On Sunday night Matthew visited several synagogues and a community centre in order to participate in celebrations for the Jewish festival of Lag B’Omer.
Lag B’Omer is a joyous day in the Jewish calendar for many reasons. Firstly, it is a celebration of the life of famous Jewish scholar Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who lived in biblical times and was credited with publicising the mysticism of Kabbalah, a section of Jewish teachings. On the day of his passing he instructed his students to mark the date as the ‘day of his joy.’ Lag B’Omer also commemorates a second festive event: the Jewish scriptures explain that during the weeks between the festivals of Passover and Shavuot, a plague raged among the students of the great sage Rabbi Akiva, killing thousands of his disciples because they did not respect each other. However, on Lag B’Omer, the students once again unified, and these deaths stopped. People therefore mark the day as one of festivity and celebration. It is customary for Jewish people to light bonfires and fireworks and to host large parties and feasts in honour of the occasion.
Matthew attended the celebrations at the Edgware Torah Community Centre, where he spoke to over 100 people about the important contribution that the Jewish community makes within local civic life, and he praised them for celebrating a festival with values of unity and respect.
He then visited the Lubavitch Synagogue in Edgware, where he was honoured to receive a blessing from Rabbi Sudak, before ending his night of celebrations with the Sephardi community of Netzach Yisroel Shaarei Chaim Synagogue.
Matthew said: “It was a great honour to be invited to so many celebrations for Lag B’Omer. The festival custom of lighting a bonfire gave heat at the first event I attended and light at the last. Most of all I witnessed people respecting each other and enjoying their shared company.”
Matthew is pictured speaking at Netzach Yisroel Shaarei Chaim Synagogue, receiving a blessing from Rabbi Sudak at the Lubavitch Edgware Synagogue, and enjoying a barbecue and speaking to the community at the Edgware Torah Centre