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June 26, 2016 / 20 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Rashbi’

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

Elton John’s Concert in Israel Set for Lag B’Omer

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

British rock singer Sir Elton John’s 2016 concert in Israel, reported by The JewishPress.com two weeks here by The JewishPress.com will be staged in Tel Aviv on May 26, which is Lag’Omer.

The holiday marks the anniversary of death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, known as the Rashbi, a student of Rabbi Akiva. Lag B’Omer traditionally is the day on which he revealed deep mystical secrets of Kabbalah as written in the Zohar.

The concert in Yarkon Park is part of the 68-year-old singer’s Wonderful Crazy Night Tour 2016

Shuki Weiss, the producer of the concert, said. “I’m happy that we have the honor to present in Israel one of the biggest artists in the world will give all of us a few hours of a different reality.”

“Different” is an understatement on Lab B’Omer, noted most prominently with the burning of bonfires the evening before.

The Rashbi and his son Rabbi Eliezer, according to the Talmud, hid in a cave from the Romans for 12 years.

The Talmudic Shabbat tractate, page 33, relates:

Elijah came and stood at the entrance to the cave and exclaimed, ‘Who will inform the son of Yochai that the emperor is dead and his decree annulled?’ So they emerged.

Seeing a man plowing and sowing, they exclaimed, ‘They forsake life eternal and engage in life temporal!’ Whatever they cast their eyes upon was immediately burnt up.

Thereupon a Heavenly Echo came forth and cried out, ‘Have you emerged to destroy My world: Return to your cave!’

After another year in the cave, Rashbi and his son Rabbi Eliezer emerged again:

On the eve of the Shabbat before sunset they saw an old man holding two bundles of myrtle and running at twilight. ‘What are these for?’ they asked him. “They are in honor of the Shabbat, he replied.

‘But one should suffice you. [He responded] ‘One is for Remember and one for Observe’ [referring to the two different wordings in the Ten Commandments].

Said [Rashbi] to his son, ‘See how precious are the commandments to Israel.’

Maybe Sir Elton will light a bonfire on stage in memory of Rashbi.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

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

On the Way to a Jewish State – Parts 3 & 4

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series we began to define a concise platform for rectifying the state with correspondence to the Kabbalistic sefirot. We began with the sefirah of crown and we reached the sefirah of beauty. Now let’s continue from where we left off.

Making Aliyah – Victory

Loving-kindness, might and beauty are the principal attributes of the heart, corresponding to the emotive level of the human psyche. The attributes that follow have a more practical-operative character and represent the lower, more behavioral level of the psyche; like the movement of the legs, which is more powerful than the hands, but less refined. Here, we come to the sefirah of netzach (victory), corresponding to the right leg, which steps out first. The inner motivating power of the sefirah of victory is confidence. This refers to trusting God, which in turn leads to a rectified sense of self-confidence, and the ability to get up and act. The root “victory” (נֶצַח) has a number of related connotations: acting resolutely to be victorious and overcome the obstacles that stand in our way; overseeing work and organization (e.g., conducting an orchestra); acting to achieve a stable and long-lasting realization of goals, etc…

In the structure we recommend for rectifying the state, the sefirah of victory corresponds to making aliyah (immigrating) to Israel, following in the footsteps of Abraham whose first commandment was, “Go for yourself…” The concept of making aliyah in the Torah and in our sages’ teachings – in contrast to wanderlust and emigration for vague reasons – portrays the sanctity of the Land of Israel and its uniqueness from all other countries. “The Land of Israel is higher than all other countries” and immigrating to the Holy Land is a part of a complete elevation process, “One elevates in sanctity [and does not downgrade].” The pinnacle of ascent is the pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Although the past few generations have seen the immigration of millions of Jews to the Land of Israel, we must not forget that there are millions more who remain in foreign lands, and any Jewish state worthy of its name should encourage aliyah as a national goal of the highest priority. How can we encourage aliyah? Obviously, the state must open its gates to every Jew, as in the law of return that exists today (which still needs fundamental amendment; see below), by offering benefits and grants to new immigrants (an “absorption basket”) and by helping them in the absorption process with substantial assistance. But, the material conditions provided for new immigrants cannot suffice to warm the hearts of our brethren in the Diaspora to immigrate to the Land of Israel. Thank God, aliyah these days is considerably quicker and easier than it was during previous generations. However, we should find a way to stimulate the desire to make aliyah and warm their hearts to love and live in the Land of Israel, not just as a refuge from persecution, but as an ideal. This goal can be achieved once the country has a pleasing “Jewish face” that will attract every Jew to automatically wish to make his or her home here.

This is why there is a strong connection between rectifying the legal system (which we mentioned with regard to the sefirah of beauty) and immigrating to Israel: when the Torah sets the tone of the country, and the sanctity of the land comes to the fore in the public arena – then the natural connection of the Jew to his land will be aroused from its slumber, “Zion shall be redeemed through justice [rectifying the judicial system in the Land of Israel, then] and her returnees through righteousness [referring to the renewed return to Zion].” In addition, mass aliyah will result from an amended leadership that strives forward, like that of Moses (who represents the attribute of victory) who brought the Jewish People out of Egypt and led them to the Promised Land.

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

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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