Lag BaOmer, A Day of Hod / Splendor

Here’s a translation of Reb Zalman’s writings on Lag BaOmer from his Sefer Yishmiru Da-at.  The original text in Hebrew and English plus some background are provided below.  Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

Lag BaOmer
excerpt from Yishmiru Daat
by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Lag baOmer – is Hod sheb’Hod / splendor of splendor (in the accounting of Sefirah).

(Genesis 32:25) “And he touched the hollow of his thigh and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was sprained, etc.,” which was [the thigh of] the left leg, Hod / splendor, (cf., Pardes Rimonim Shaar 17 ch. 1).

And the one who wrestled, i.e., Esau’s guardian angel, had not wanted Jacob, (who is Tiferet / majestic beauty, presence, mercy), to feel his own beauty (yafyo), and his attack was intended to diminish his esteem, as though he had no Hod / splendor whatsoever.  And one who is smitten like this may think that s/he has no chen  / grace, Hod  / splendor or yofi / beauty, but rather, s/he may think s/he is ugly.

However, when a perceived external reality appears to indicate some turn for the worse in one’s grace, one may nonetheless feel, at core, that one is in Hod sheb’Hod  / splendor of splendors; one may yet feel this at a time when one’s inside, innermost places cannot access a shemen sasson / oil of gladness meant to revitalize oneself when one loses one’s sense of chen / grace.  For this reason, we pray when we count the Omer on Lag BaOmer:  “May it be Your will… that in the merit of the Omer count that I have counted today, that there be corrected whatever blemish I have caused in the Sefirah Hod she-b’Hod,” i.e. those times when within one’s innermost places one feels a sense of ugliness.

And thanks to R’ Shimon Bar Yochai, (Zohar III, 288) we learn, “with one bond I have connected Myself,” i.e. one feels that God lifts up Hir countenance upon one, (cf., Numbers 6:25-6) on the level of “and S/He will grace YOU,” and with this the Sefirah is repaired.

And since one plays with bows and arrows on Lag BaOmer, aiming at the target, (cf Tikunei Zohar 36: “This sign shall be on your hands, until a bow of colored lights are revealed from whence you least expected, Messiah’s forerunner,”) this vision, through prayers and supplications, (cf., Targum Onkelos in the Rashi on Genesis 48:22), “which I wrested from the Amorites with wisdom and prayer,” (literally, “sword and bow”).

There’s another point:  The Sefirah of Hod is what was  created on the fifth day, i.e., the blessing of the fishes and the birds (Genesis 1:22), so that their movements would be with Hod / splendor, and not with riot and this is especially apparent in the field, in the stream and the forest – therefore, let’s go into the fields, etc., (cf., I Samuel 20:35).

And also, from the thirty-third day of the Omer, the dying of the students of Rabbi Akiva ceased (Yevamos 62b: – Tur and Beit Yosef Orach Chaim 693), from which we learn, “They did not treat each other with respect,” they did not see the chen / grace of their fellows, and when the failing fixed itself, they merited a return to long days.



Gabbai Seth’s Commentary:

Lag B’omer is the 33rd day of the Omer.  For those who treat the forty-nine days from Pesach to Shavuot as a time of mourning, Lag BaOmer is a day when haircuts, marriages, and all celebrations and festivities are permitted because it marks the day of the end of the plague that was suffered by Rabbi Akiva’s students.

In the counting of the Omer, Lag B’Omer is the fifth day of the week of the fifth week, which is Hod Sheb’Hod according to our counting, (this year, Monday night, May 11th over Tuesday May 12th 2009).  Each week of our counting, there is one day when the Sefirot double up as on Lag BaOmer:  Second day of Passover is day 1, Chesed Sheb’Chesed.  Then day 9 is Gevurah Sheb’Gevurah.  Day 17 is Tiferet Sheb’Tiferet.  Day 25 is Netzach Sheb’Netzach.  Day 33 is Hod Sheb’Hod (lag b’omer).  Day 41 is Yesod sheb’Yesod.  And Day 49 is Malchut Sheb’Malchut (erev Shavuot).

Hod / splendor is like the shine on the apple.  It’s like wrapping a present in nice paper and tying a bow.  Hod she b’Hod is the shine of the shine, a day to focus on beauty and splendor irregardless of the contents.

In Patach Eliahu from Tikunei Zohar (cf.,, the Sefirot are associated with different body parts:

Hesed—the ‘Right Arm’
Gevurah—the ‘Left Arm’
Tiferet—the ‘Trunk’
Nezah and Hod—the two ‘Thighs’
Y’sod—the trunk’s ‘Extremity’
—sign of the Covenant most holy.
Malkhuth—the ‘Orifice’
—the oral Torah

(These line up with the chakras too.)

