Lag B'Omer Four Worlds/Five Souls Ritual

Lag B'Omer is a minor Jewish holiday falling on the eighteenth day of Iyar, the thirty-third day of the Omer. The festival celebrates mystical revelation, marks the death of the mystic Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, and also remembers the first fall of manna. It is often celebrated with bonfires. This ritual would do well conducted around a bonfire! This year Lag B'Omer falls on the evening of May 26 and May 27.

Lag B’Omer falls on the thirty-third day of the Omer, which makes four weeks and five days of the Omer. Four is a sacred number representing wholeness; the four worlds, four directions, four elements, four mothers, four letters of God’s name. Five represents the sacred center: the five books of Moses, the five levels of the soul. Here is a Lag b’Omer ritual celebrating the four worlds and the five levels of soul, and preparing us for the revelation at Sinai and the festival of Shavuot.

Opening of the Circle:

The group chants:

B’shmah b’shmo beshem olamim
Eretz sh’mei shamayim veyamim
Anu ponim lema’gal hechayim

In the name of the Shekhinah, in the name of the Holy One,
in the name of the worlds,
in the name of earth, land, and sea,
we turn to face the circle of life.


This is the season of revelation. We prepare the world for revelation.

We light a candle (or, fire) to represent the fires of Sinai and of all truths.

We wash our hands in water to represent the Torah, which is compared to water. (Group should wash hands.)

We breathe in spices to represent the words of the Divine, which the midrash says smelled like fragrant spices. (Pass around spices.)

We put our hands to the earth to represent the rumblings of the earth when God spoke, for Torah comes from the earth as well as the heavens.

We welcome the sacred center, the Divine who rests upon the cherubim, the One of the Sea and of Sinai. We ask that You help us to bring all we have learned to light.

Leader or Reader:

Together we speak the words of the sage Shimon bar Yochai who died on this day:

“Now is the hour of desire. All holy words which have not appeared, I wish to reveal before the Holy Shekhinah, for until now I have kept secrets in my heart.”

(If desired, form small groups to discuss what truths have appeared to you this year. Did you embrace them? Avoid them? What truths have not yet come to you that you hope will come?)

Cleansing of the Five Souls

Leader or Reader:

The five levels of the soul are nefesh (body/life-force), ruach (emotions and attachments), neshamah (intellect and memory), chaya (life-path and spirit), and yechidah (unique essence). As the four corners of the world and the sacred center make up our outer world, so these levels of our soul make up our inner world. Each of these must be nourished so that it will thrive.

Spend a moment to meditate on which of these five souls are most in need of healing for you. (Note: If you have a deck of cards with images or words, people can draw a card to help them meditate on their chosen level of soul.) Think of what truth that level of soul has to teach you at this time.

(The group should be given five minutes for meditation.)

Each person should now share one word about what their soul has spoken during the ritual.

(Now, pass a candle or incense around the circle. Ask each person to wave the candle or incense five times around the next person, to represent the cleansing of each person’s five souls. The person being cleansed can tell the person doing the cleansing which level of soul they are focusing on if they wish to do so. The candle or incense should be waved west for nefesh, south for ruach, east for neshamah, north for chayah, and above for yechidah.

As the incense or candle is waved, the group will chant: nefesh, ruach, neshamah, chayah, yechidah.

When the last person has been prepared for revelation, the leader should walk the candle and wave it in the five directions to heal the soul of the world, while people call out things about the world they wish to heal.

Leader: Now our souls and the spirit of the world are prepared for revelation on Shavuot. Let the bonfires of Lag B'Omer light the way to new wisdom.

The group chants:

B’shmo b’shmah beshem olamim
Eretz sh’mei shamayim veyamim
Anu ponim lema’gal hechayim.

In the name of the Holy One, in the name of the Shekhinah,
in the name of the worlds,
in the name of earth, land, and sea,
we turn to face the circle of life.

Rabbi Jill Hammer is the founder of Tel Shemesh and the author of Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women.

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