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Study and Theory/
Lag Ba'omer

S Y Agnon

The Celebration at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai

One who hasn’t seen the joy of Lag Ba’Omer at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai has never seen joy in his life. When the people of Israel make pilgrimage to there with the earthiness of a celebration, with songs and instruments and they come from all the places of God’s towns and from the lands of Edom and Ishmael and stand there day and night and study....and pray and say psalms. And a marble column is placed there and at its top a container for oil and olive oil is placed therein and wicks are made from silk and pretty scarves and all sorts of expensive handkerchiefs and clothes embroidered with silver and gold and they are placed in the oil and ignited and a huge celebration is made and dancing....(when there was) the time came for the people of Israel the like of which has never been since the destruction of the last temple and those same people from Israel stood there who had not despaired of the exile and made pilgrimage to ends of the Land of Israel, found it destroyed and bloody...and when they reached Zefat, on the eve of Lag Ba’Omer it was, all of Zefat gathered with them, and said to them: “Our Lord we are not asking from you....but rather a great custom there is in the Land of Israel that on Lag Ba’Omer we make pilgrimage to Meron and ignite oil on the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai...”. The exiles said to the people of Zefat: “We are also asking to be joyous with that same joy”. They went and brought jugs full of olive oil and took pretty handkerchiefs and made pilgrimage to Meron, when they reached the cave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai they found Arabs standing there in front of the cave and holding rags steeped in oil in their hands. The Arabs said to the people of Israel “Our brothers the children of Israel, this place is blessed, blessed is the One who brings you here and blessed are you that God our Father has brought you here. All those same years that you didn’t come, we lit the tomb of that righteous rabbi, now you have come, hang up your own and light them. The people of Israel lit the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai until they lit up the whole land with their light.

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