When the angel wrestled with Jacob and he sprained his hip, we read that it was his left hip, it was Jacob’s Hod that the angel was attacking.  He was attacking this because Jacob’s strength lay in his knowledge that he was beautiful.  Jacob had a lot of Tiferet, beauty and splendor, (Jacob’s Sefirah is Tiferet) and the angel was Esau’s guardian angel.  It was the night before Jacob was about to meet Esau, and Esau’s guardian angel came and wrestled with him that night and, the reason he sprained his left leg, in particular, is that he wanted to adversely impact Jacob’s ability to see himself in an attractive light, to see himself filled with Hod.  And he says, nonetheless when we feel we are being attacked, that someone is saying that we are not as attractive as we think, or maybe as time passes and we are not as beautiful as we once thought we were, then if we can feel that one is in the place of Hod sheb’Hod, then even if our outward appearance is not one of beauty, or if our body isn’t working the way it once did, we can somewhat offset this on Lag B’omer, by tapping into Hod sheb’hod, which will enable us to get past our sense of ugliness.

A sense of ugliness is the thing that is going to prevent us from being godly on this day.  On every day, the Sefirot combination in the counting provide an ideal vision and the counting of the Omer reminds us to tap into the ideal.  By focusing on the ideal we will get to a place where we can possibly bring a little more of the God-energy into the world.  Bringing the God-energy into the world, we can hopefully make the world a better place.

So by focusing on the Hod sheb’hod on lag b’omer we’re able to offset the ugliness that took us to that place and maybe make the world a little more beautiful.

The other thing he says is that prayer has a certain effectiveness to it.  The more we come to God in prayer, the more we can access those ideal places.  Prayer is a time where we may experience a discrepancy between our ideals and the reality.  And as we pray and as we read about the beauty and the wonder and the glory of the Creator we are sometimes reminded about the fact that we’re not in that place; we’re not in the place where we feel glory and wonder and splendor; e.g., we may be in a place where we feel tired, and kvetchy and disappointed.  Maybe we’re disappointed with the synagogue, the Rabbi or the Cantor, or our friends or family, or our work, etc.

But at the same time as we feel disappointment, we have to recognize that if we weren’t connected to the ideal, we wouldn’t feel a pain in the gap between reality and the ideal.  So the prayer work helps us in our ability to stretch to the ideal, to bring our world toward the ideal.

So the prayer is a real important part of this.

Another point is that Hod is associated with the fifth day of creation and there was a blessing for the fish and birds and, if we look at the ways that fish and birds move, it’s amazing that they’re not crashing into one another.  There’s a kind of Hod / elegance to the way they move.

Finally, on the 33rd day, the Talmud speaks about the students of Rabbi Akiva and they did not treat one another with respect.  And so we must all support one another in our studies.

4 Responses to “Lag BaOmer, A Day of Hod / Splendor”

  1. Jeffrey Shapiro Says:

    As well as all said so well by Reb Zalman and Gabbai Seth, and thanks to them… Hod appears most directly to us as Aaron, Cohen Gadol / high priest, who, in his deepest completeness, his essence which shines in all worlds, is the control, the powerful self-control, which is manifest on Yom Kippur, as he enters, with complete Yirah / sense of awe, the Kodesh Kodashim / Holy of Holies. This, then, is Hod Sh’b Hod. Passing through the curtain, Aaron becomes the Cohen Gadol and nothing else; his personality is butil / as nought, his self is butil / as nought, he is only a one who serves The One. And, in his Four entries and exits, his attention, intention, and behavior are, as he has learned, re-creating, for us below, the Four Worlds above. Hod Sh’b Hod. The chen / grace, shining, is the glowing reward which can also be given us when we attend, intend, and behave with the strength to overcome those moments when we can’t imagine that we can truly serve the One. Hod Sh’b Hod.

  2. Schemuel Says:

    I need to come up with a speech on 41st day of Omer, which is Yesod sheb’Yesod.

    Could you give me some ideas/ thoughts for such a speech please?

  3. Gabbai Seth Fishman (Blog Editor) Says:

    Schemuel: Please see the following:

  4. Schemuel Says:

    Dear Rav Fishman:

    Thank you so much for your e-mail, as I’m IY’H getting married that day, and plan on a short speech.

    Kol Tuv,


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