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Rabbis: Go to Meron for Lag BaOmer Day, Not Evening

Chief Rabbis call on Lag BaOmer visitors to Meron to postpone until Sunday so workers preparing the site won't desecrate Sabbath.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 5/12/2011, 9:22 AM / Last Update: 5/12/2011, 10:31 AM

Jonathan Stein

Israeli Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and Rabbi Shlomo Amar, along with former Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, have called on the public to postpone their trips to Meron on the eve of Lag BaOmer and come during the day on Sunday instead.

The call follows a campaign by the Tzohar Rabbis organization to officially postpone Lag BaOmer celebrations when it falls out on Sunday by giving Israeli schoolchildren Monday as a day off instead of Sunday.

This year, the eve of the minor holiday of Lag B'Omer falls on Saturday night, just after the Sabbath. The name of the holiday comes from the Hebrew numeric value it represents: it is the 33rd day of the Omer counting period between Passover and the Festival of Weeks (Shavuot, or Pentecost). Lag – Lamed-Gimel – equals 33.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people stream to the mystical Galilee mountain town of Meron, where the “Divine Tannaitic Sage” Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is buried. Bonfires are lit, and singing and dancing are the order of the night.

Numerous preparations are necessary in order to set up and secure the site properly in time for people to arrive.

The rabbis noted that such preparations, which must be completed in advance of the arrival of the hundreds of thousands of people who come every year to the site, would mean mass violations of the Sabbath.

Sources close to Rabbi Yosef said he issued the ruling after observant Jewish police officers, assigned to work on the Sabbath before Lag BaOmer, appealed to him for help.

Rabbis have also called to refrain from desecrating the Sabbath anywhere in order to prepare bonfires for the holiday.