Chasidic Groups Plan Alternative Lag Ba'Omer Celebrations Across Israel

Chasidic groups in Israel prepare alternative locations for Lag Ba'Omer fire-lighting ceremonies due to Mount Meron's closure. Thousands are expected to attend events in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Bet Shemesh, and Ashdod, featuring prominent Rebbes.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Chasidic Groups Plan Alternative Lag Ba'Omer Celebrations Across Israel

Chasidic Groups Plan Alternative Lag Ba'Omer Celebrations Across Israel

With the closure of Mount Meron to mass gatherings this Lag Ba'Omer, various Chasidic groups in Israel are preparing alternative locations to hold their traditional fire-lighting ceremonies. Major events are planned in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Bet Shemesh, and Ashdod, featuring prominent Rebbes and expecting thousands of participants.

Why this matters: The closure of Mount Meron and the subsequent alternative celebrations highlight the need for improved infrastructure and crowd control measures at holy sites, ensuring the safety of pilgrims and maintaining the continuity of centuries-old traditions. This event also underscores the resilience and adaptability ofreligious communities in the face of adversity.

In Jerusalem, a large compound is being readied at the Shimon Hatzadik tomb, where the Rachamstrivka Rebbe and his chasidim will light their fire. The Boyaner Rebbe will conduct a lighting at the Boyan Beis Midrash before traveling with a small group to Meron to light a fire on the roof of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's tomb. The Toldos Aharon and Toldos Avraham Yitzchak Chasidic sects will also hold their ceremonies in Jerusalem.

The Vizhnitz Chasidic dynasty is preparing for a massive event in Bnei Brak, with tens of thousands of seats arranged at their Beis Midrash for chasidim and their families. The gathering will include dancing, hundreds of first haircuts for young boys, and a festive tish meal with the Vizhnitz Rebbe on Sunday. The Rebbe will also lead an additional lighting on Sunday in Ashdod, accompanied by various events at the city's Chasidic center.

In Bet Shemesh, Rabbi Elimelech Biderman will officiate the central fire-lighting, an event that annually attracts a huge crowd. The Tzanz Chasidic group plans to hold their lighting ceremony on Sunday evening at 6 PM, followed by a tish in honor of Lag Ba'Omer.

Lag Ba'Omer, which begins on Saturday night, marks the 33rd day of the Omer period between Passover and Shavuot. It commemorates the passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the second-century sage and mystic to whom the seminal Kabbalistic text, the Zohar, is attributed. Lighting fires and celebrating at his tomb on Mount Meron has become a major annual tradition, especially for Chasidic Jews.

The decision to close Mount Meron this year was made in the wake of the 2021 tragedy that saw 45 people killed in a crowd crush at the site. The disaster led to a reevaluation of the infrastructure and crowd control measures at the holy site. Despite the closure, the Boyaner Rebbe and other Chasidic leaders are still planning to make the pilgrimage to Meron itself, albeit with drastically reduced numbers, to maintain the continuity of the centuries-old tradition honoring Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Key Takeaways

  • Mount Meron closed to mass gatherings for Lag Ba'Omer due to safety concerns.
  • Chasidic groups in Israel prepare alternative locations for fire-lighting ceremonies.
  • Major events planned in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Bet Shemesh, and Ashdod.
  • Thousands expected to participate in ceremonies led by prominent Rebbes.
  • Closure highlights need for improved infrastructure and crowd control at holy sites.