web analytics
July 1, 2015 / 14 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post


Lag BaOmer – One Big Mistake?

Bonfires of the Faithful

Bonfires of the Faithful
Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel / FLASH90

A few weeks (years, now) back DovBear discussed why we mourn during the sefira period (and why the currently espoused reasons may not be historically accurate). He then mentioned that the entire idea of medurot (bonfires) on Lag BaOmer is based on pagan customs. I think that the medurot idea could have come from the method of notifying the Jewish people in Galut of the arrival of the new Jewish Month (pre-SMS and internet).

However, there was a fascinating article in this past Shabbat’s Makor Rishon newspaper saying that the entire idea of partying on Lag BaOmer is based on… a typo.

The Talmudic Researcher Rav Avraham Kosman arrives at the conclusion that not only is the entire Lag BaOmer festival — of bonfires, going to Meiron, commemerating the death of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai — a big mistaken, but that the idea of a Hilula (celebration) to commemerate the death of tzaddikim is mistaken.

I’ll translate the main highlights of the article (from the Hebrew)

In year 363 of the common era, a terrible earthquake rocked Eretz Yisrael causing tremendous damage to Yerushalayim and loss of life….it occurred on Lag BaOmer. As a result, Lag BaOmer became a day of fasting and prayer.

There is no Mishnaic or Talmudic reference to Lag BaOmer, except that the students of Rabbi Akiva died in a plague between Pesach and Shavuot since they didn’t act kindly to each other. Many accept that it’s unlikely that Rabbi Akiva actually had 24,000 students learning in his yeshiva (Lakewood today has how many? 3000?) and this was a reference to Bar Kochba’s soldiers rebelling against Rome. To keep all references to Jewish rebellion to a minimum, the Gemara referred to these soldiers as “students of Rabbi Akiva.”

Rabbi Eliezer HaKalir wrote a kina (lament) for Lag BaOmer, also attributed as the yahrtzeit of Yehoshua Bin Nun. Fragments from the Cairo Geniza recollect the fast of Lag BaOmer commemerating the Yehoshua’s yahrtzeit and “The Earthquake” (from year 363).

So…when did Lag BaOmer appear on the scene as a day when the mourning laws of sefira stop? When and why did it make the change from a day of fasting and mourning to a day of bonfires, weddings and merriment?

The Ari, (R’ Yitzchak Luria) went to the grave of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai (on Har Meiron in the Galil) during the days of the month of Iyar. He also went to the graves of Hillel and Shammai (also in the Galil) and prayed there as well…and somehow the idea that commemerating theyahrtzeit of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai became connected to Lag BaOmer.

The original prayers of the Ari were to beseech for a good year of wealth, and slowly the idea of commemerating a yahrtzeit went from a solemn day to one of a “hilula” (the way sephardrim and chassidim commemerate a yahrtzeit…with food, drink, and more…)

Now, the Ari didn’t write any of his books. They were all written by his student Rav Chaim Vital, and he had a monopoly on the Ari’s teachings. For 15 years, he refused to allow anyone to read his books and writings about the Ari.

Till one day…Rav Vital fell very ill. A wealthy person bribed Rav Vital’s brother with 50 gold coins — and hired 100 scribes to complete the mammoth task of copying all of Rav Vital’s manuscripts relating to the Ari…in 3 days!

Soon, all of the illegally copied manuscripts were published and available to all…yet in the haste to copy everything in 3 days, the following error occurred (according to Rav Kosman).

In the original, hand written document of Rav Vital, it says the Lag BaOmer was “יום שמחת רשב”י” — the day of happiness of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai (for being saved from the “plague – or Romans). The scribe copied it down as the abbreviated יום שמ’ רשב”י” which further was modified by the publishers to יום שמת רשב”י”, the day Rav Shimon Bar Yochai died.

Rav Shimon Bar Yochai was saved on Lag BaOmer from the “plague” (meaning he wasn’t killed that day), but there isn’t any historical record that he died on Lag BaOmer.

Let’ add the following:

The Chatam Sofer asked, critical about Lag BaOmer: (and that’s even with the Chatam Sofer accepting that Rav Shimon Bar Yochai died on Lag BaOmer!)

“Since when is it that the day a tzaddik dies is a holiday?” “How can there be a holiday for a day when no miracle occurred and isn’t mentioned in the Mishna, Talmud, or any hint at all in the Tanach?”

So…why do we do this all on Lag BaOmer?

If it’s a good excuse for bonfire, who am I to challenge tradition…

Please note: everything I wrote is from the article I linked to in Hebrew. I suggest you read through it yourself if you can – many more interesting historical tidbits.

About the Author: Jameel blogs at the Muqata: http://www.muqata.com, but these days extensively posts on Facebook. Follow Jameel at https://www.facebook.com/Muqata Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “Lag BaOmer – One Big Mistake?”

  1. Cheri Fistel says:

    There was a full moon-malacha lava 32. Who am I to believe; thejewishpress.com, or my lying eyes?

  2. Joels Davidi says:

    who cares…people like to have a good time…and kids need some time off too..

Comments are closed.

muqata logo 486x300
Current Top Story
Future guard? Arab child with Hamas headband aims toy rifle on the Temple Mount after prayers in the Al Aqsa mosque.
Shin Bet Foils Nascent Hamas Coup in Palestinian Authority Territories
Latest Blogs Stories
Doug Goldstein

What is human chess? How easy is it to predict the actions of others?

Rethink UN bias against Israel

It’s time to stand up against the bias & no longer accept the constant UN prejudice against Israel.

Malachi Moshe Rosenfeld, one of four injured in a terror attack near the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel, north of Ramallah, has died (HYD)

Malachi Moshe Rosenfeld, injured in a terror attack in Samaria, has died (HYD)

A wounded Israeli victim of a drive-by shooting terror attack near Shvut Rachel is brought to the Shaarei Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem.

Allah is NOT merciful: Stabbing, beheading, shooting innocents is barbaric & cowardly acts of terror

How could the Jerusalem Post think the attack could have been other than a terrorist act?

Going to Mt of Olives cemetery was like visiting Jurassic Park in a jeep with dinosaurs rampaging

Hanan Porat z”l, teary-eyed said ” We returned to the Gush(Etzion)we shall return to the Gush(Katif)

“Mispachology”: Theory you share a common link with someone you’ve never met or been in contact with

It seems that Pres. Rivlin has joined all other so-called Right politicians and now is trending Left

Dear Muslims, Happy Ramadan. It’s clear from the news that your people are having a “bang-up” month

The President was right, every Jew should have a gun. He just asked the wrong person about it.

Everybody knows that during Ramadan Arab Muslim terror attacks increase.

UN says Hamas tried to warn us of rocket attacks? I was here. Not once did those…I want to scream

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Emes Ve-Emunah} The inevitable finally happened. Rabbi Avi Weiss has dispensed with his prior refusal to call his female ordainees ‘rabbis’.  I challenged him to stop dancing around that title with made up titles  (like Raba and Maharat) and he finally rose to the challenge. His motivation in not […]

How can you transform thinking to action? What are the mountains you need to climb to reach goals?

Let’s make these flotilla activists useful, by sending them to Syria.

More Articles from Jameel@Muqata

The self-inflicted daily decline of humanity of the Gazans has reached another new low.

“Said Rabbi Yochanan: Happy are those who see the fall of Tadmor…” (Talmud Yerushalmi)

Throw something from a cow onto the fire…

Shaked is known as an outspoken and intelligent advocate for Zionism and democracy.

The kibbutz had complained of hearing underground noises.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/muqata/lag-baomer-one-big-mistake/2013/04/27/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: