Question: Why do we interrupt sefirah mourning on Lag B’Omer? When a person observes a personal mourning period (for the loss of a loved one), he never takes a “break” no matter what. Why should sefirah be different?
Answer: Last week we cited both the Aruch Hashulchan and Vilna Gaon, who explain why we interrupt the sefirah mourning period with the celebration of Lag B’Omer.
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There is a fundamental difference between personal mourning and the sefirah mourning period. When mourning the loss of a loved one – specifically the relatives for whom one must sit shiva (a father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, or spouse) – one may not shave his hair, giluach (Orach Chayim 390:1, based on Moed Kattan 14a). During sefirah, however, only cutting one’s hair is prohibited, tasporet (which does not include shaving).
Additionally, sefirah commemorates a specific event and lasts 33 days. Thus, since we mentioned last week in the name of Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chayim 493:7) that the students of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying on Lag B’Omer, we celebrate that day as a mini yom tov on which we relax mourning practices.
About the Author: Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of eight sefarim on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer the Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and select Judaica stores.
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