Lag B’Omer arrives on Saturday-night Sunday. It marks a turning point in the journey from Pesach to Shavuot. Traditionally it’s marks the day when the plague lifted from the students of Rabbi Akiva and we, as a Synagogue, re-open for wedding business. Traditionally Lag B’Omer is marked with archery.
Lag B’Omer is also the Yartzheit of another of the great Talmudic figures, Rabbi Shimon Bar Zakkai, a figure of such saintliness that, it is claimed, no rainbow was seen during his life (a rainbow being a understood as a sign that the people deserved to be punished, but God expresses instead of punishment the commitment no longer to destroy the planet).
It’s not the most satisfying of answers. But there is something in archery that seems most interesting.
The Hebrew root hidden in the word Torah is Yud Reish Hey – to shoot or to aim. It’s an archery term. In other words Torah is drawing a bow back, aiming and letting our intention lose. Thinking about archery becomes the very same thing as Torah. Give a bow inadequate attention or commitment and the arrow will fall miserably away. The more effort put into the process the more true the shot. But striking a target, let alone striking the bull’s eye, requires training and perseverance. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a go at archery, but there is something quite beautiful about seeing it performed at the highest level. For the elite archer the world seems to fall away leaving only the purity of the thing itself. All of that I recognise from my practice of Judaism.
So we should draw back our bows, give our Torah and our aiming the effort and concentration it deserves. Shoot well and ‘Torah well.’