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.


Previous articleWord Prompt – BONFIRE – Sarah Pachter
Next articleWord Prompt – BONFIRE – Avi Ganz
Rabbi Francis Nataf ( is a veteran Tanach educator who has written an acclaimed contemporary commentary on the Torah entitled “Redeeming Relevance.” He teaches Tanach at Midreshet Rachel v'Chaya and is Associate Editor of the Jewish Bible Quarterly. He is also Translations and Research Specialist at Sefaria, where he has authored most of Sefaria's in-house translations, including such classics as Sefer HaChinuch, Shaarei Teshuva, Derech Hashem, Chovat HaTalmidim and many others. He is a prolific writer and his articles on parsha, current events and Jewish thought appear regularly in many Jewish publications such as The Jewish Press, Tradition, Hakira, the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Action and Haaretz.