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Meron, Mysticism, & Madness: To Go or Not To Go


jrosenfeld@lss.org

1. b. Yevamot 62b

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,

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...
R. Akiva had 12,000 pairs of students who all died in one period, because they did not accord the
proper respect to one another they all died from Pesach to Pentecost.

2. Meiri
(1249 c. 1310)
, Yevamot 62a

...and it is a tradition from the Geonim that on the 33rd day of the Omer the dying stopped, and
therefore we have a Minhag to refrain from fasting on that day. Similarly, there is a Minhag not to
get married from Pesach until that time.

3. R. Yaakov b. R. Moshe Levi Molein (Mainz, 1365-1427)


Sefer Maharil
,
Minhagim,
laws of the days between Pesach and Shavuot
, p. 21

The MaHaRi SeGaL said that even though it says in the Talmud that the students of R. Akiva died
from Pesach until Pentecost, nevertheless we made the day of Lag bOmer into one of rejoicing...

4. Zohar,
hakdama
(1:4a)1

TranslationsoftheZoharpassagestakenfromR.DanielFrisch,
SeferZoharhaKadosh:PeirushMatokmiDvash
(Jerusalem:2005)


R. Hiyya prostrated upon the grave of R. Shimon, and kissed the dust. He declared: dust, dust! how
stubborn you are! How petulant - that all those who desire to see beauty prostrate upon you, and all
the righteous, the pillars of the world are casually swallowed up by you; How chutzpadik that the
great light, R. Shimon, who illuminated and sustained the whole world [with his Torah] so that even
a rainbow was not seen in his days, [he] who was appointed as authoritative in the upper and lower
realms, that the merit of his Torah [continues] to sustain the world - he too is dead, buried and
subsumed within you [directing words to R. Shimon now. JR] R. Shimon, you are the light that
illuminates and enlightens all worlds...

you are swallowed up in the dust of the earth, and [despite that] you are already dead, you are
nevertheless considered alive and in charge, because through the fact that people learn your
Torah, your lips move in the grave...

5. Zohar,
Vayehi
(1:118a)2

[R. Yitzhak] said to his father: how much time is left for me in this world? His father replied that he
doesnt have the right to reveal this information, for we dont reveal to a person their appointed
time, so that they may spend their days in penitence; but in the great joy [ =
hilula
] that will be at the
removal [ =death, histalkut] of R. Shimon, and the great party and welcome that will greet him in
Gan Eden, you will be present there to set the table - meaning, you will be appointed to apportion a
bit of the great bountiful light to each Tzaddik at the time of R. Shimons death...

6. R. Hayyim Vital,
Shaar ha-Kavvanot: Derushei Pesah
, no. 12

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The matter of custom of the Jewish people that they go on Lag bOmer to the graves of RaShBI and
his son R. Elazar - who are buried in the city of Meron (as is known); where they eat and drink and
rejoice. I saw once my master went there on Lag bOmer with his entire retinue and spent the first
three days of the week...

7. R. Yosef Karo (1488-1575),


Maggid Meisharim
, Parshat
Emor
s.v. vHa

...and that is why our Rabbis said well that one who sits in the shade of the Sukkah, sits in the
Shade of Faith [ =tzeila dmeheminuta], as it is hinting to the notion of complete sovereignty [of
God] in infinitude, and accordingly; I did well when I spent [Sukkot] by RaShBI, and until then I did
not understand this matter...

8. R. Yosef Hayyim of Baghdad (1834-1909),


Daat u-Tevunah
; 1st
3
Introduction, p. 4

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...some wrote that the death of RaShbI was on Lag bOmer (so is written in the Pri Etz Hayyim),
however it is already known that in the texts of the ARIs writings there are typographical errors
corrupting the true text and in the Shaar ha-Kavvanot he wrote at length about the secret of the
days of the Omer and the reason why 24,000 died, and how afterward 5 learned with R. Akiva
and this was
the joy
of RaSHbI, and he wrote that there is a root of this in the joy that we make [on
Lag bOmer]... and he never stated that it was the day of the death of RaShbI, and it is possible that
the true intent was that on Lag bOmer, R. Akiva began to learn with RaShbI...

9. R. Hayyim Yosef David Azoulay (1724-1806),


Moreh bEtzba
; no. 2234

The day of Lag bOmer should be one of increased joy in honor of RaShbI, and there is a matter [
=inyan] that it is also the date of his death [ =hilula]5
and it is known that his desire was for this to
be a day of rejoicing, as is known from the story of R. Aharon ha-Levi
[see source #6. JR]
and others
that we have heard and are known from the holy Rabbis, and there is a custom to arrange for a
group of ten for learning of Shivhei RaShbI scattered about the Zohar and Idrot, and this is a fine
custom.

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Thisalsounderlinesthebasicviewofourreligion,thatinrealitythereisnodeathin
mattersofGdliness,TorahandMitzvoth,experiencethistransitionisonedirectiononly
goingstrengthfromstrength,higherandhigher,firstinthisworldandlaterinthefollowing
world
OlamHaba
alwaysontheascent.

10. R. Moshe Sofer, Resp.


Hatam Sofer
; vol. 2, YD 233, s.v.
omnam

However, I have heard that now the generations have improved and from afar [people] come to
search God out in the holy city of Safed on the 33rd day of the Omer, the hilula of RaShbI, and if it is
so that their entire intent is for the sake of heaven, their reward is obviously great but it is for this
very reason alone that I would be one of those who refrain from joining them and sitting amongst
them, challenging their custom in front of them, for that I dont want to join together with them, as
the Pri Hadash has already carped and castigated people in his essay on forbidden customs of
establishing nouveau holidays...

11. R. Yosef Shaul Nathanson (1808-1875), Resp.


Shoel u-Mashiv:
Hamishitaah
( =vol. 5), no. 39

...that R. Aharon ha-Levi was punished for saying nahem on Lag bOmer because it is a holiday,
does not make sense. Perhaps there, it was a holiday for all of Israel in that all were happy on the
hilula of RaShbI, but in truth, even with this I take issue, for on the contrary [ =aderaba], on the date
of a Tzaddiks death it is fitting to fast how can one make a holiday out of this, the day of our
great teacher, RaShbIs death?!

12. R. Ovadia Yosef (1918-2013), Resp.


Yehave Daat
; 5:34

In truth, we must point out that in recent times, modesty is not observed as it should in the holy
place of Meron. On Lag bOmer, as many women and girls attend posing great spiritual risk and
entrapment...

one should not bring themselves under tests and duress. And beside this, there are those who have
the custom to slaughter meat there without properly checking if the slaughterer is a licensed one or
expert in the laws one who is concerned for their soul should distance themselves from there...

13. R. Hayyim Elazar Shapira of Munkacz (1871-1937), Resp.


Minhat Elazar
;
3:53

when it comes to the graves of holy Tzaddikim, prohibition doesnt apply, the custom was already in
ancient times to pray, publicly read Torah in Beit Midrash of the cave of RaShbI in Meron...

...for if it is intended for the honor of the deceased, then it is permitted to say words of Torah, and
so too here, that which they say by the graves psalms and prayers, and that some learn mishnayot,
it must therefore be permitted, because it is for the honor and the betterment of the deceased who
is hidden/buried there, to raise them and to revivify their merits...

14. R. Moshe Shternbuch (1926-), Resp. Teshuvot ve-Hanhagot; 2:246

15. R. Avraham Tzvi Kluger,


Nezer Yisrael
; vol. 2 ( =
moadim
), pp. 340-341