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May 29, 2016 / 21 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘shavuot’

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

‘Mystery Rabbi’ Sues Rapper ‘Ice Cube’ for $2 Million for Assault

Friday, May 29th, 2015

A man identified as “P. Taras” who says he is  a rabbi is suing rapper “Ice Cube” for $2 million following an assault the entertainer ordered after the two men literally bumped into each other outside an elevator.

The TMZ website reported that Taras said he was at the MGM Detroit hotel on Monday, the holiday of Shavuot, when Ice Cube bumped into him.

Taras said something to the tune of “Hey, watch out,” and Ice Cube allegedly sent his “boys” into action with a few punches to the sounds of some ad lib anti-Semitic rap.

The victim says he may have been beaten up because he was wearing a kippa, but Ice Cube’s spokesmen said it all is a lie and that the rapper does not even know who Taras is.

Of course he would not know since the first time they met is when they bumped into each other because one or both of them was not looking straight ahead.

But who is this rabbi “Taras”? And what was he doing in a hotel, which features casinos, on Shavuot.

Michigan Rabbi Jason Miller wrote on his website:

No, I have never heard of a rabbi here in Detroit named Taras….Now, for the record, I don’t believe there is such a rabbi named Taras here in Detroit. Of course, there could have been a rabbi visiting over the Memorial Day weekend… but I highly doubt any Jewish person wearing a yarmulke would have been at the MGM Grand on the Shavuot holiday, when going to a casino would be forbidden

Taras wants the last word and commented on TMZ, but this time he posted his name as “Rev Taras,” which means he might be a reverend, who is a religious functionary, even though he signed off as “P. Taras:

This incident occurred in the HOTEL part, and their [sic] is video which is already in my possession. I am not releasing any videos due to the fact that Mr. Jackson has a right to defend this suit, and he has not yet been served with the complaint. When same happens, at the apporpriate [sic] time I will release such material. -P. Taras

Ice Cube is a Muslim by conversion, and many of his lyrics are blatantly violent, with one of his songs calling for the murder of a Jew in the music industry. One of his lines in a rap was, “Let a white Jew tell [them] what to do.”

But that does not mean that “Taras” is not trying a scam to win more than he could win in a casino on Shavuot, as some of TMZ’s readers noted on the website.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Shavuot: The Scandalous Backstory of Ruth & Boaz

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

Rabbi David Fohrman

A Night of Revelation and the Musical Spirit of Israel

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

(((CLICK BELOW TO HEAR AUDIO)))

Why does Shavuot (Festival of Weeks or Pentecost) have so many themes running through it? Agriculture, Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments, the Book of Ruth, King David, the Baal Shem Tov, the consumption of dairy products and more all come together on this holiday, that begins Saturday night. Yishai is joined in-studio by Rabbi Mike Feuer to make sense of it all, ahead of the great “revelation.”

Then, Yishai is joined in-studio by Nachman and Sruli — the Solomon Brothers — who created their own band of bluegrass music, infused with spiritualism and folk rock, influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Their special blend of music has gained them numerous TV appearances and rave reviews. Their live performance at VOI will blow you away.

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
Yishai on Facebook

Moshe Herman

Rivlin Tells Bnei Akiva, ‘We Must Not Let This Happen Again’

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

President Reuven Rivlin expressed deep concern Thursday over an attack on a Bnei Akiva building containing a synagogue in northern Israel after learning about the desecration from an Arutz 7 reporter who called asking for a comment.

Vandals torched a Bnei Akiva synagogue in the northern Israeli city of Nazereth Illit this week, just before the start of the Shavuot holiday that marks the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai.

Siddurim and other holy books were torn apart, burned and desecrated in other ways. Elsewhere in the Bnei Akiva building, Israeli flags were defiled, cabinets were upended, paint was splattered all over the place and flourescent lights were smashed.

Bnei Akiva has long been a source of pride in the community; the religious Zionist movement has maintained a branch in Nazareth Illit for 40 years. Five years ago, a hesder yeshiva for Torah scholars entering army service was added to the program there as well.

According to spokesperson Naomi Toledano, President Reuven Rivlin has expressed his shock over the attack to Bnei Akiva Secretary-General Danny Hirshberg.

Rivlin expressed support for a plan by Bnei Akiva to hold a meeting between the young members of the branch and neighborhood Arabs immediately following the upcoming Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which begins at the close of the Sabbath, on Saturday night.

“Only dialogue will lead to closeness and understanding,” Rivlin said. “We must not let harsh and shocking incidents like this one happen again.”

He praised plans by the branch to hold its traditional all-night Torah study session for the Shavuot holiday despite the attack.

Although it is not yet clear who perpetrated the damage and desecration, there have been numerous incidents of harassment of the Bnei Akiva youths by local Arabs in the past.

Hana Levi Julian

Pres. Rivlin Receives ‘First Fruits of the Field’ for Shavuot

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

President Reuven Rivlin is reaping the fruits of years invested in good relations with Israeli farmers.

On Thursday, the president and his wife Nechama received two big baskets of fruit and vegetables from the nation’s farmers, in concert with the tradition of bringing the “first fruits of the field” to Jerusalem on the eve of Shavuot.

In the time of the Holy Temple, reminded Meir Yifrah, a member of Moshav Ohad (near the Gaza border) and the secretary-general of the Israel Vegetable Growers’ Association, the custom was scrupulously observed, with farmers bringing their produce to the Kohanim (priests) of the Temple. Today, he smiled, they are bringing their produce instead to the President of the State of Israel. Along with Yifrah were farmers from every part of the country.

For 20 years, MK Rivlin was a member of the lobby that advocated for the farmers of Israel, working for subsidies when things got tough.

On Thursday, Rivlin offered to become an active voice for the farmers once more. It’s not a new move for him; Rivlin has always taken an interest in agricultural affairs, partly because his wife Nechama was born on a moshav (an agricultural cooperative community.)

Due to this being the shemittah – seventh – year, in which the fields are allowed to lie fallow, there are fewer varieties and less to offer, but what there is was brought and received with joy.

Hana Levi Julian

Rav Bina’s Shavuot Message

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

On Tuesday night, Rav Bina and Rav Amos spoke in Ramat Beit Shemesh to a full house of Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh alumni.

Rav Bina also spoke about his grandson Aryeh who is recovering from last week’s terror attack.

We ask everyone to please continue davening for Aryeh ben Rina B’toch Shar Cholei Yisrael.

Video of the Day

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/multimedia/video-picks/rav-binas-shavuot-message/2015/05/21/

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