Lag Ba'Omer and weddings

There are differences of customs among the different communities.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Judaism Celebrating Lag Ba'omer in Meron (file)
Celebrating Lag Ba'omer in Meron (file)
פלאש 90

Spiritual Heroism and Minister Ariel

In the book “Ha’Ruach Sh’Gavra al Ha’Dracon” (“To Vanquish the Dragon”) (Feldheim Publishers), the author of the book, Pearl Benisch, tells the inspiring story of the girls of Beit Yaakov in the Holocaust camps. Despite the great distress and starvation, they were willing to hand over everything they had for the sake of others. A girl was able to give up her only slice of bread, which at times was the only food to be had after an entire day of hunger, for another girl – because she was hungrier. One girl gave her last drop of water for the sake of another girl begging for water.

The book tells about Naomi Goldberg, a student in Beit Yaacov from Pavianich, who worked in the kitchen in the Bergen – Belsen camp. There were two kitchens in the camp: one prepared separate food for the prisoners, and the other, regular food for the Germans.

The situation in the camp worsened from day to day. Hunger, thirst, and lice led to the spread of typhus. Thousands died in the plague, their bodies remained lying in the camp. The sick and dying lay on the floors of the barracks. But every evening, “a tall, thin figure towering above them all” appeared. Naomi would walk around the camp with love and compassion. In a bulky apron with bursting pockets she would hide pieces of bread or a potato. From all sides, the sick and hungry whispered to her, “Naomi, Naomi.” She would lean over on her knees, pour a bit of coffee into their hungry and thirsty mouths, feed them a couple of grains of sugar, nourishing them all with her warm smile.

On one occasion, the author writes, she herself felt dreadfully tired. Naomi saw her in the bathroom, looked at her with a frightened face, and then said, “Wait here, I’ll be back in a few minutes.” In no time she returned, with a bowl of cereal porridge hidden under her apron. “Eat immediately,” she ordered, “you look like the walking dead.” It was food cooked for the Germans, and Naomi risked stealing it under their noses. “I have never done this before,” she said, “but I can see you urgently need food.” Naomi would never dare steal food for herself, but to save someone else’s life, she was willing to risk her own life.

Naomi Goldberg z”l survived the camp, immigrated to Israel, and established her home in Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi. One of her son’s is Minister Uri Ariel.

This story was read by Rabbi Chaim Steiner shlita, at the Har Bracha Yom Ha’Atzma’ut celebration, attended by some of the pioneers and leaders of the settlements in Judea and Samaria, dedicated to Minister Uri Ariel in honor of his longstanding public activity, with humility and dedication, in the renewal of settlement in Judea and Samaria, in his numerous duties including Gush Emunim, settlement, and in his role in the Knesset and government – for the People of Israel, the Land of Israel, and the Torah of Israel.

Weddings on Lag Ba’Omer According to Sephardic Customs

Q: I was invited to the wedding of a Sephardic Jew which will be held on the night of Lag B’Omer – according to him, this was the minhag (custom) of his Sephardic community. According to my knowledge, the Sephardic minhag permits marriages only on the day of the 34th of the Omer. Does he have a halakhic authority to rely on?

A: Indeed, it seems from the Shulchan Aruch (493: 2), and even more so in the Beit Yosef, that according to the opinion of Rabbi Yosef Karo, it is permissible to marry only from the 34th of the Omer and onwards, but on Lag Ba’Omer it is forbidden. This is according to the Sephardic tradition, according to which the Gemara (Yevamot 62b) maintains that the students of Rabbi Akiva died until “p’ros Ha’Atzeret“. The word “p’ros” means ‘half’, in other words, half a month before Shavuot.

When we subtract fifteen days from the forty-nine days of counting the Omer, there remain thirty-four days, in which the students of Rabbi Akiva died, and these are the days we observe the mourning customs. And since part of a day is considered like a whole day, from the morning of the 34th of the Omer, it is permissible to get married and take a haircut (S. A., 591:2).

This was the halakhic decision in our generation by the eminent Sephardic rabbis, our mentor and guide Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, ztz”l, and the Gaon Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef in his responsa ‘Yabia Omer’ (Vol.3, 26: 4). This was the minhag in the Land of Israel and Syria, as well as in Algeria according to the Tashbetz (1:178), and in a few other communities. In Djerba, they were machmir(stringent) until the eve of Shavuout.

