Rebbe of Boyan opens Lag Ba'omer celebrations at Meron
Rebbe of Boyan opens Lag Ba'omer celebrations at MeronScreenshot from YouTube

“…We float on the river of time

Hold steady, hold steady

The sea comes, calls the summer

Forced out the cold

Don’t follow the change of the tides

Hold steady, hold steady

Storm for hours and rainy days

And all our lives we’re told

The stream will take us home

Sunrays touch the coastline

Warm our feet, show the glare

We walk through the sand in the warm night

The water will take the weight from us

And all our lives we’re told

The stream will take us home…”

(The Sea, Haevn)

This past Friday morning, the dawn before the Sabbath, we were at the seashore, lulled by the sound of lapping waves. A lone bird was seen in the sky, stark black winging wildly across a canvas of soft golden whiteness. Morning’s peacefulness was broken only by the call of birds who are heralding the majesty and serenity of the day which is unfolding.

A sense of tranquility, of peace, of hope, of waiting for tomorrow. For a day of reflection. A day in which to ponder.

What is our role today, in our blessed land of Promise, in the creation of its future. Where are we, today? And where are we going, tomorrow?

These days, Shabbat will bring with it a hiatus. An oasis from the chaotic demonstrations of Thursday which will be followed by more tumultuous protests on Saturday evening. A respite, and a time to ponder. Where are we, now?

It will soon be Lag BaOmer.

Lag BaOmer marks the 33rd day off the counting of the Omer.

Thirty-three is the number of times that the word Elohim appears in the account of creation in Genesis.

Thirty-three is the numerical representation of the Star of David on the flag of Israel. And now. Are we honoring our flag, or desecrating it?

“…Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows. As is stated (1 Samuel 2:30): ‘For to those who honor Me, I accord honor; those who scorn Me shall be demeaned.’ “ (Ethics of the Fathers 4:1)

“Rabbi Yochanan the Sandal-Maker would say: Every gathering that is for the sake of Heaven will endure; that is not for the sake of Heaven, will not endure.” (Ethics of the Fathers 4:11)

Lag Ba'Omer is a mystical holiday. A time between liberation and revelation. A time between the holiday of Pesach, when we receive freedom to change the course of our lives, and the holiday of Shavuot, when we will receive the guidelines with which to lead a life of goodness and sanctity, a life worthy of our freedom.

It is of interest, that we mark this festival with fire. With glorious flames, which burn in the night. The very flames which are capable of destruction also symbolize that which is indestructible, eternal. On this evening, we are challenged to turn havoc and desolation into hope and triumph of the human spirit.

The Talmud tells of Rabbi Hanina ben Tradyon who was burned at the stake together with the Torah scroll. “His students asked: ‘Master what do you see?” He answered: “The parchment burns, but the letters soar.” (Avoda Zara 18a)

As we light fires on Lag Ba'Omer, we see once again the soaring of the letters.

What will we read? What words are being formed?

For each of us individually, for us together as a nation, what path is being illuminated now by the light of the fire?

Lag Ba'Omer is the day on which mourning restrictions that are in place during the counting of the Omer are suspended, and we celebrate.

And what are we celebrating? What are we raising high to heaven with the flames which flicker determinedly, steadfastly, in an upward direction.

Like the flame of the candle of Yizkor, we remember our martyrs, we remember our past, remember the sacrifices which led us to be where we are today. We celebrate the resilience of the human spirit, the resilience of the Jewish nation. With flames that burn in the eternal flame of the Jewish soul, carried as a torch from one generation to the next.

Like the flames of our heart, which warm and uplift those who are touched by them. Like the flames of our passion, of our yearning for a better situation, for us now and for the future of our children and grandchildren.

According to tradition, the manna that fell from heaven and fed the nation of Israel in the desert, first appeared on the 18th of Iyar. Lag BaOmer is therefore a day of blessing. As in our days in the wilderness, may we be blessed on this day of Lag BaOmer with Divine Goodness.

For the number thirty-three is equivalent in gematria to the word “Amen”.

It is morning, and we are at the seashore. Seagulls fly overhead, their calls merge with the constant roar of the ocean. As I watch, the waves are rolling in, and are then swept out again, in the constant eternal flow of Life. Of that which is at once permanent, at once ephemeral. The children laugh delightedly at the mystery of the waves. They run in fright as the waters rush in. Chase with merriment the waves as they depart back out to sea. And in the distance, we see the point where the earthly waters meet the heavens and receive their blessing.

A reminder, of Life’s ever-changing and ever-present bounty.

A reminder of the wild eternal freedom, the awesome majesty, of Life.

“Take your boat to where the waters meet

Wait and see whether the current leads

All it takes is a little trust in the wind

If you find yourself lost and afraid

Don’t lose hope

Don’t hesitate

Look to the sky

And the stars will lead you home again”

(When She Rises, Ajeet)

There is within each of us, a dream. A vision, of how we want our lives to be. A calling, towards life, towards beauty, towards the path we are blessed with as a child of God. Towards the path which we are blessed with as the nation of God, in the land of Promise.

May our direction always be towards Life.

May we be blessed with peace, harmony, newly renewed meaning and purpose in our lives, both individually and as a nation.

May our prayers be fulfilled, for good.

“All Israel have a share in the World to Come, as it is stated (Isaiah 60:21): ‘And Your people are tzadikkim (righteous).’ They shall inherit the land forever. They are the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, in which I take pride.” (Sanhedrin 90a)

Dr. Devorah Ungaris an American-born scientist and musician.who moved to Israel 30 years ago.