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July 31, 2016 / 25 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Lag Baomer’

The Fire of Kabbalah & A Political Firestorm

Friday, May 27th, 2016

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Fire in the hole! First, Rabbi Mike Feuer joins Yishai for Spiritual Cafe to discuss the fire of God’s anger as expressed in the Biblical curses, and the fire of God’s love, as expressed in the bonfires of the Lag BaOmer holiday which celebrate the revelation of the mystical Torah. Then, Knesset Insider Jeremy Saltan on the political firestorm which led to the firing of Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, a shuffle in the coalition of Binyamin Netanyahu, and the surprise appointment of Avigdor Lieberman.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
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Moshe Herman

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

Knesset Committee Convenes to Prepare for Lag B’Omer Mt. Meron Fire Festival

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

The Knesset Public Petitions Committee headed by MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler (UTJ) convened Wednesday to evaluate preparations for the big pilgrimage to Mt. Meron next week. At a March committee meeting on the same topic, concerns were raised about the lack of cooperation among the organizers, and the lack of funds, lights, roads, parking places, and benches, to name but a few problems. Last night the committee convened again to receive answers and summarize the preparations for Lag B’Omer in Meron. The CEO of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the CEO of the National Center for the development of holy places, police officials, representatives of the Ministry of Transport and Hatzalah volunteers attended.

Committee chairman Eichler opened the meeting, saying, “This year the hearings were extremely optimistic. Unlike previous years, when everyone complained and threw the responsibility on the shoulders of others, this year we received written responses and constant updates of the performance in the field. Concerns were raised at the previous hearing. This time there is a feeling of freshness and acceptance of responsibility and cooperation that the preparations have been better organized, and I hope not to be proven wrong.”

Oded Plus, CEO of the Ministry of Religious Affairs said, “In past years the holy places center could not start work because they had debts of millions of shekels. We made sure to cover all the debts from previous years. A team led by myself and involving all the relevant factors formulated a budget of 25 million shekel ($6.46 million). I’ve been told that at this stage of the game preparations have never been up to where they are today.”

“We put up light poles on Route 89 and Route 866 and many more roads that were not properly lighted. We expanded the parking lots significantly,” Plus continued. “We added benches, drinking facilities and rescue centers in all the parking lots. All the tasks were carried out and we were on schedule. I’m optimistic. But we have to be careful. Certainly there may be problems. We have tried to anticipate them and prevent them. We have learned a lot of lessons from the previous years.”

Rabbi Yosef Schwinger, CEO of the National Center for the development of the holy places said, “This is the first year that we had a set budget two months before the event. In the past, we emphasized the people as a whole, this year we put an emphasis on the individual and the family. There will be dozens of drinking stations manned by multilingual stewards, dozens of shaded areas, hundreds of toilets connected to a sewer, and water infrastructure. We have established a special area for women to drink and rest. There are 12 diaper changing and nursing rooms with attendants on hand to help. We went down to the details in terms of individual treatment.”

Senior director of public transportation at the Transportation Ministry Dror Ganon reported that starting next Wednesday afternoon, May 18, busses would start to run from 14 destinations across the country, including two new subsidized destinations in Beitar Illit and Modiin Illit. He added, “Last year we finished the event with 7,000 trips and upwards of 300 thousand passengers. This year we expect an increase of 15 percent. We almost reached the maximum capacity of buses in Israel! 80% of the people use public transportation to get to Meron. We take almost 1,500 buses from private companies. There will also be a lot of stations leaving  the major cities, in Jerusalem itself there will be 7 stations. There are nearly 250 officials routing transport for the event.”

Officer Yossi Chemo, commander of police operations in the north, said, “We plan on deploying 5,000 police officers throughout the week in Meron. There will be 12 ambulances of Ezer M’Zion and another four of Lev Malka. There will also be volunteers of United Hatzalah and MDA. We ask the public to help them in their work and to obey their instructions.”

David Israel

Jewish Music to Our Ears: Klezmer Clarinet and Impromptu Guitar Jam

Friday, May 8th, 2015

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The fiber-glass clarinet of Moshe (“Musa”) Berlin is as iconic as the man who plays it. For more than 50 years, the master of klezmer has played at the massive annual festival of Lag BaOmer at Mt. Meron. This week he joined Yishai in-studio and made magical music.

Then, what happens when a guitar-playing Orthodox Rabbi asks a street violinist to jam with him in Jerusalem? The answer is: beautiful sounds. Indeed, Rabbi Tomer and Alexandra Kanarit know how to make music together. And they do it for Yishai in-studio, performing renditions of popular traditional and modern tunes.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Moshe Herman

Portable Emergency Medical Clinic in… Meron

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

Tens of thousands of people visited Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s (Rashbi) graveside in Meron on Lag B’Omer, last night.

Over 150 people were treated at the four United Hatzalah emergency medical clinics set up in Meron. Most patients were treated for falls, burns, lacerations, fainting and shortness of breath and not more serious conditions like in previous years.

The number of injuries is dramatically less than from previous years, according to United Hatzalah medics. United Hatzalah will maintain coverage in the area until Shabbat. Leon and Simi Melohn of Manhattan sponsored the four pop-up Lag B’omer clinics in Meron.

Using inter-agency cooperation from the police, fire rescue and ambulance command centers, United Hatzalah volunteers were able to ensure that all who traveled to Meron were safe. All command centers also had United Hatzalah communication gear, including the LifeCompass GPS smartphone system, to ensure immediate response to any incident.

Given the years of experience leading medical security at Kever Rashbi and in light of the recent tragic incidents at the funeral of Rav Wosner ZT”l in Bnei Brak, United Hatzalah planned a thorough strategy for prevention and response during this busy holiday.

Eli Beer, founder of United Hatzalah commented that “This year United Hatzalah activities saw unprecedented cooperation and collaboration with the police and government authorities. The support by Leon and Simi Melohn provided United Hatzalah with the dedicated resources needed to provide maximum preparation and operational response.”

Photo of the Day

Lag BaOmer, the Kabbalah, and the Renaissance of Jewish Womanhood

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

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Yishai delves into two issues of intrigue: the Kabbalah and women. The holiday of Lag BaOmer is all about the victory of authentic Jewish culture and the Kabbalah — the mystical doctrines of the Torah. But what does that really mean? Can someone explain what the Kabbalah actually is? Rabbi Mike Feuer joins Yishai for a peak into the hidden, and inner, planes of Judaism.

Then, being a woman today means balancing family and career, leaving self-growth neglected. This was the impetus for the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, created to give Jewish women a chance to explore Israel, Judaism and themselves, while making friends similarly seeking a meaning-filled life. Yishai is joined in-studio by partnerships director Ariella Milobsky and trip director Tzippy Lieberman, who share their personal stories of growth and redemption, and discuss the that arose from Jewish women’s yearning for more.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Moshe Herman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/multimedia/radio/yishai-fleisher-on-jewishpress/lag-baomer-the-kabbalah-and-the-renaissance-of-jewish-womanhood/2015/05/07/

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