Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On Lag BaOmer, A Chassidic Rebbe Plays With Fire


Tonight marks the start of the festival of Lag BaOmer, the 33rd day of the period between Pesach and Shavuot. Around the world, the day is celebrated mainly in Jewish schools with children going on picnics and hikes and playing with toy bows and arrows in the field.

In Meron, in northern Israel, about 500,000 chasidim make an annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi) to sing, dance, and light bonfires.  Rashbi's tomb is the epicenter of the Lag B'Omer celebrations because he was one of the students of Rabbi Akiva who survived a terrible plague that killed thousands of them, and he went on to write the Zohar, the book of Kabbalah.

The bonfires are meant to commemorate the immense light that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai introduced into the world via his mystical teachings.  In this video from 2011, thousands of chassidim mill about while their rebbe, slowly and methodically, places flammable material on a central core, pours what seems to be an endless supply of oil on it, and finally sets it on fire. Once the fire is lit, the rebbe, now dressed in his finest caftan, goes into a wild jumping dance, looking as if he is jumping rope with an invisible rope. 

That's the signal for all of his chassidim to join in the jumping and singing a refrain that consists mainly of the name of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Enjoy!

(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS.  YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)