Posts Tagged ‘Meron’

Chasidic Leader Articulates Anti-Lag Baomer Bonfire Stance – אדמו”ר נגד מדורה בל”ג בעומר

May 25, 2016

Over twenty years ago, a leading Chasidic leader laid out a case against having a Lag Baomer bonfire in New York at his Yeshiva in a public address. It seems that some in his community wanted to make one, even though it wasn’t the tradition of the group, but he spoke out strongly against such an innovation.

Due to the time of the year we are in now, and the fact that many people are under the false impression that all Chasidim are for lighting bonfires on Lag Baomer, I feel it is timely to share from the address he gave (the address was in Yiddish. A partial recording is online, but is not ideal for sharing due to some problems with it. So I will share some excerpts from it, translated).

The Rebbe said that a Lag Baomer bonfire was not seen or heard, not by their forefathers or Rebbes. Lag Baomer was observed for hundreds of years in Europe (where his Chasidic group originated), by Chasidishe Yidden, who were דבוק בתורת ר’ שמעון בר יוחאי (strongly attached to the teachings of R. Shimon bar Yochai), who celebrated and felt a special elevation on the day they held as his yahrzeit, but it was not with a bonfire that these feelings were manifested.

He then continues on to say that in Eretz Yisroel there is a bonfire custom, which started in Meron, and due to the fact that it was difficult for some people to go there, they did it in other locations there as well.

Lag Baomer, the Rebbe continued, is an Eretz Yisroel Yom tov. The velt says that Lag Baomer was given to Eretz Yisroel Yidden as a compensation for not having Yom tov sheini shel galuyos – יום טוב שני of the diaspora.

The Rebbe states that if we don’t know what to do, we go to the בית מדרש and study what our tradition is. He also points out that there are no ‘halachos’ regarding Lag Baomer bonfires, e.g. how large should it be – one story, two stories, עד לב השמים, how long should it burn, etc., which could bring to a situation of unhealthy competition among some to make a larger fire, add fuel, and so on. There is a danger in innovating customs, as who knows where it could lead in the future, היום אומר לו עשה כך, ולמחר אומר לו עשה כך, וכו, what might happen in future years. He then, warning of innovating practices seemingly under the guise of piety, of a יצה”ר המתלבש בגארטעל, not in accordance with tradition, cited the words from Tehillim  שמרה נפשי כי חסיד אני

The point of sharing this is to let people know (although we have touched on it before, see previous posts) that the Lag Baomer bonfire, especially, but not exclusively in the diaspora, is a point of major contention even among Chasidim, not practiced by certain major Chasidic groups (e.g. Gur, Satmar Williamsburg, Bobov, Lubavitch, etc.), and is by no means a universal practice. They should not be fooled by all the publicity, photos, videos, etc., to think that is a universal custom. All the more so among non-Chasidim, particularly Ashkenazim. No one should think that ‘everyone is doing it’, so they should ‘go along with the crowd’, because that is not the case.

When one adds to the equation the dangers of the fires – see e.g. multiple strong warnings in Eretz Yisroel this year warning of the dangers of the fires, e.g. this strong general warning, this warning specifically re eye danger, these guidelines from מד”א, and this directed to women, based on sad experience of injuries, ר”ל, from the past, the choice for us is clear – stick to your ancestral minhog, מנהג אבות, and stay away from the bonfire custom. The מצוה דאורייתא involving fire of the spring has already passed, a bit over a month ago, on erev Pesach, when the chometz was burned. Lag Baomer is a not a Pesach sheini for fire.

With wishes of a spiritually and physically healthy and safe Lag Baomer…..

P.S. Also noteworthy this year, for those who didn’t see it yet, is the strong statement from the ראשון לציון (echoed by his brother as well) against a mass pilgrimage to Meron. He urges his Sephardic brethren to emulate ליטאים שיושבים ולומדים בל”ג בעומר rather than those others who journey to Meron then.

