A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths

Lag B’Omer (לַ״ג בָּעוֹמֶר‎). The Jewish 49-day Omer (sheaf) is the grain harvest period between Passover (Feast of Unleavened Bread) on 28 March and Shavuot (Festival of Weeks) on 16 May. It is the 2nd of the 3 annual Mosaic Law feast periods, a time of spiritual cleansing and preparation for receiving the Torah on Shavuot. The Lag B’Omer minor holiday is on the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, when the manna that fed the Israelites in the desert first appeared, and the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer (סְפִירַת הָעוֹמֶר), when weddings normally take place as they are not usually permitted during Omer. Haircuts are also permitted, Israelites plant trees and schoolchildren normally picnic and play outdoors with bows and arrows as a reminder of students’ battles in wars. This is a break from the semi-mourning of the Omer, on the day that a 2nd Century plague that killed 24,000 students, because they did not conduct themselves with respect for each other, ceased. Also, on the hillula (anniversary of the death) of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (the Rashbi), a Mishnaic (form of the Hebrew language found in the Talmud) sage in the 2nd century, and the day on which he revealed the deepest secrets of the kabbalah school of thought in Jewish mysticism. This association has led to traditions for the lighting of bonfires to symbolise the light he brought into the world. There is normally an annual pilgrimage of mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews to his reputed tomb in Meron but this was cancelled last year due to coronavirus restrictions. This year, the authorities authorised 10,000 people to gather at the site. However, buses took 30,000 pilgrims to the largest public gathering in Israel since the pandemic began and a massive stampede killed at least 44 people on the Friday. Image: israelforever.org.

Shōwa no Hi. Start of the 4 festivals of Japan’s Golden Week to 6 May, normally with the central Tokyo Meiji Shrine Spring Grand Festival to 3 May showcasing a variety of traditional performing arts in honour of the shrine’s deities. In addition to solemn Shinto rituals, performances normally include gagaku (ancient imperial court music), noh and kyogen (classical Japanese theatre); hogaku and hobu (classical Japanese dance), sankyoku (traditional Japanese chamber music) and Satsuma biwa (Japanese lute) music. Due to the pandemic, the Japanese will not be able to celebrate Golden Week with family travel. The 29 April Showa Day honours the birthday of Emperor Hirohito, the reigning Emperor from 1926 to 1989, before, during and after World War II. Traditionally, the Emperor’s birthday was a national holiday and after his death 29 April became Greenery Day as part of Golden Week and from 2005 was named Shōwa Day, Greenery Day being moved to 4 May. The official purpose of the holiday is to reflect on Japan’s 1926 to 1989 Showa era (昭和, Modern Showa) during the reign of Emperor Showa (Hirohito). The pre-1945 Empire of Japan Showa period was one of political totalitarianism, ultranationalism and statism culminating in Japan’s 1937 invasion of China as part of a global period of social upheavals, including the Great Depression and World War II. The post-1945 period of the State of Japan was when the nation recovered after the turbulent times to think about the future. Image: officeholidays.com.

Prayer Spirits of purification created for order and to inhabit the Sky, with all respect from the depth of our hearts we ask that you hear us and take away the evil, disasters and sins and purify us all. May you bless us and protect us for the expansion of our souls and the fulfilment of your will. アーメン

Holy Thursday (Covenant Thursday). Eastern Orthodox Holy Day, in the Byzantine Rite Great and Holy Thursday and in the Coptic Orthodox Church Thursday of the Covenant. The service today is the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great and also embodies the last moments of Christ’s life, according to Eastern Rite traditions ending with His Sabbath rest in the grave before sundown on Friday, the Sabbath and a Holy Day for the Jewish people. In the Bible, this Thursday is the day when Jesus and His Disciples shared the Last Supper. During this Supper, Jesus gave them bread and wine that had been mystically changed to His Body and Blood, the model for the Eucharist or Holy Communion. During the meal, Jesus also predicted the events that would follow, including His betrayal, the Denial of Peter and His Death and Resurrection. The events of the Last Supper, depending on the denomination, play varying roles in commemoration liturgies. Image: officeholidays.com.