Just under 200 years ago, the Ruzhyner Rebbe Rabbi Israel Friedman bought for himself and for his generations of heirs the right to light the first Lag B’Omer bonfire on the roof of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) gravesite on Mt. Miron. Over the past few decades, the Boyaner Rebbe – whose Hasidic dynasty is an offshoot of Ruzhyn, via Sadigura – has taken on himself to fulfill this holy rite. It should be noted, in praise of Boyan, that they keep themselves away from the news cycle year-round, and the only time their name comes up is in the context of a mitzvah.
The late start is, of course, an attempt to allow the hundreds of thousands of Jews eager to celebrate the festivities on Mt. Miron to leave home after the end of Shabbat and get there in time. We did the math, and a Jew living in Eilat, Israel’s southernmost point, who wishes to get to Miron on time would be leaving at 8:05 PM (a couple minutes for havdala, then hit the car) and arriving around 1:20, presuming they don’t stop for gas and drive at the legal speed. If they drive a little over the limit, even Eilat Jews could make it in time.
Also on Saturday night, a contingency of 5,000 police and IDF will be manning all the traffic arteries leading to Miron, in perimeter security circuits and at the compound itself.
The Rashbi Hospitality group (Hachnasat Orchim Rasshbi), which has been hosting Jews on Lag B’Omer on Mt. Miron for 50 years, will be serving more than 6,000 Shabbat meals to Jews who prefer not to take a chance on Saturday night and arrive Friday (Eilat Jews come to mind). Then, when the festivities begin, the charity group will have on hand 300 volunteers in giant, air-conditioned tents, catering to the needs of the myriad visitors.
Last year, an estimated 100,000 were cared for and dined in those tents. This year even more are expected, and so a giant, rich breakfast is planned for the morning, followed by catered meals through the day, plus cold and hot drinks.
According to Rabbi Eliezer Carlebach, director of Rashbai Hospitality, the group this year rented 12 giant cooling facilities to store 80,000 eggs, 60,000 bourekas pastries, 20 tons of vegetables, 200,000 quarts of drinks, 80,000 schnitzels, 50,000 rolls, and 20,000 chocolate milk baggies.
According to Rabbi Carlebach, it’s well known that anyone who contributes to the Rashbi’s festivities experiences miraculous rewards, so we take it fundraising was easy as 20,000 pies.
Get ready for one of the happiest days on the Hasidic calendar, and, incidentally, should you miss the Boyaner-owned opening bonfire, you could still make it to the very last traditional bonfire, Sunday at 7 PM, belonging to the Toldos Aharon dynasty. Because they can.