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Posts Tagged ‘Lag B’Omer’

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?

On the Air in the Air with Chassidim on the Way to Meron

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Yishai kicks off this segment talking to Chaim Messer, an Oleh on the way to Israel with his family who was partially inspired by a shirt given to him by Yishai years earlier. The flight was packed with Hassidic Jews making the pilgrimage to Meron (the burial place of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai) and following his talk with Messer, Yishai gets into the crowd to hear about this spiritual high and their hopes for blessings from Rabbi Shimon.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
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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.

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.

Rejoicing Proud Jews: Reflections on Lag B’Omer

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Driving through Israel on a packed bus heading for Meron on Lag B’Omer. Along the way I see small fires lit everywhere, the radio talks about the holiday, the police are directing the public transportation system to bring a million Jews to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Many, however, do not know what this celebration is all about. Why do we put so much emphasis on one great rabbi? Why do we make fires all over the country and Jewish world? Why do we go up on mass to Meron, while Jerusalem is emptied?

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, Rashbi, was a rebel. He rebelled against the Romans, and repudiated their culture. He saw nothing positive about the Roman physical and cultural occupation and was vocal and active against them. The Romans, ever vigilant, closed in on Rashbi and he was forced to flee. His flight was marked by a prolonged period of hiding, and while in a cave, Rashi and his son began writing down the Kabbalah, Jewish esoteric wisdom.

The Romans won. They put down the uprising led by Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon. They killed millions of Jews and exiled millions to Rome, selling them as slaves. They destroyed the Temple and sacked Jerusalem.

Judaism, now bereft of land and Temple, with millions dead and dispossessed, seemed to be on the brink of utter destruction.

But Rashbi and his colleagues put into place a system of surviving the exile. For the next 15 centuries, Judaism would become portable and just as Rashbi went into hiding, so did the Kabbalah, the internal life spirit of Judaism. For fifteen-hundred years did the Kabbala hide, passed secretly amongst the sages. This transmission kept the Kabbala alive through the persecution and the darkness of the exile.

But around 1550 CE a man came to the land of Israel who saw that the era of the exile had come to an end and that the spirit of the Kabbala could now be resurrected.  The man was the Ari HaKadosh, Rabbi Yitchak Luria, and from the holy city of Tzfat, he called on the Jewish people to do two things, to return to the land of Israel and to study the Kabbala – the two things the Romans had taken away from the Jewish people.

The Ari began teaching the Zohar, the Kabbalistic legacy of Rashbi, and he instituted Lag B’Omer, the day that marks the passing of Rashbi as a day of celebration, celebrating the victory of Rabbi Shimon’s war against the Romans 1500 years later. The Holy Ari saw that victory was at hand — the Jews will return to the land and the true Torah will be studied once again.

Indeed, the victory of the Jewish idea is celebrated on Lag B’Omer. It neatly fits between Israeli Independence Day and Yom Yerushalayim. These three days together all have the same spirit which drives them:

*  the liberation of Jewish peoplehood,

*  the return to the land, and

*  the reemergence of authentic Jewish culture which the Romans sought to suppress.

Our fire burns bright in the night, it shall not be extinguished. They sought to extinguish our flame in Rome as in Auschwitz. But we persevered. On Lag B’Omer we celebrate the victory, and we honor the great Jewish fighters who fought for liberation and lost, who hid away our the precious cargo of our holy Torah, who passed it hidden through generations, and who pined away for the great day when we could once again live on our land as proud Jews.

That great day has come.  Chag Sameach!

Tunisia to Jews: Keep Coming to Djerba for Lag B’Omer

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

The annual Jewish Lag B’Omer pilgrimage to the oldest synagogue in Africa should be maintained as a symbol of Tunisian openness, according to Tunisia’s tourism minister on Tuesday.

Jews have been living on the island of  Djerba since 500 BC, with the local synagogue believed to be the oldest in Africa.  In the 1960s, Tunisia’s Jewish community numbered 100,000.  Most Jews left following the 1967 Six Day War.  Now, almost all of Tunisia’s 1,500 Jews reside on the island near the border of Libya.  Djerba was once called the “Island of Cohanim” because so many of the Jewish families there could trace their ancestry back to Moses’ brother Aaron, the first High Priest and father of the priestly class.

Elyes Fakhfakh’s public support for the annual Jewish event comes as the rise of fundamentalist Islamic Salafi groups threatens to drive out Tunisia’s remaining Jewish population.  Anti-Semitic rhetoric has increased since the overthrow of longtime president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011 as part of the Arab Spring.  Unrest in Tunisia led to the cancellation of Lag B’Omer events that year.  Several thousand Jews – many of whom immigrated to France from Tunisia – are anticipated to attend this year.  On March 9-10, they will celebrate the victory of the Jews over the Romans prior to the destruction of the Second Temple, as well as the passing of the writer of the mystical Zohar, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

Fakhfakh called the annual Jewish celebration in Djerba a rite which “should not change because it illustrates the openness of Tunisia to the world.”  Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali of the Ennahda party Monday concurred with Fakhfakh, saying “the Jewish pilgrims are welcome to Djerba”.

