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. Frum.org’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
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
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
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
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
Have a great Shabbos!