Bonfire of the Vanities

What’s the point of Lag Ba’omer? Like, seriously, what does it commemorate? What does it celebrate? The day Rabbi Akiva’s students stopped dying? That doesn’t really make sense.

Rabbi Akiva had, near as I can tell 24,005 students. From Pesach until Lag Ba’omer, 24,000 of them died. So we have this big celebration on the day they stopped dying? If 99.98% of your students died of plague in a 33 day period, would you go out and celebrate with bonfires? (Bonfires? Where in our religion do we have that? Or anything remotely like that? It seems very pagan to me).

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8 thoughts on “Bonfire of the Vanities

  1. Hmm, what about Rosh Chodesh when we have the fires on the top of the mountain? Not exactly “bonfires” but that’s what came to mind. Well, that just reminds me of Lord of the Rings. I think I will stop the random word association here.

  2. Read JPost editorial, he says we’re celebrating the failed revolution of Bar Kochba. Not that that makes any more sense….it’s kinda like celebrating the Warsaw Ghetto uprising on Yom Hashoah…

  3. The A”ri was the one to decide that lag ba’omer is a happy day based on his reading of the zohar regarding Shimon BAr Yochai’s yarhtzeit.
    Prevously around this time had been celebrated b/c during the bar kochva revolt the rebels won an important victory against the romans. One year later, however they were crushed, beginning with the Roman spring campaign. That’s when most of Akiva’s students were killed (in battle).
    The Bonfire minhag is actually very recent only about 200 years and its copied from the muslims.

  4. ok that makes no sence this was actually supposed to be a happy time so when they stopped dieing we can be happy again (why do you think we are unhappy in the first place) and we are happy about rabbi shimon ben zachias life

  5. I think it might make sense to celebrate Bar Kochba’s failed revolt… At first, Rabbi Akiva saw messianic potential in Bar Kochba, but then after the revolt was aborted he realized that Bar Kochba wasn’t all good, so it’s prob a good thing that his revolt wasn’t successful, because he may have been a corrupted ruler had he won the revolt.

  6. Anonymous has it right; the Zohar recounts the tale of R. Shimon bar Yochai’s ecstatic death and ascent in some way to heaven. He said at his deathbed that his death should not be mourned, but celebrated.

    The Ari z”l pinned the day on Lag Ba’Omer.

    Some modern scholarship (Liebes 1993) has it that the Zohar’s internal evidence clearly points to R. Shimon’s death being on Shavuot itself, however, which would sit better with a straight-forward reading of the gemara (BT Yevamot 62b), and corroborate the Jerusalemite minhag of keeping minhagei avelut both “days” of sefirah.

    I just found a really nice article on the subject from the Gushies.

    http://www.vbm-torah.org/shavuot/sefiratha-omer3.htm

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