Raz Chen
Raz Chen

L’ag B’Omer teaches us what is worth celebrating

 L’Ag B’Omer is a holiday in honor of the Bar Kochba rebellion against the Romans for Jewish Independence, which happened in 132 AD.

Unfortunately, the victory was short-lived. 4 years later, the Jewish rebellion was mercilessly put down. According to Roman historian Cassius Dio, more than half a million Jews died in the war, and even more people dying of disease and starvation. Many of the survivors of the war were sold into slavery.  The Jewish exile lasted almost nineteen hundred years more.

As a former IDF soldier, I try to wrap my mind around half a million soldiers falling in battle. Two weeks ago, we mourned 23,928 soldiers who fell in the battle over the last 160 years.  The pain and loss felt overwhelming to me. I don’t want to even imagine that loss multiplied by twenty, and happening in only four short years.

I won’t even try to imagine the pain from those who starved to death or were sold into slavery, or the devastation of the families left behind. to mourn.

So why do we still celebrate this holiday?

I believe we do because La’g Boomer teaches us the right approach to failure.

We make an honest self-assessment. What could we have done better? What mistakes did we make? What happened that was out of our control.

We then learn whatever lessons we can for the future, so that this doesn’t happen again.

It’s the final step that people often skip, which is extremely important.  We put the past behind us and strive to do even better the next day.

This approach makes even failure seem less bitter.

We can still celebrate that we tried.  We can still celebrate we have learned how to be better. We celebrate our commitment to keeping on improving.

Coming from the world of Krav Maga, everything was a battle. Krav Maga is street fighting. If you lost, you faced serious injury or even death.

The body’s response to such stresses is extremely powerful, but not very sustainable. Too much of the cortisol running through our bodies will actually harm us. That is why I have spent much of my quarantine time studying wellness.

I became interested in learning about how to live day-to-day life in an efficient and healthy way.

The first step is accepting that this isn’t a street situation. We won’t always win every battle in wellness. It may not be life or death, but it can still feel very upsetting.

  • We have that second cookie when we know we should have stopped at one.
  • We snap angrily at a loved one when we should have been patient and listened.
  • We are thoughtless when we should have been aware.
  • We skip a workout because we slept in.
  • We don’t accomplish our goals for the day.
  • We have a terrible fitness class and feel demoralized.

It’s easy to fall into despair. It’s easy to say “Okay, I failed once, what’s the point to keep trying?”

We can stop seeing our self-worth and just beat ourselves up. They just get stuck in blaming themselves and can’t move on.

However, La’g Bomer is there to remind us that we should not wallow in sadness and self-pity.

We can choose to start fresh and do better. That attitude is something worth celebrating.

My best students weren’t always the ones who had the most natural talent, but they were always the ones who could have a terrible lesson, and then come back the next day, having learned from their mistakes, recharged their batteries, and were ready to try again. They saw setbacks as a lesson, not as a personal failure.

That consistency and ability to move forward through adversity truly made them great.

As Jews light up the bonfires in the dark night, they are telling the world that they didn’t give up hope.  Even when they were expelled, forced into ghettos, and even murdered, the Jewish people kept up their culture and believed that someday, they would return to their homeland.

Because they did not fall into despair, we have a state today.

I hope everyone reading this will apply these lessons to your own life.

Stop dwelling on failures.

Make an honest assessment, make a plan and then put that plan into action.

That’s how you light the way to future successes.

Finding the balance (picture of me taken by a friend, source: https://www.instagram.com/raz.maga/)
About the Author
Raz Chen is an Experts II Instructor at Krav Maga Experts in New York City, with multiple certifications from the Sports Academy in Israel, and Wingate Institute. A former special operations infantry combatant and Senior military Krav Maga instructor, Raz taught over 10,000 soldiers, including top special forces counter-terrorism and US Marines. He currently teaches classes and seminars for army, police, and civilians in topics like counter-terrorism, rape prevention, Krav Maga instructor certification, Krav Maga combat, and fitness. He is a certified Yoga Instructor and has created his own class “Element” which incorporates body awareness, balance, and movement. He can be found on Instagram and his personal website.
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