Sefiras HaOmer: Meron 2021

For those wondering, yes, I was in Meron on Thursday night.  We decided to take the entire family, a first, since when one of us goes, it's usually with the oldest two.  However, we have a rule, we go early close to sundown or early close to sunrise, but we don't go there in the middle of the night when the entire world is there.  I'm quite thankful for that rule this year, since we got home an hour before the incident occurred.  Of course, like everything in Israel, everybody is connected to everything.  Somebody I know lost a cousin.  My son's teacher was there and is a volunteer paramedic.  It seems that he attempted to save a few people and was unsuccessful … he has yet to return to class.  A boy learning in the local yeshiva was killed.’s proofreader in Haifa (yes, we have one) was at the shiva for one of the boys who lives nearby.  All in all, it's been one of those darker times, and I'm thankful that I was not directly affected.

I'm sure there are many people who feel that they can explain what happened in Meron this past week as if they were prophets.  Very few people are big enough to make such statements.  So, we're really left with each person learning from the situation and trying to grow from it.  If you don't mind, I'd like to say over my thought, not WHY it happened, but something that I think that can be learned from it.

I'm very fortunate to have "been raised" with a Rosh Yeshiva who was very much against going to Meron.  He had his reasons, which were all valid and sound.  He used to say (and I forgot his sources) that Meron on Lag B'Omer could be a very dangerous place for somebody who does not try to live up to the high standards of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai.  How those words rang through my head throughout last Shabbos.  So, for me, if going means taking out time from Kollel or missing Kollel the next day, I simply don't go.  However, this year, being that Lag B'Omer is on Friday, I was only missing work if I went on Thursday night.

The last time I was there was several years ago.  I went with a friend, got to the building where Rebbe Shimon is buried, davened, and returned home.  I found it spiritually uplifting and it helped to daven there at that particular time.  This year was different, since I had a wife and kids in tow.  Spiritually speaking, it wasn't the greatest, since I had to constantly make sure we were together and all right.  However, my Ahavas Yisroel was helped greatly.  In Meron on Lag B'Omer you see all sorts of Jews together.  No fights.  No issues.  Everybody is there for their reasons.  There are tons of organizations volunteering time and money to make sure everybody is safe and taken care of.  It's truly a remarkable thing to see, and I hope to see it again.

After thinking about the tragedy, I asked my kids why they wanted to go.  They gave me the three answers that I was expecting: "Kef" (fun), "Chavaya" ("party"), and "Ax-shun" (yeah… "action").

If you look carefully in the Torah, you will not find any of those words.  You will find something similar, called "Simcha."  But simcha is different then kef.  "Fun" is caused by something outside the Torah, while "Simcha" is caused by something from within the Torah.

Unfortunately, we have gotten these things confused.  In order to "assure" that our children remain loyal to the Torah, we mistakenly think that we need to make things (i.e. Torah) "fun."  Instead of teaching our children (and even ourselves) that we can have simcha THROUGH Torah, we try to ADD "fun" to the Torah, to make it exciting and refreshing.

Meron on Lag B'Omer is a giant party.  A kosher one.  Nothing forbidden going on.  But a party nonetheless. Yes, there were thousands of people there who were saying Tehillim and davening and singing and getting a real "lift" from the atmosphere.  But … how many of us who go there, or who celebrate it throughout the world, give any thought to WHY we are celebrating.  Who was Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai?  What did he stand for?  What are we doing to move ourselves closer to his view in life that we would WANT to celebrate his life?

When we have these big events or make big deals about mitzvos, do we give thought to what we are doing? Or do we focus on enjoyment of the moment.  Yes, a person can feel uplifted in Meron on Lag B'Omer.  But, if he or she does not think about what they were celebrating, they will return home the next day the same person they were when they arrived.  That's what happens when we focus on the "fun" or the "action." 

But if a person can focus on the reason of the mitzvah or the celebration or whatnot, and have an uplifting experience, well, that person can truly enjoy the simcha of Torah, because he will leave a different person.

Again, this is not just about Lag B'Omer.  It could be anything in life.  We're supposed to have simcha in our lives.  But that simcha cannot come through external "fun," only through Torah and growth.

Have a great Shabbos!