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May 22, 2008

Lag B'Omer: a silly holiday

The way we celebrate this holiday tonight, Lag B'Omer, is so silly and unusual. It has basically become an opportunity for kids who have pent up pyromania tendencies that are suppressed all year by the parents (read: us) to suddenly let loose and burn everything in sight.

Most people, myself included, don't even have any idea what it all means. Yeah, sure, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the Zohar, blah blah blah. So that means my 4 year old needed to bring wood today to her gan so they could make a bonfire? That means every 20 feet or so people need to make a separate bonfire 3 stories high and stand around watching it burn, mumbling a few words from a song that almost nobody knows what it means, not knowing what they are supposed to be doing?

All this developed within the last 10 years or so. Even in Israel. Forget America where there is no such thing as a bonfire. You would be arrested if you lit a bonfire on the sidewalk, or even in your backyard, if you were in America. I remember when I first came to Israel, there would be one or two neighborhood bonfires. Now, as I said, every second building makes their own, if not two or three, every shul makes one, every youth group makes one, in many places every class in every school makes their own, etc.

But, heck, this is the one holiday kids get to break loose and really enjoy, so I guess it can't be all that bad. They act responsible, building bonfires, managing, arrnaging other kids to help and delegating work. I guess there are positive aspects to it as well.

Here are a few images:

There are very few shopping carts in the supermarket because all the kids have them around the neighborhood for shlepping wood.

going for a refill

what a waste of good wood!


  1. RHS suggests that there are aspects of holidays like this that could encounter very serious problems of bal tosif.

  2. I'm old enough that I could conceivably be married with kids, but am still single. And I had way too much fun with the bonfire tonight.

    Perhaps once you have kids, you have to pretend to be responsible, even if you don't feel it inside.

    Regarding "They act responsible, building bonfires, managing, arrnaging other kids to help and delegating work. ": it reminds me of Graham Greene's short story "The Destructors".

  3. The medura is in commemoration of the flame that would light up when the Rashbi learnt. It isnt a new practice.. for example the Rashab (Rebbe Shalom Ber of Lubavitch d 1920) told them to buy the honor.

    This is done according to a letter from the Rebbe Rashab asking the
    Chassidim in Hevron to buy the "Hadlakah,_ lighting, of the fire in his name.
    The Rashab even mentioned that he is not interested in the bonfire in Meiron but wants to have the merit for lighting the fire in Hevron.

    He was nistalek in 1920 so this isnt a new minhag thoughits hard to say just how old.

    Meron is a very old minhag, the ari'zal writes about the chalaka in meron on lag b'omer. In yerushalayim they celebrate at shimon hatzadik's kever.

  4. I should say, the proportion in which we celebrate it is new.

    Why by Shimon Hatzaddik?

  5. Maybe the same name ? I dont remember where I read it.. but ohr sameach writes it too http://ohr.edu/yhiy/article.php/3078


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