Lag B’Omer in Meron, 5770
When asked if I return to the United States for money, it occurred to me to write the following:
Returning to galut is, kind of like, for the money. Yet, there’s another ‘level.’ The Spiritual or expanded consciousness that is available, but through the ‘Expanded Torah.’
The Zohar (Book of Splendor)is called The Expanded Torah. It is the fundamental book of Kabbalah, written by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai over two thousand years ago.
Last week, upon reaching the 33rd day of the omer, (explanation required) about 500,000 Jews passed through Rabbi Shimon’s grave site deep in the mountains northwest of Tzfat.
I was there, in awe of the massive, (largely unreported) pilgrimage. This is probably the largest gathering of Jews in the world, every year.
It’s housed in an old castle type of stone building. Every kind of Jew was there, although the majority were Hareidim and Chassidim. Food was in abundance, and all free. There were booths selling a myriad spiritual and Holy books or objects of observance, like candles, jewelry, shofars, hair coverings…
On the sides of the hilly entrance with paths leading up to the burial site, were entrances for men, mixed and women. You could chose which of the two entrances allowed to you, based on your gender.
There were the same three ‘zones’ around the tombs.
Music poured out onto a constant writhing of dancers circling, almost non-stop from Saturday night until Sunday night. As you walked from place to place, you could enter into the circle dance, and continue your walk on the other side.
There was a mood of simcha, (joy) and spiritual reverence. And hundreds collecting for charitable organizations or for help with financial burdens by holding out hands, small and large tin cans or elegant platters.
By the way, I saw more than one platter of donations left out along the walkways, without attendants. Who would steal of this large group? Only those who really needed it and would be forgiven. There was too much ‘reward’ for giving.
Many didn’t really know why they were there, but felt drawn to the high level of spirituality and the desire to do teshuvah (repentance or coming closer to G-d).
I have the lasting impression it was a gathering of the Guf Kodesh (Holy Body) of Israel to unite in dancing, prayer and repentance.
At one point a line of young men surprised me compelling me to give them Blessings. They literally grabbed my hand, bringing it to their heads, and bowing their faces toward the ground waited while I recited prayers of blessing. After six or seven passed I turned away, with an emotion difficult to describe.
As throughout Israel, there were huge bonfires in and around the tomb grounds. All of these customs have very deep spiritual meanings available to learn if the time is spent. Among the hidden meanings are great ethical teachings. If one learns them with openness and purity, he will grow in heart, mind and action.
About three A.M. Rav Eliezer Berlan arrived from Jerusalem. He’s a great tzadik known throughout the Jewish world. (I sat with him three times after I arrived in Israel, and he said I should live in Yavne’el.) He first lit a large bonfire prepared in a raised stone platform above a circle of dancing men with a radius of 25-30 deep. He shot little ‘arrows’ into the crowds as Blessings, as is the custom, that gave those who caught them feelings of joy.
Amplified music from a large group of musicians playing rock-traditional fusion melodies filled the air. It reminded me of Woodstock in its drama except there were twice the number, it is recurrent yearly and growing.
Here were smiles, greetings and warm embraces every where, with no discernible drunkenness, teenage fights or thievery. Nor was there any open demonstration of personal sexuality. Rather than “sex, drugs, and rock & roll,” it echoed the long, often obscure history of Jewish unification at the grave of a Tzadik (Righteous One).
I dream of a time you might are able to experience Israel first hand. With G-d’s help it will happen some day.