Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Though I don’t want to be a spoilsport, most of my associations with Lag Ba’Omer bonfires are not so positive. Because young boys love fire and parents understandably want to encourage positive experiences connected to Torah, too many parents look the other way when their children take part in the building of oversized and often uncontrolled fires. Besides the severe but temporary damage to air quality they cause, these fires are often made with stolen articles and result in injuries to participants and passersby alike.

That said, a bonfire can be the source of tremendous meditation and inspiration: While the Torah is more frequently compared to water, it is also called an esh dat (fiery law). Fire takes coarse matter and turns it into something lighter that rises towards the heavens. In the process, it also exudes two of the most important and helpful things to man, light and heat. Likewise does the Torah raise us up while making us so much more helpful to other people. Accordingly, there may never have been someone who embodied this more than Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.


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Rabbi Francis Nataf ( is a Jerusalem-based educator and thinker and the author of four books of contemporary Torah commentary. His parshah column appears weekly in The Jewish Press. Rabbi Nataf is also the author of, "Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Leviticus"