Tuesday, May 16, 2006

galilee roast

The Galilee, and probably the rest of Israel as well, was full of smoke last night. It was more apparant in our area because we live about 25 minutes from Meron, the Mecca of Lag B'Omer. Over 200,000 people come to Meron from all over the country to celebrate Lag B'Omer and dance on the grave of the Rashbi. Everyone was at a bonfire. There was one community bonfire for the national religious, and I don't know if they had a city bonfire for the non-religious. We went to a neighbor's yard and had our bonfire with 3 other families. The hot dogs were "al ha-aish", and were actually put on skewers and laid across two pieces of wood at the edge of the fire. Of course there were potatos wrapped in tin foil to make it Israeli. It was too hot (actually our sticks were too short) for the children to actually get to roast their own marshmellows, but they enjoyed them anyways. Our bonfire ended at around 11 and we only had one kid sleeping by that time. A teenager told me that they aren't even starting their bonfire until midnight and it would last all night. One of our kids had a bonfire birthday bash to go to (for 1st graders). I asked her if they sang songs about bar yochai or bar kochba, and she said no they sang aish aish medoora (fire, fire, bonfire).

Thirty days before a holiday you are supposed to start preparing for it, by learning the laws and getting ready spiritually and physically. This is the only holiday that I have seen people actually start getting ready for a minimum of 30 days before. Already before pesach you could see kids dragging wood to their stash in preperation for the big day. Crates, pallets, trees, branches, old furniture and anything that might be burnable is thrown onto the altar of lag b'omer.

I now understand what cultural Judaism is all about. There is practically nobody, religious and secular alike (myself included), who have any inkling as to why we are having a bonfire on the 33rd day of the omer and why we are putting potatos wrapped in tin foil in the fire. We just do it and we don't ask questions and we have fun.
While we are supposed to count 49 days, 7 complete weeks, until receiving the Torah on Shavuos, most of Israel counts 33 days till we get to light up the countryside for no apparant reason.

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