City of Flames

16 May

Last night and today is Lag Ba’Omer. Almost time for Shavuot. Cheesecake time, yummy!
Most of us unfortunately do not remember what this day is suppose to remind us about. What we do know is that it is the day of Bonfires throughout Israel.
History
The day commemerates a special man by the name of Rabbi Shimon. He was a great sage who lived during the Roman conquest of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. He was one of Rabbi Akiva’s five students who — despite terrible persecutions — ensured that the Torah would not be forgotten. During the Roman conquest, he went and hid in a cave to continue to learn and teach Torah so that all would not be forgotten.
The bonfires are to remind us how the Jews used to warn eachother when the Romans were coming. They would light a bonfire on top of a hill and it would then the next hill would see it and light it. There is also a huge migration to his kever (buriel spot) up on Har Meron.
Today
Lag Ba’Omer is the day for all of us to become pyromaniacs. Building bonfires … whoo hoo hoo! Last night a bunch of us got together to build our own bonfire. Jordan, Jason and Meir saved a wood desk that was ready to be trashed and we burned it yesterday. We brought wine, marshmellows, a bbq grill (cant grill hotdogs on a burning pile of wood- ugh), nuts and waffels to munch on while we all sat around the fire trying not to get too much smoke in our eyes. Some people even donned sunglasses to keep the smoke out of the eyes. We were one group with our own bonfire in a sea of other bonfires. Some were larger then others, some were just plain stupid. One group of kids spent the entire night bringing in wood. Where they found that much wood to build a 6 ft bonfire …I just think that someone somewhere is missing all the wood from their construction site.
One person made a comment about how interesting the connection between the bonfire, wood and fire is. Wood symbolizes the Torah… so then why are we burning it? On the other hand, the point was made that in order to extinguish the fire you must use water which is also the symbol of Torah. The connection between the two is that even though the symbols of torah is both fire and water sound contradictory, they arent. From both from fire and water comes life. When a forest burns… foilage returns. There is a re-birth of what once was. Water sustains our world. Without it we would all die.

pictures of our bonfire are available on www.flickr.com/israluv or search by the tag word israluv + bonfire.

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3 Responses to “City of Flames”

  1. Ginrod Isus May 17, 2006 at 9:14 am #

    nice post. I’ve been quite confused at the symbolic meaning of the fire, as my tutor said: Rabbi Shimon shared some profound insights on the torah before he died and the flame represents the englightenment.. that the roman warning fire was some other holiday. which one is correct? i’ll wikpedia it!!

  2. IsraLuv May 17, 2006 at 10:21 am #

    both….anytime the jews needed to warn eachother they used hilltop bonfires to pass along a message. Same thing with each new month. One person would see the moon and know that it was the new moon, he would then have to prove it to the elders of the city and once that was done, they city would light a bonfire to pass along the message that the new month was here. I found out my info on R’Shimon on http://www.aish.com

  3. Simon Holloway May 18, 2006 at 8:36 am #

    Hey, I like the post (and I love the blog!)You might be interested to know that there’s a bit of a stir on the blogosphere at the moment concerning the issue of Rabbi Shim’on bar Yokhai’s yahrzeit. The date of his death is not recorded in any text predating the sixteenth century, when it is mentioned by Rabbi Hayyim Vital (the famed disciple of Rabbi Yitzhaq Luria).Rabbi Vital writes that Lag B’Omer was a day when Rabbi Luria (aka “the Arizal”) would celebrate the day of Rabbi Shim’on bar Yohai’s death (יום שמת רשב”י). Some are now speculating that, as there is no external evidence for this really being Rabbi Shim’on bar Yohai’s yahrzeit, that what he really wrote was “the joyous celebration of Rabbi Shim’on bar Yohai” (יום שמחת רשב”י) and that a later copyist was responsible for the error.This is possible, I suppose. There are plenty of other examples of this sort of confusion taking place. Take the Birkat HaMazon, for example. On weekdays we say, “מגדיל ישועות מלכו” and on Shabbat we say, “מגדול ישועות מלכו”. The text that says מגדיל can be found in Psalm 18:51; the version that says מגדול can be found in II Samuel 22:51. The assumption is that the text of Birkat HaMazon preserved the reading from Psalms, with a marginal note that indicated the alternative – followed by ש”ב for II Samuel. This was (very easily) mistaken for שבת!There are more examples, but I think that this message is probably too long already. Keep up the good blogging!

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