Cultivating Ancestral Connection: A Lag B’omer Invitation
by Taya Shere
“You are the exquisite product of thousands of years of your ancestors best hopes and dreams.” – Belleruth Naparstek
As we journey from the Passover full moon of liberation toward the Shavuot holiday of revelation, we arrive at Lag B’omer, the 33rd day of the omer. Lag B’omer is traditionally honored with bonfires and hillula – festive pilgrimage to the gravesite of tzadikim, or righteous ones – with particular reverence for R’ Shimon Bar Yochai, the second century rabbi who is said to have transmitted the mystical teaching known as the Zohar, and who asked that his students be in grand celebration on the anniversary of his death. Lag B’omer invites celebration of the immense gifts that our greatest teachers bring into our lives, rather than mournful prayer.
Jewish tradition asks us to honor the wisdom of our foremothers and forefathers, and prioritizes practices of ancestral reverence including yahrzeit observance, kaddish recitation, and graveside pilgrimage. Yet systemic oppression, violence & either chosen or forced diaspora along our blood or family lineages has led many of us to experience fracture from these lineages, and from the idea that we can cultivate and tend direct connection with our benevolent ancestors.
While some of us pilgrimage graveside to be amidst the transmission of our teachers, many of us seek ancestral connection closer to home. This Lag B’omer, consider the possibility that we each have loving and wise ancestors who are available to connect with us as a source of blessing, support and healing. Tending these relationships can bring a sense of belonging and optimize our unique gifts as the living face of these lineages.
When we think of ancestors, many of us call to mind our beloved dead - the ones we knew, of whom we have stories and memories. But if these ones are not well in spirit, we may be wise to hold a boundary with them, welcoming connection instead with bright and benevolent ancestral support from further back – toward ancience if needed – on our specific blood or family lineages. We may know nothing from story or genealogy about these ancient ones, but if we understand consciousness to extend beyond the living, well ancestors from much further back may indeed be available to us as a positive resource. Relating directly with bright and benevolent blood & family lineage ancestors, while simultaneously creating boundaries with troubled dead – holding an intention of eventually inviting the well ancestors to support their healing – can be a profound source of support.
This Lag B’omer, consider cultivating and tending your relationship with benevolent ancestors on your particular ancestral lineages. Welcome connection with a righteous ancestor – perhaps one new to you, far beyond remembered stories or names. You might invite this connection by simply sitting in a quiet place and turning your attention simultaneously inward and toward them. Or welcome them through an act of creation. Cook a particular dish, pray a sacred text, or make music or art that you sense may have resonance for a particular lineage. Place a stone – as a memory marker and a portal between worlds – at a spot in nature where you experience peace. This Lag B’omer, give attention to your greatest desires and dreams in relation to your ancestral lines – be it connection, healing, or clearer boundaries – and listen for what comes.
This article was written first published on the Tikkun Magazine website, and was written amidst creative conversation with Rabbi Mike Moskowitz, whose own article on Lag B’omer was published simultaneously in Tikkun.