Lag B’Omer: the day of light relief


By Rabbi Aaron Gol...
May 2, 2010
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A few Shabbat afternoons ago, I was sat with Rabbi Pete Tobias at Vicarage Road. One more Rabbi and we would have been taking status cases, conversions and the like but instead, Rabbi Pete was grumbling about the Hornet’s lack of, well, most things and I was becoming increasingly concerned by the rising goal count against Aston Villa (Chelsea won 7-1!). Supporting the teams we do, it would be all too easy to feel rather down.

In Judaism, there is certainly enough that, if we dwelt on it, would get us down. Our history is full of dark ages and whilst we live in relative prosperity and peace, we are held in a constant state of concern for the State of Israel and on the watch for those who wish our harm. We do not hold a monopoly on worry and doubt, mourning and sorrow, or guilt but we certainly do good lines on them.

We set aside whole days and even periods of time to explore these emotions – right now we are in the middle of the ‘austerity season,’ the Omer. The words tsorus, kvetching and broigus need no translation. On a recent Radio London show, they featured high in the conscience of the cabbies who plied Robert Elms with Yiddish words integrated into British vocabulary (should that be voCABulary?).

Not only are we Jews, we are also British and there are no two ways about it, we Brits love a good kvetch as well! We are constantly muttering about how poor this and that is and even as we celebrate a national sporting achievement, we are predicting the downfall. We love knocking people and in most situations we see the worse. The current flavour of our whinging is how bad our politicians are.

My father, teacher and mentor, Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein, taught me that we are in the ‘hope’ business. Religion at its best has always provided its adherents with hope that tomorrow will be a better day and even, yes even for us Jews and British Jews, today may not be that bad either.

We have a weekly reminder of joy with Shabbat and we get regular hits through the festival cycle. This Sunday will be Lag B’Omer. From obscure probably pagan roots based on superstitious beliefs and woodland lore has sprung, like a woodland sprite the minor festival on the 18th of Iyar. Just as Tisha B’Av has become the day when tragic events in the history of our people supposedly occurred, Lag B’Omer has become the “traditional” date for joyous events.

A plague that had killed thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s disciples suddenly ceased on the 18th Iyar, the date of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s birth and death which he ordained as one of celebration for life, not mourning of death. This, the Rabbi who defied the Romans by studying and teaching Torah, hiding in a cave with his son and being visited by pupils dressed as hunters with bows and arrows. It is also said that manna first fell in the desert on Lag B’Omer – well food had to come into it somewhere!

So my advice to all those who are feeling rather down, is get out you picnic hampers, light a bonfire, (chiminea or bbq will do) , dress-up as hunters, build a cave, have a (safe) bow and arrow competition (preferably with a Watford Aston Villa striker – they need the practice). Alternatively attend a wedding or get your 3 year old’s haircut for the first time: further customs of the day. Oh, and take just one day-off from worrying about the elections!

This coloumn first appeared in the Jewish News, 29th April 2010

COMMENTS

Jon_i_Cohen

Sun, 05/02/2010 - 09:48

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" "Rabbi" Aaron Goldstein, A few Shabbat afternoons ago, I was sat with "Rabbi" Pete Tobias at Vicarage Road."
As a prefix to these two names, Why is the term Rabbi used?


Lanne

Sun, 05/02/2010 - 10:40

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Jon, if you disagree with Rabbi Aaron Goldstein that is your choice but Judaism teaches us to respect other Jews and it is not up to you or me to decide who is a rabbi. Many people who disagree with Orthodoxy would still give the title of rabbi to an Orthodox rabbi, it is a mark of respect for someone who is recognized as a rabbi in the community.


Harvey

Sun, 05/02/2010 - 14:56

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Jon

You beat me to the computer.I had " Spot the deliberate mistake " { as in spot the ball competition} but your comment is superior.

Reminds me of the time I was invited out for dinner by a Reform Rabbi who proceeded to eat treif .Not so much a kvetch on my part more a retch Some time after that I was invited to a Reform Barmitzvah . The service started at 10.30, and accompanied by an electric organ, proceeded to skip all but one Parsha . Reading the above ,it now occurs to me that the Rabbi may have had a1pm Chelsea kick off in mind .

