Rabbi Dr. Raymond AppleRabbi Dr Raymond Apple AO RFD is Emeritus Rabbi of the Great Synagogue, Sydney. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem, where he publishes OzTorah, a weekly email list and website with Torah insights from an Australian perspective.
Q. On what dates in the Omer do we not have weddings?
A. The customs vary between communities. Some folklorists argue that the whole issue only arose when European culture frowned on weddings during the month of May and say that the Jews followed suit.
The traditional Jewish idea is that because Rabbi Akiva’s students perished during the Omer period, gravely affecting both the Jewish struggle against the Romans and the survival of Jewish learning and practice, we avoid weddings and other celebrations (though engagements are permitted) as a mark of mourning.
The dates during which we refrain from celebrations are differently calculated. The two main customs are:
1. From the 2nd day of Pesach until the 33rd day of the Omer (Lag Ba’Omer).
2. From Iyyar 2 until Erev Shavu’ot (except for Lag Ba’Omer).
The Anglo-Jewish custom (Minhag Anglia) was to avoid music and celebrations throughout Iyyar except for Lag Ba’Omer. Some rabbis allow weddings on Yom Atzma’ut, Israel Independence Day.
Q. Why is Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, on 27 Nisan?
A. The date was chosen by the Israeli Knesset for reasons that are unclear. To many people, other dates seem preferable and the Israeli Rabbinate did suggest them, e.g. 10 Tevet, a fast day marking the destruction of the Temple (religious schools in Israel do mark the Holocaust on this day); or – the more obvious choice – Tishah B'Av, the major day of commemoration.
The choice of 27 Nisan may be to mark the end of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, though the uprising continued for at least another week, or because a date before Yom Atzma'ut denotes the relationship of the Holocaust and the establishment of Israel.
The date in Nisan creates halakhic problems for observant Jews who do not say Tachanun (supplicatory prayers) during that month.