Counting the Days
We often talk about how we are "counting the days" before an eagerly anticipated event. That's exactly what we do beginning on the second night of Pesach - we begin counting the days until the next festival. The mitzvah of sefirat ha-omer - counting the days (the term omer refers to the barley offering that was offered in the Temple on the second day of Pesach) prepares us for the joy of commemorating the revelation of our Law on Mount Sinai.
The Omer period between Pesach and Shavuot carries mournful overtones owing to a plague that killed 24,000 scholars, students of Rabbi Akiba, in the Talmudic period. ("Plague" could be interpreted to mean "Roman soldiers" as these events took place during the Bar Kochba revolt.) But on the thirty-third day of the Omer period - Lag ba-Omer - the mood turns celebratory.
Shavuot itself is the "odd man out" among the three Pilgrimage Festivals (Sukkot, Pesach, Shavuot). It's short, and its observance involves no special foods and rituals aside from maybe eating blintzes and staying up all night studying. As such, it is known by the Rabbis as "The Season of Acting Like a College Student."
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