Now I acknowledge the fact that Im not the most observant of Jews but I like to think that my Rabbi is .I'd like to think that after Shabbat service ,he is presiding over a well attended Shabbaton before returning to Shul in order to give a Shiur prior to Mincha. Difficult to do that from Vicarage Road I would imagine.

Lanne

You attach to much reverence to the term "Rabbi"


Yehuda A Holz

Sun, 05/02/2010 - 17:01

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I want a Rabbi that lives in a giant tree and has an organic garden... and holds Shabbat services in a forest... with happy squirrels and deer coming into the shul to daven with the congregation.


Harvey

Sun, 05/02/2010 - 18:21

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Yehuda
Thats just being silly. Best we can provide is the happy clappy variety singing Cumbya round the campfire { Is that why so manyReform Rabbis take up the acoustic guitar?]

However if you do decide to venture into the forest, look out for the Cheshire Cat and the Vanishing Smile . That would be three thousand years of orthodox tradition and heritage disappearing beneath the onslaught of Reform assimilation and quasi conversions


Jon_i_Cohen

Sun, 05/02/2010 - 23:26

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Lanne
I am well respected in my community - does that mean I can call myself "rabbi".
Perhaps I'll start.
Harvey
Thank you for your support.
My experiences of the "alternative" service, having been invited to Bar/Bat Mitzvahs at these services.
1.This "shul" competed to see how many women "they could call up in one" service.
2.This "shul" played the organ to a variety of Christian Hymn tunes and had NO word of Hebrew in the service.
3.This shul read one parsha from the scroll, but the person did not know the "trop" for the leyning.
4.This final one took the "biscuit", the "rabbi" could not read Hebrew, he had a go at struggling with it, so embarrasing for all.
These guys in the above blogg are so far out of touch with Judaism that they have no idea what my gripe is and they have no idea what wrong they do.
All very sad. As Harvey says -" a product of Reform assimilation and quasi conversions"


Lanne

Mon, 05/03/2010 - 07:50

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Jon, that is not a good comparison. A rabbi has the title because that is how they are recognized in their community. With any Reform assimilation, there is a strong chance assimilation would be the same or more if the reform community did not exist because they do not believe in Orthodoxy and do not want to join the Orthodox community so if the reform shuls did not exist they would not belong to any shul.


Rabbi Aaron Gol...

Mon, 05/03/2010 - 19:51

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Dear All,

Thank you very much for your comments. I hope that you all had a good time celebrating Lag B'Omer. Naturally, I added in something for everyone to laugh at to aid their celebrations in joy. However, I am also interested in the halakhic understanding that I am assuming some of the above comments are based on. I assume that as I would not think that they were based on pure likes and dislikes.

I am not sure if thejc.com has had an article on the halakhic requirements if one was to per chance attend a match on Shabbat. Does anyone know?

Shavua tov to you all

AaG


Yehuda A Holz

Mon, 05/03/2010 - 21:45

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Dear Rabbi Aaron, Great response! I hope you had a good Lag B'Omer too!

Ok, I will start the ball rolling (excuse the pun)...

In order to halakhically attend a football match... one would have to..

1) Live near enough to the stadium so as to be able to walk...
2) Some how incorporate the ticket into your clothing (I'm assuming the stadium is not in the NWL eruv).
3) Jump over or crawl under any electronic turnstyles.
4) Hmmm, make sure you don't get caught on any security cameras or get filmed by Sky Sports (so as not to create an image).
5) Remember not to tie your scarf.
6) If you are near the pitch, don't spill anything onto the grass (so as not to make it grow).
7) If somebody gives you a hotdog, check it for a genuine KLBD hekhsher!
9) Some authorities forbid becoming angry on Shabbat as anger may be considered a form of fire. So make sure you keep cool if things aren't going your way!


Yehuda A Holz

Mon, 05/03/2010 - 22:00

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Actually, now I think about it, there are more problems...

The first one, re: point 2 is that the ticket itself might be considered muktze (need to check the kitzur here).

Secondly, we have an issue of marit ayin (our kosher football excursion might look rather dubious).

Thirdly, we have the whole "es past nisht" debate (i.e. we really should be at home with the family reading Pirke Avot).


Jonathan Hoffman

Tue, 05/04/2010 - 05:45

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http://www.thejc.com/blogpost/liberal-rabbi-calling-end-jewish-state-not...

Not forgetting the Liberal Rabbi who thinks it's not antisemitic to call for the end of the Jewish State ....

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