On April 11, Tunisian President Moncep Marzouki, accompanied by Tunisian grand rabbi Haim Bitan, laid a wreath and observed a moment of silence to remember the victims of an Al-Qaida truck bombing, which killed 21 people at the El Djerba synagogue on Djerba ten years ago.  Included in the killings were 16 tourists – 14 from Germany and 2 from France.  At the event, Marzouki called discrimination against Jews and attacks on their person or property “forbidden” and called Jews “an integral part of our people.”

On March 25, Salafi activists demonstrated in favor of the implementation of sharia Islamic law, chanting slogans to “prepare for the fight against the Jews”.

Under the rule of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Jews enjoyed official protected status, a privilege which has not been renewed by the new Islamist government.

To Teach, To Learn, To Repent

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

There is an urgency in the two Torah commandments whose obligation is constant and ever-present: to learn Torah and to repent. The Torah is clear about this urgency in the Shema: “These words, which I command you this day, make them as a sign upon your heart and between your eyes ”

Our Sages comment that the word hayom, “this day,” means “the Torah should be ever fresh in your mind, as though you received the Torah today.” As for the duty to repent, Rambam teaches, “A man should always regard himself as if his death were imminent and he might die this very hour, while still in a state of sin. He should therefore repent of his sins immediately and not say, ‘When I grow old I shall repent,’ for he may die before he becomes old.”

This matter of days and Torah is fresh in our minds as we conclude Sefirat Ha’Omer and anticipate the coming of Shavuot, for what more concrete example of the importance of Torah and the power of days than the counting down from the end of Pesach to the Chag Mattan Torah?

Yet despite our celebration of the revelation at Sinai, the chag is not named in the Torah. How can we not be intrigued by this omission of the name of the day toward which we ultimately count – Chag Shavuot – or better yet Chag Mattan Torah, the holiday of the giving of the Torah?

“And you shall count for yourselves from the morrow of the Sabbath, from the day-you brought the sheaf of wave-offering, seven complete Sabbaths: Even unto the morrow of theseventh Sabbath You shall count fifty days . . .”

Why not simply inform us to count toward the significant date of Mattan Torah? Why doesn’t the Torah find it important to communicate that this counting is not merely related to Pesach, but rather that this day on which we received the Torah is worthy in its own right?

The Talmud considers Shavuot to be the culmination of Pesach, not a chag in its own right. Does this diminish the power of that day at Sinai? Not at all. It is simply that the commemoration of the giving of the Torah must not be limited to a particular time. It applies at all times. This day is each and every day. As it is written, “This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgments.”

Every day is Yom Mattan Torah. Every day the excitement, enthusiasm, and vigor of being a committed and learned Jew must be renewed and reinforced. It is with this understanding that the Keli Yakar found significance in the Torah’s use of the phrase Vehikravtem mincha chadasha – “and you shall offer a new offering” – in regard to Shavuot. Each and every day the Torah must be received anew, just as if it were received from Sinai each and every day.

The joy and satisfaction of Torah study must not be limited to special days or occasions. It is to be ongoing, continually renewed and continually renewing. Torah study must always spiritually excite and emotionally uplift. It is for this reason the Keli Yakar says the same enthusiasm and ecstasy that occurred at the Revelation at Sinai must be searched for and found every day.

The Keli Yakar posits the same rationale for the Torah’s omission of the name Rosh Hashanah and its direct association with din and repentance. Should a man sin all year round and think of repenting only as he comes closer to Yom Hadin, when God sits in judgment? No. Rather, he should imagine that God sits in judgment recording his deeds every day. If he can think this way, he will continually engage in repentance.

Analysis, reflection, and introspection must be an everyday experience. For the thoughtful Jew every­ day is a Yom Mattan Torah and Yom Hadin. Such an attitude might also help us understand Lag B’Omer, the thirty-third day of the counting of the Omer when, according to the Talmud, the plague that caused the death of 24,000 disciples of Rabbi Akiva ended.

Some 24,000 brilliant young scholars – lost! Our Sages ask why so many died. According to Talmudic and midrashic sources, they died because they did not sufficiently respect one another. Their scholarship, Torah learning, and erudition were taken for granted. For them, Torah learning was pursued as any other knowledge, without an excitement, en­thusiasm, and fire resulting in new insights, renewed motivation, and novel ideas. They reveled in their Torah brilliance rather than the brilliance of Torah.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/to-teach-to-learn-to-repent/2011/06/07/

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