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June 26, 2016 / 20 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘bonfire’

Tens of Thousands Rejoice in Lag B’Omer Celebration at Rashbi’s Tomb on Mt. Meron [video]

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

The mystical mountain of Mount Meron rang out with music and song into the wee hours of Thursday morning as Jews celebrated the holiday of Lag B’Omer at the Tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, and that of his son, close by.

“Lag” stands for the two Hebrew letters, Lamed and Gimel, which equal 33. The holiday falls on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer – the seven-week period between Passover and Shavuot, the holiday marking the day on which the Nation of Israel received the Torah at Mount Sinai.

Tens of thousands of Jewish men and women from all walks of life streamed into the area around the Tomb of the RaShBI, as he is called, and his son (who is also buried there), for this is the day on which Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai left this world, and passed to the next.

Rabbi Shimon knew the Romans would soon come to capture him, as he was a great spiritual and Cabbalistic leader at the time. He therefore fled with his son to a cave where the two men were fed by a carob tree, and drank from a pure spring that miraculously appeared.

The rabbi and his son spent 12 years in that cave, until the death of Caesar. But when he emerged, he saw a farmer tilling a nearby field, and became so upset at the apparent “waste of time from Torah learning” that his gaze actually set fire to the field. The rabbi returned to the cave for another 12 months, to begin to adjust to normal day-to-day life.

It is to mark that fiery response by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai that bonfires are lit on the night of Lag B’Omer each year.

But the holiday also marks the cessation of the deadly plague that took the lives of 24,000 students of the Talmudic sage, Rabbi Akiva – which miraculously ended on this day as well. According to the Talmud, the plague was sent by Heaven as punishment for the students’ disrespectful behavior to one another; each was jealous of the other. They denigrated each other even as they competed to reach ever higher levels of spirituality.

The tradition of celebrating the holiday at RaShBI’s tombb in Meron spans thousands of generations, drawing Jews from around the world. This year, literally tens of thousands of Jews reached the site.

According to the Magen David Adom emergency medical response service, 150 people were treated on site for light burns, dehydration and excessive drinking. Of those, 17 taken to nearby Ziv Hospital in Tzfat and Poriya Medical Center for further care. Two were listed in fair to serious condition due to alcohol poisoning.

MDA and other medical services maintained a broad spectrum of staff and equipment at the site with two clinics, ambulances, first-aid motorbikes, tractor bikes and Segways.

Hana Levi Julian

The Curious Customs of Lag B’Omer [photos]

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Of all the strange things we Jews do to commemorate our holidays, Lag B’Omer has got to have some of the stranger customs with particularly vague and questionable origins. In fact, there’s only a few hints to Lag B’Omer before the 17th century, when we start to see some of the customs popularized.

The 33rd day of counting the Omer between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot commemorates the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi), who revealed Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah) to the Jewish people (or at least to his disciples) after hiding from the Romans for 13 years in a cave in the town of Peki’in.

Normally when someone dies, we’re not particularly happy, and we don’t memorialize his death with celebrations.

So some question if Rashbi really died (שמת) on that day, or if we think so because of a printing error in a book, and it was actually a day Rashbi was happy (שמח) about an a particular event.

And then there’s that matter of the revolt against the Romans. Depending on which version of the story you hear, it’s the day when the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying – either because the Romans stopped killing them (because they killed them all), or the plague that was killing them was over.

To start off the celebrations, we make bonfires, very big bonfires, and pretty much try to burn anything that’s isn’t nailed down. And if it is nailed down, that what crowbars are for.

Lag B'Omer

Lag B'omer Photos by Yaakov Naumi/Flash90

LAG BA'OMER Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

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Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Sometimes the fire department has to be called out.

Firefighters in Bnei Brak on Lag B'Omer

Firefighters in Bnei Brak on Lag B’Omer. Firefighter Photos by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

LAG BA'OMER

Many people (and we mean quite a lot) go to Meron for Lag B’Omer to light those bonfires.

Meron is where Rashbi is buried. That we know for sure.

The bonfires either represent the intense light and fire introduced by Rashbi, or alternatively it was the signalling method the students of Rabbi Akiva used to let the others know they were still alive or that the Romans were coming.

Then there’s the bow and arrow. If you’re looking at the military explanation, it’s kind of self-explanatory.

Jewish men shooting a bow and arrow in Meron on Lag B'omer

Jewish men shooting a bow and arrow in Meron on Lag B’omer. Photo by Moshe Azriel/Flash90

Another strange explanation is that the students of Rabbi Akiva told the Romans they were carrying their bows and arrows to hunt animals, when in reality they were going into the woods to learn Torah together. In those years, the Romans were busy outlawing Jewish practices (Shabbat, Brit Mila and Learning Torah).

But seriously, have you ever heard of a Jewish person hunting an animal for food? We shecht (slaughter) our animals with a very sharp ritual knife. Did the Romans really believe that? Or is this just another obfuscation of the Jewish revolt?

