience are also highly contagious,” Mordechai Rubin said, quoting a proverb, “mitzvah goreret mitzvah or one good deed brings another. Now, more than ever, we offer each other comfort and solidarity.” 


“It’s not enough to stop the coronavirus spread,” he continued. “We must unite around the universal values of hope and loving-kindness that inspires more kindnesses. Rainbows drawn in sidewalk chalk by little kids, rainbow art displayed in neighborhood windows are COVID-19-era symbols of hope.”

He’s reminded of the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark: “And rainbows are reminders of the covenant that the world will not be destroyed again.


Call 518-423-4103 or email [email protected] for more information or if you would like to help.

The Saluting Our Helpers parade is Tuesday at 10 a.m. and runs between New Scotland Avenue between Albany Medical Center and Saint Peter’s Hospital.

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