Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Segulos Associated With Lag BaOmer

"A Talmid" lists a bunch of segulos and minhagim associated with Lag BaOmer. And sees them as positive. I personally see them as troubling, so this is a point of disagreement.

One interesting one:
Similarly, Mesechta Pesachim (51b) says one can rely on Rashbi, if you’re in front of him or if you’re not in front of him. This alludes that one can receive a yeshua on his Yom Hilula “in front of him”, praying by his tzion, or “not in front of him”, meaning, any other place you may be on Lag BaOmer. (Kol Aryeh)
That gemara actually reads:
דאמר רבה בר בר חנה סח לי רבי יוחנן בן אלעזר פעם אחת נכנסתי אחר ר"ש בן רבי יוסי בן לקוניא לגינה
ונטל ספיחי כרוב ואכל ונתן לי ואמר לי בני בפני אכול שלא בפני לא תאכל אני שראיתי את ר"ש בן יוחי שאכל כדי הוא ר' שמעון בן יוחי לסמוך עליו בפניו ושלא בפניו אתה בפני אכול שלא בפני לא תאכל
And the real meaning of that gemara:
(Rabah bar bar Chanah citing R. Yochanan ben Elazar): I once followed R. Yosi ben Lekunya to a garden; he took Sefichim (things that grow by themselves) of cabbage [in Shemitah, after Bi'ur (Rashi) or even before (Tosfos)], ate some, and gave to me - he told me that I may eat, but only in front of him;
(R. Yosi ben Lekunya) saw R. Shimon eat - he is so important that I can rely on him to eat in front of him and in his absence;
You (R. Yochanan ben Elazar, since you did not see R. Shimon) may eat only in front of me. (The contradiction is not resolved.)
And so not everyone can rely on Rabbi Shimon, but only those who personally saw him eat sefichim. To be fair, he states this is a mere allusion, a hint to what he is trying to deduce.

But still, saying this about Rashbi is potentially theologically dangerous. One receives a yeshua by relying on Rashbi anywhere in the world. To be totally unfair, shall we say that he is מלא כל הארץ כבודו? Any yeshua comes from HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Yet here, we are relying on the tzaddik to deliver, from anywhere in the world. This is not really omnipotence and omnipresence, but is begins to approach it. Praying at kivrei tzaddikim is already fraught with theological dangers, in my opinion. When one starts making such broad, sweeping claims about the powers of this deceased tzaddik, on a day in which pyres are burnt in the tzaddik's honor, it is even more troubling.

More about the pyre, also from the same blog:
There is a custom to put olive oil in the fire and to burn clothes in the fire. The Rizhiner used to send silk garments to Miron to be burnt in the bonfire. Tzadikim of Eretz Yisroel say this is a segula for success, materially and spiritually.

Meanwhile, this was sent to via Aish's spam-list. One can buy some oil to ignite the bonfire, for only $138. This is clearly not the cost of the oil, but rather the gematria of hatzlacha. If only Jews would not fall for such nonsense and superstition.

I've previously posted about the problematic aspect of these pyres. But thinking that the pyres will effect a tikkun for thousands of Jews, or in this case that there will be a magical effect to get blessing, success, and salvation is problematic.

After all, the Tosefta only says that pyres are not Darkei Emori because they are done only as a mark of honor for the deceased king. Here, if people are actually offering sacrifices to a deceased individual, thinking that in return he will grant them favors from on high, and that this will grant them material success, then it appears to me to be akin to superstition or even, chas veshalom, avodah zorah.

And to think that the Bedatz is concerned about video monitors at Meiron:
Another example is the prohibition that the Badatz placed on having video screens in Meiron on Lag Baomer. The letter from the Badatz was accompanied by a warning from the Badatz's goons that they will break any video screens that are put up in violation of the Badatz's order.
There is also the segulah of chai rotel mashka, with current websites of people trying to make money off it. I'm not going to get into it this year. Here is an old post at DovBear, though.


Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>If only Jews would not fall for such nonsense and superstition.

If only . . . then what?

joshwaxman said...


Since it is something that will never happen, I can be lazy and not come up with an end to that sentence.

Anonymous said...

Surely you agree that there can be nothing of Darkhei Emori in lighting fires to commemorate the death of Shimon Nasi Yisrael. Or of practicing with bows and arows as he would have wanted his followers to do - those who accepted the Psak of Rabbi Akiva regarding Shimon's leadership and who only died because of a failure to maintain military discipline.

joshwaxman said...

But what makes him a Nasi? I know he was a Tanna, but a Nasi? Unless I'm missing something...

Here is a list of Nesiim:
and Rashbi is not on that list.

I discussed come of this in this post, and then this post.

And if were just done for his honor, it would perhaps be OK. But the fact that people claim that people are getting tikkunim from the fire, and that they attribute magical results as a consequence of donating to the fire, makes me doubt that they (or at least everybody) are really treating it as just that.

It is quite possible I am missing something here.

Kol Tuv,

Anonymous said...

We're talking about different Shimons who each excelled in their own field: bar Yochai and bar Kosba (called bar Kochba, self-styled Nasi b'Yisrael). Which of the two is more associated with Jewish archers? Obviously bar Kochba. Even the bonfires and drinking are better associated with a military leader than a religious ascetic.

joshwaxman said...

very interesting idea.
I've got to think about it.

joshwaxman said...

ultimately, what are the kavanos of those lighting the fire in Meiron?

Mr. Cohen said...

May I humble recommend:
Sefer Pele Yoetz, Perek Segulah?

How a Reform Rabbi Became Orthodox (true story):


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