Over 200,000 people gathered Sunday in the tiny northern town of Meron to commemorate the Jewish holiday of Lag B'Omer, which marks the anniversary of the passing of the great mystic Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Romans.
Police were expecting up to 400,000 people to visit Meron and the tomb of the rabbi, also known as the Rashbi, by the end of the two-day celebration. The Rashbi, who passed away on Lag B'Omer, is attributed as the author of the Zohar, the foundation for Jewish mystical thought or Kabbalah.
A fierce opponent of the Roman regime, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai lived in ancient Israel after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and was forced into hiding for over 12 years with his son, Rabbi Elazar. During that time, the two immersed themselves in Torah study and the Rashbi became one of the forefathers of the Kabbalah movement.
Havdalah ceremony in Meron (Photo: AFP)
(Photo: Eli Mandelbaum)
(Photo: Eli Mandelbaum)
A central part of the Meron celebrations, in addition to the bonfires and dancing, is a 24-hour non-stop prayer vigil conducted by tens of recognized rabbis, most them authorities in the mystical study of Kabbalah.
"On Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day after the conclusion of Passover, our global focus as a people turns to miracles," said Rabbi Cohen, leader of Or Harashbi, a movement named after Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.
"Of course many are skeptical when miracles are discussed, but this is the day when they happen intensely,” said Rabbi Cohen.
"We don't mind the eye-rolling or snickering," the rabbi added, "In fact, our prayers at Meron on this day in recent years have resulted in well over 2,000 personal miracles happening for people for whom we prayed there."
Women praying in Meron (Photo: AFP)
Adherents of the Rashbi’s legacy firmly believe that prayer in his memory has special qualities that can make miracles come true.
"We are committed to spreading the light of Meron on Lag B'Omer around the world," added Rabbi Cohen, who recounts how the power of prayer at the Rashbi tomb has helped heal countless sick people and brought about other miracles in past years.
Elsewhere in Israel, bonfires were built across the country, with schoolchildren, who have Sunday and Monday off, collecting wood and participating in other traditional Lag B'Omer activities such as playing with bows and arrows.
Both young and old were seen barbecuing and roasting marshmallows as well as singing and dancing on the holiday.
Reprinted with permission from Tazpit News Agency