No – No – No – No – No – Minhag Ashkenaz & Recent Lag Ba’omer Innovations – חגיגת ל”ג בעומר ע”פ מנהג אשכנז, ללא מירון, חאלאקא, מדורה, ח”י רוטל

May 20, 2011

Yes, it is that time of the year again. Lag ba’omer is almost here. And with it, all the hype and solicitations for trips to Meron, Chai Rotel Mashkeh donations, upsherin, bonfires, and the like.

So it is time to review what our holy Ashkenazic mesorah is about relatively recent Lag Ba’omer innovations, to avert confusion be”H, and help save people from getting swept away by all the hype generated by those with stakes in promoting such a holiday.

To simplify things, בקיצור? No-No-No-No-No. (Yes, some of us enjoy saying no. 🙂 No, we are not always negative on everything. 😉

1) No new יום טוב not mentioned in ש”ס. As the חתם סופר famously wrote in a teshuvoh (יורה דעה רלג, last column on bottom left of page linked to), we do not go along with the making of a new Yom tov not mentioned in Shas and poskim. We don’t go along with making a holiday of the day a tzaddik passed away (aka hillulah) , when the gemara mentions such a day as a day of fasting. In the mesorah of Ashkenaz that is called a yohrzeit, and is a day of fasting and introspection. We don’t make a small village in northern Eretz Yisroel the focus of a giant pilgrimage, more than ירושלים עיה”ק.

Update: The Chasam Sofer also mentions this in a hesped that he gave after the devastating earthquake that hit northern Eretz Yisroel in the 1830’s למספרם. See in ספר תורת משה in the paragraph בד”ה אך לפי here.

2) No Bonfires. No putting ארץ ישראל under a giant cloud of smoke. It can be dangerous to people and the environment. Pollution, smoke inhalation. Some people suffer from the smoke, have to stay inside all day and night and keep their windows closed. Contractors in ארץ ישראל complain of significant losses from wood disappearing from building sites.

And what are the origins of bonfires in connection with such a day, if it is a yohrzeit, a death anniversary, as is claimed, anyway?  The Wikipedia entry on bonfires is interesting.

And even for those who insist on doing so anyway, must they be all over the place? And in the diaspora too lately? That was not done in the past.

3) No Upsherin – That has been well covered by others, see שרשי מנהג אשכנז חלק ג and elsewhere.

4)  No Chai Rotel Mashkeh. Chai Rotel is a Chassidic segulah, connected to the Meron event.

Interestingly though, in the sefer of minhogim of Worms, by ר’ יוזפא שמש, it does mention that מלמדים gave יי”ש to תלמידים, although presumably within reason of course. I assume it was something like ‘making a lechayim’.

5)  No תחנון – According to old מנהג אשכנז that goes only for שחרית though.

What many people don’t realize with all the Meron hype, is that many gedolim, and I am not just talking about גדולי אשכנז, but also great Chassidishe Rebbes and Sepharadic gedolim, deliberately do not participate in this event.

Rav Schach זצ”ל told his talmidim not to go to Meron (hat tip to Rafi). להבדיל בחל”ח, Rav Elyashiv שליט”א, as of a few years ago, had never gone to Meron. He stated, as was reported in the Jerusalem Post, that he feels closer to רשב”י learning a blatt gemara.

If the Chasam Sofer voiced reservations about the Meron pilgrimage close to two hundred years ago, when the attendance there was  much smaller than it is nowadays, would his reservations not be much greater today?

I am not getting into the she’eilos of possible חילול שבת caused by preparations for lag baomer when it comes out on Sunday like this year, and whether it is actually the yohrzeit of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai. An excellent article discussing the latter issue, as well as other matters related to the day, has just appeared at the seforim blog.

YES – YES – YES – YES – YES – Minhag Ashkenaz & The Old Way Of The Day

1) Yes, we have simcha because the talmidim of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying.

2) Yes, it is a day when students are given leisure.

3) Yes, we enjoy music and have weddings.

4) Yes, we can take haircuts.

5) Yes, there is a place for משתה ושמחה.

In the zechus of following מנהג אבות, may we soon be zoche to ביאת משיח צדקנו, and have the zechus to be oleh to ירושלים עיה”ק בב”א.

א גוטען שבת און א פרייליכען ל”ג בעומר