Friday, May 16, 2014

Chapter: Jewish Holidays.
Jews Celebrate Lag B'Omer This Weekend.
How Was It Commemorated 90 Years Ago?

Dancing at the Meron tomb (Central Zionist Archives, Harvard Library, 1925) 

Updating a previous posting

Jews around the world will celebrate Lag B'Omer on Saturday night, at the end of a month-long mourning period when traditional Jews refrain from weddings or joyous gatherings.  The mourning remembers the thousands of students of Rabbi Akiva, a renowned spiritual leader at the time of the Talmud (1st century CE).  They died in a great plague that ended on Lag B'Omer. 

Celebration in Meron (circa 1915, Harvard/Central Zionist Archives)

Celebration in Meron (circa 1915, Harvard/Central Zionist Archives)

Dancing in Meron (circa 1925, Harvard/Central Zionist Archives). Note the Torah scroll in a Sephardic case. The
 men wearing fez hats are Sephardi Jews. The men wearing kafiyas are likely Arab participants.

In Israel, Lag B'Omer is marked with bonfires in every neighborhood, hikes along nature trails, and gatherings at the tombs of of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in the Galilee town of Meron and of Shimon the Just (Hatzaddik) in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Meron and tomb of Shimon Bar Yochai  (circa 1930,
Library of Congress

Bar Yochai, a student of Rabbi Akiva's, was known for his opposition to the Roman rule in the Land of Israel.  He and his son were forced to flee to the Galilee where they hid in a cave for 12 years.  Lag B'Omer is the day of his death, but it is actually celebrated in recognition of the Torah teachings he gave to his students.

Hundreds of thousands of celebrants are expected to visit Shimon Bar Yochai's tomb in Meron this weekend.

Enlargement: the tomb on the
top of the mountain


Today's feature is dedicated by Shlomo
Solomon Goldberg in loving memory of
his wife Michal Elisheva

Shimon Hatzaddik was a High Priest of the second Temple in Jerusalem for 40 years (2nd century BCE).

Jewish women praying at the Shimon Hatzaddik tomb (Central Zionist
Archives, Harvard Library, c. 1930)

Jews gathered at Shimon Hatzaddik's tomb in Sheikh Jarrah,
Jerusalem (Central Zionist Archives, Harvard Library, c. 1930)

According to Jewish tradition, Shimon clothed himself in his High Priest's vestments to receive Alexander the Great as he marched toward Jerusalem.  Alexander stepped from his chariot and bowed to Shimon, who, he said, had appeared to him in a dream predicting his victories. 

Many traditional Jews who cannot travel to Meron in the Galilee celebrate Lag B'Omer at Shimon Hatzaddik's tomb located in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in northern Jerusalem. 
Jewish homes around the tomb had to be evacuated in the 1948 fighting.  In recent years Jewish families have returned to the neighborhood.

Shimon Hatzaddik's tomb today
Children's Lag B'Omer procession near Shimon Hatzaddik's tomb, Jerusalem (1918,
 Library of Congress)


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