Ultra Conservative, or Orthodox Jews have suffered a tragedy at one of their great celebrations. Tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews make a pilgrimage to Meron each year for Lag B’Omer, a religious holiday marked with all-night bonfires, prayers and dancing.
The town, Meron, is the site of the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a revered Second-Century sage, who ordained that at the anniversary of his death, it was to be commemorated with a celebration of his life. Unfortunately, it was not a celebration of life this year, but of tragedy. We pray for their grief and suffering during this terrible loss in the midst of what was to be a great joyous celebration.
Perhaps this is a time to learn more about the Orthodox Jewish faith and their history:
Who was Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who decreed a “Celebration of Life”?
“Rabbi Shimon was a prominent Talmudic sage who lived in Israel after the destruction of the Second Temple. His expertise in Jewish law and tradition is evidenced by the fact that his name and halachic opinions are strewn throughout the Mishnah and Talmud…
According to the Talmud, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai criticized the occupying Roman government and was forced to flee from the authorities who wished to execute him. Together with his son, he hid in a cave in nearby Peki’in for thirteen years. They survived thanks to a carob tree which miraculously sprouted near the cave and a stream of fresh water which sprung up nearby. It was during this time that Rabbi Shimon wrote the Zohar.
Rabbi Shimon died on Lag b Omer (the 33rd day of the Omer) the 18th of Iyar. Before his death, he referred to the day of his passing as “the day of my happiness” and instructed his disciples that each year there should be a day of joyous celebration.
The CELEBRATION OF LIFE
Ever since, the day has been a festive day on the Jewish calendar. On that day, the mourning practices of the Omer period are suspended. It is customary to go on outings and to light bonfires. However, the main celebration is reserved for the small town of Meron, where Rabbi Shimon is buried.
As far back as five hundred years ago, over a thousand people were known to have congregated at Meron on Lag b’Omer. They lit bonfires, played music, danced, prayed and studied Zohar. Today, the numbers of pilgrims have increased astronomically.” (Nechama Golding)
See the video below of this year’s celebration before the tragedy of loss of life in close quarters with thousands of people.
Do you know the difference between Orthodox and Reformed Jews?
Orthodox and Reformed Jews: What exactly do they believe when it comes to the Messiah and their thoughts on the Messianic Age? It is also likely that many Christians do not know their differences.
This diagram gives a closer look:
|Orthodox Jewish beliefs about the Messiah||Reform Jewish beliefs about the Messiah|
|The Messianic Age will only start after the Messiah’s arrival on Earth. It is therefore important for Jews to pray for the Messiah, also known as the ‘redeemer’, to come.||Human beings are responsible for bringing peace to the world. Instead of praying for a Messiah, Jews should pray for a Messianic Age, which will be an age of peace. Reform Jews pray for redemption rather than for a ‘redeemer’.|
|The Messiah will be a human being descended from King David, although he will have superhuman qualities and abilities.||There will not necessarily be a person who is the Messiah.|
|In the Messianic Age, Jews will triumph over the enemies of Israel. This will lead to the destruction of weapons and people living in peace.||Humans can bring on the Messianic Age by joining together to create a better world. The Messianic Age will not bring about conflict, but peace and understanding between all people.|
|The Messianic Age will be a sign of the end of the world and the physical resurrection of the dead.||Many Reform Jews do not believe that there will be an end to the world, or that the dead will be resurrected.|
|The Messiah will rebuild the ancient Temple in Jerusalem and restore the authority to rule over Israel to the descendants of King David.||The rebuilding of the Temple is a metaphor for the Messianic Age, where there will be peace and all people will know God and follow his commandments.|
Festivals and Pilgrimages of Orthodox Jews
Besides holding great festivals, the Orthodox Jews also make pilgrimages to the place where they believe that Aaron, the brother of Moses, was buried. It is here that a young Jewish boy may have his first hair cut.
Where is Meron, where Aaron is buried and the Festival is held?
It is actually in the country of Jordan and is described here by Bill Slott:
“But a visit to the grave of Aaron would require a visa, a trip to Jordan, specifically to the red rock ruins of the ancient city of Petra, and a full-day trek up the mountain. (My husband took a Christian group to Jerusalem and Petra…quite an experience.)
Most people look up and point to Aaron’s grave from Petra, but few make the climb. According to Jewish tradition, the location of Aaron’s grave, like that of Moses, is shrouded in mystery, lest it be turned into a site of unholy pilgrimage. Thus it was no small surprise when, shortly after the peace treaty with Jordan, I bumped into a group of 20 ultra-Orthodox Jews decked out in their Shabbat finery, riding through Petra on donkeys on their way up to Aaron’s grave. Needless to say, they were completely uninterested in the surrounding Nabataean ruins that attract millions of visitors to Petra. They were ascending to mourn the loss of the first High Priest, just as the children of Israel had done three thousand years ago.”
What do Christians and Messianic Jews Believe about the Messianic Age?
A Messianic Jew is one who believes that Jesus Christ was indeed the Messiah. They and Christians believes that the Messiah has already come and are waiting for His 2nd coming. The Messiah was and is Jesus Christ.
They believe after He was crucified, he rose from the dead and was witnessed by those who were around him. He showed the scars of the nails on His hands and feet. He then ascended into heaven, saying that only the Father in Heaven will know when Christ will return the second time to earth. Christians are waiting for this return and because of what Christ said in the Holy Scriptures All believers are to be ready. (Matthew 24:36-44)
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Yes, Christ will bring peace…when the lion will lay down with the lamb, as we are told in Isaiah…but in the mean time, we have to pray for the “peace of Jerusalem” and the whole world.
VIDEO…A SPECIAL SONG
In HONOR of the Orthodox Jews that died and were injured, we present the Orthodox singers that shows the celebration of life, as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai asked the Jewish people to remember.
The words sung are taken from Psalm 127:1, ( Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain…)
Below is the basic translation to the song:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
Im HaShem Lo Yivneh Bayit
The builders labor in vain.
Shav Amlu Bonav Bo
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
Im HaShem Lo Yishmor Ir
the guards stand watch in vain.
Shav Shakad Shomer
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
Hinei Hinei Lo Yanum
will neither slumber nor sleep.
Lo Yanum v’Lo Yishan
Lo Yanum v’Lo Yishan
Guardian of Israel
Turn up sound.