Today is Lag Baomer – the 33rd day of the omer. The omer refers to the 49 days that we count from the second night of Passover until Shavuot. The 33rd day of the count is a semi holiday, the plague that ended up killing 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva ended.
As well, it is the day that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the author of the great mystical book the Zohar, passed away. This day is celebrated in Israel by building huge bonfires. Once, I flew over Israel on a clear day, and as we landed in the holy land, I was amazed to look out my window and see the country dotted with bonfires cutting through the dark night sky.
Using my amazing eyeball gaze computer I was able to speak with my second eldest daughter today! She is happily enjoying seminary in Israel! She called me from the epicenter of the Lag Baomer festivities on top of the Meron mountain in northern Israel!
It was the middle of the night Israel time. She was so excited to share with me what she was experiencing! She even let me hear the loud singing!
In the course of our conversation, she asked me if I had been there during my time in Israel?
Oh, did that ever open the rush of warm memories of my time a top the mountain 27 years ago!
I would love to tell you what I told my daughter!
I remember it as if it were yesterday. I have a very close friend who was with me in yeshiva in Israel. He hails from Venezuela where his father was a successful congregational rabbi.
One Lag Baomer, he invited me to come along with his friend who was driving up to Meron. I asked him when he was leaving. He said he’s leaving right now! I, being extremely spontaneous, said, “let’s do it!”.
Upon arrival a short two hours later, I was shocked to see a traffic jam at the foot of the mountain at 2:00 am! There were easily thousands of people clamoring to get up the mountain! Just then, I saw bus after bus loading up the joyous people. Apparently, there was no space on the mountain for the vehicles plus the people.
As we neared the peak it got brighter and brighter, much like a night baseball game where you have the illusion that it’s the middle of the day, until you look up at the sky and you see pitch darkness.
At the top, it looked like a way overcrowded market on a bright afternoon! Myriads of overjoyed people were milling about and hundreds more were singing & dancing around the biggest bonfire I had ever seen!
To be continued…