This year Lag B’Omer and Memorial Day are three days apart. Interestingly, both holidays have similar themes: people died, let’s have a barbecue.
Lag B’Omer is the anniversary of the death of Torah sage Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yohai. It also commemorates Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students who stopped dying from a mysterious plague on this day. (However, one friend did say they stopped dying because there were none left, so he’s not sure what the celebration is about). I was once in Israel on Lag B’Omer; there are bonfires everywhere. I have always wondered how the country, being so dry, manages not to burn itself down on this day. Batya shows a campfire being built here.
It sounds like the day is not without problems, as rabbis recently warned:
Lag Ba’omer bonfire fans should be careful not to cause monetary or environmental damage in their enthusiasm to celebrate, cautioned the two Israeli chief rabbis in an announcement.
“When God created Adam he took him and showed him all the trees in Gan Eden,” quoted rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger from ancient homiletic literature (Kohelet Raba). “God said to him, ‘Look at all my creations, how magnificent they are. All that I have created is for you. Be sure not to destroy my world, because if you do there is no one who can repair it.”
However, preparations for Lag Ba’omer, such as the gathering of wood and other combustibles, often involve the stealing of private property by overly enthusiastic children. In addition, the large amount of smoke emitted by the fires is detrimental to the environment.
In addition, just before and during Lag Ba’omer, Magen David Adom receives double the regular number of calls from children and teenagers who have been accidentally burned or hurt preparing bonfires.
The chief rabbis urged the Jews of Israel to be careful with their bonfires to prevent unnecessary damage. They also called for the public to be scrupulous in protecting private property.
In America, we often forget why we celebrate holidays. What’s this one for? Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service.
Memorial Day in Highland Park is a lot of fun because the annual parade. In the past, when my son was a Cub Scout (and for four years I was the Den Mother), we would march together down Raritan Avenue:
This is the 2004 Memorial Day Parade. I’m wearing the orange t-shirt. Note the price of gas.
This year, however, my son is a Boy Scout, and he will be on Boy Scout Kinus, the weekend camping trip. He was disappointed to hear that the local Boy Scouts don’t march in the local parade because it conflicts with Kinus. I didn’t know he liked the march so much! All I remember are the complaints about needing to walk so far. And the complaints about being told by adults to smile at the crowds.
Are you celebrating either holiday? Any interesting plans?