The spiritual explanation has to do with the story that no rainbows (קשת=bow) were seen in the sky during Rashbi’s lifetime. The rainbow has a mixed connotation. It’s a reminder that God promised Noah that He would never again destroy the world by flood, but it’s also a reminder that humanity sinned gravely and is still sinning and deserves punishment but God is holding back.

And then we have the Upsherin, the custom where 3-year-old boys get their first haircut – except for the payos (sidelocks).

Again, this is a custom that only a few hundred years old, and has no clear connection to Lag B’Omer that we are aware of. But it is exciting to give your 3-year-old a haircut for the first time and watch him transform from a toddler to a child.

An Upsherin

An Upsherin. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/Flash90

LAG BA'OMER

One thing is for sure, Lag B’Omer beats Burning Man hands down.

Photo of the Day

Preparing for Lag B’Omer

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Chareidi children build a big bonfire for tonight’s upcoming celebrations of the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer, in Jerusalem.

Lag B’Pmer commemorates the Yartzheit, the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), one of the most important Talmudic sages in Jewish history 1800 years ago. He called for a day of celebration on the day of his passing.

The most well-known custom of Lag BaOmer is the lighting of bonfires throughout Israel.

Photo of the Day

What Makes the IDF Special; the Lag BaOmer Victory; Rescue in Nepal; and Crazy Coalition-Building

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

The Israel Defense Force is not like other armies, says Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, who spoke at the Israel Law Center’s “Towards a New Law of War” conference.

Then, why do we light bonfires on the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer? Historian and author Rabbi Ken Spiro, senior lecturer and researcher for Aish HaTorah’s Discovery Seminars and the JerusalemU, tells Yishai that the victory of Lag BaOmer is the victory of Torah over Roman paganism, and therefore is a continuation of the victory of the Maccabees over the anti-Jewish edicts of the Greeks.

Then, Yishai is joined in-studio by Yossi Fraenkel, operations officer of the International Unit at ZAKA — the Israeli emergency response team that specializes in rescue and body identification and extraction — to talk about his organization’s efforts in Nepal, following the earthquake. Yishai talks about Or Asraf, the Israeli hiker who went missing there, and Israeli teams, including Asraf’s buddies from the army, flew to Kathmandu to help find his body.

Finally, a political bomb shell: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who resigned Monday, just quit the coalition negotiations and will become part of the opposition. Yishai is joined by VOI’s political correspondent Raoul Wootliff to discuss the move. They hear from MK Danny Danon, who gets feisty in defense of his party, the Likud. Then Yishai rants about Jimmy Carter.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Moshe Herman

Bonfire of the Vanities

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Whenever Lag B’Omer falls out on Saturday night, there’s confusion as to when to light the bonfires.

Is it pushed off a day, or not? Lately, it seems to be turning into a two-day holiday.

Fast fact: There’s no school on Monday.

In the town of Rechasim, up north between Haifa and Shfaram, they’ve built the largest bonfire in Israel, from 1000 wood pallets.

Fire and Emergency services will be on hand in case the bonfire gets out of control.

Question: How are they going to cook marshmallows with that thing?

Jewish Press Staff

Lag B’Omer Fires in UN Compound

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Nine cars caught fire in the UN compound in Jerusalem, according to a report in Times of Israel.

In the Armon HaNatziv neighborhood, firefighting crews battled the fire inside the UN compound that burned up between four to nine cars.

The fire department believes the fires were started by sparks from bonfires in a nearby field.

Firefighters have been battling Lag B’Omer fires all over the country since yesterday.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Lag B’Omer Trivia

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

The Palmach division of the Haganah was established on Lag B’Omer 1941.

The Gadna program (youth brigade) was also established on Lag B’Omer 1941, and their symbol is the bow and arrow.

Ben-Gurion gave the order to officially create the IDF on Lag B’Omer 1948 (assuming he issued it after sunset on May 26, 1948).

Lag B’Omer is the official day for saluting IDF reserve soldiers.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson ZT”L writes in his Likkutei Sichos that the reason why the day should be called Lag BaOmer and not Lag LaOmer is because the Hebrew words Lag BaOmer (ל״ג בעמר), spelled without the “vav”, have the same gematria as Moshe (משה), and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was mystically a spark of the soul of Moses.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews visit the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, in Meron on Lag B’Omer.

Lag B’Omer has joined Rosh Hashana to become the only other 2 day holiday in Israel. In order to avoid possible desecration of Shabbat this year (2013), the Rabbanut asked that schools be closed on Sunday and Monday, and that bonfires be delayed until Sunday afternoon. Most people ignore the request to delay the bonfires.

Jerusalem pollution levels rise 6 times normal on Lag B’Omer due to the bonfires.

3600 tons of wood are burned.

Construction sites lose on average, NIS 15,000 worth of material, as children raid the sites for wood.

500 firetrucks and 300 firefighters are on duty in Israel.

Feel free to add your Lag B’Omer trivia in the comments.

Shalom Bear

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/holidays/lag-bomer-trivia/2013/04/28/

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