On the other hand, in most of the Sephardic communities, in practice, the custom was to get married already from Lag B’Omer. This was the minhag of many Jews in Morocco, as Rabbi Yosef Mashash wrote in ‘Otzer Ha’Michtavim’ (Vol.3: 1868), and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Toledano (441:1), as well as in Tunisia (Aley Hadas 13:1), in Libya (HaShomer Emet 34:18), and as presented in the books of minhagim from Babylon, Persia, Kurdistan and Bukhara. This was also the minhag in Egypt according to the opinion of Maharikash, and in Turkey, as quoted in ‘Moed L’Kol Chai’ (6: 1), by Rabbi Chaim Palaji.

Thus, anyone who knows that this was the minhag of his community is permitted l’chatchila (from the outset) to get married on Lag B’Omer, and even someone who does not know this was the minhag of his community, b’shaat ha’tzorech (in a time of need) he may rely on those who do so (see, Yabia Omer 5:38).

In any event, since he has a reputable halakhic opinion to rely on, he should not be admonished, and certainly it is a mitzvah for his relatives and friends to attend the wedding and make him happy.

The Ashkenazi Minhag during Sefirat Ha’Omer

The custom of Ashkenazi Jews, which was prevalent in Eretz Yisrael during the times of the Old Yishuv, incorporated several traditions. The major customs of mourning continue until Lag Ba’Omer, and some of them continue afterwards. This, according to the masoret (tradition), that the plague stopped on Lag Ba’Omer, but the students whose illness began before Lag Ba’Omer, died afterwards until Shavuot (Maharal, Chiddushei Aggadot to Tractate Yevamot, 62:2). Thus, they fulfilled the two traditions, first, that the plague lasted throughout Sefirat Ha’Omer, and second, that it ended on Lag Ba’Omer.

Therefore, Ashkenazim do not take haircuts, celebrate weddings, play music, or dance until Lag Ba’Omer. Afterwards, however, they refrain only from weddings and very joyous affairs. From the beginning of the month of Sivan, marriage is permitted, because the joy of Shavuot, already evident from the beginning of the month of Sivan, cancels the mourning.

Another reason: during the Crusades and the Chmielnicki Massacres of 5408-5409 (1648-49), hundreds of thousands of Ashkenazi Jews were killed, and these murders occurred mainly during the latter part of the Omer period. Therefore, Ashkenazi communities refrain from large celebrations during this period.

Some Ashkenazim were accustomed to observe 33 days of mourning from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until the eve of Shavuot, and the basis of their custom is based on the opinion that one should observe 33 days of mourning, no matter if it is at the beginning or the end of the counting of the Omer, and since at the end of the Omer it is more appropriate to mourn, that is when they would observe the customs of mourning.

In practice, however, today many Jews who made aliyah from Ashkenazic countries are lenient, and hold marriages from Lag B’Omer onward, and only large happy occasions that are optional in nature are avoided until Shavuot. One may act accordingly l’chatchila, because weddings are a great mitzvah, and thus, in any safek (doubt) the halakha should be decided according to those poskim who are of the opinion that it is permissible to marry.

In addition, we learn in the Talmud (Moed Katan 8b),  that one of the reasons our Sages forbade marriages during Chol Ha’Moed was in order not to postpone the mitzvah of pru u’revuru (procreation), for if marriages were permitted on Chol Ha’Moed, people who intended to get married before the holiday would prefer to postpone the marriage to a time when everyone was off from work and more people could participate in their joy, and they could even save money by combining the festive meals of Chol Ha’Moed and the wedding together. Thus, we see that delaying marriage is something that should be avoided, and therefore when there is a safek, people should be instructed according to the minhag that marriage should not be postponed.

Microwave for Meat and Dairy Use

Q: Can a microwave be used for both meat and dairy foods?

A: The same microwave can be used for dairy and meat foods, if a separation between them is made. In such a separation, two things should be noted: first – not to place dairy and meat foods directly on the same plate, and second – a great deal of moisture from the cavity of the microwave should not enter the food being heated up.

Therefore, one should be careful not to place foods on the permanent plate of the microwave, rather, dairy foods should be placed on a chalavi plate and meat foods on a basari plate, and these plates should be placed on the microwave plate. In addition, a plastic lid should be set aside for dairy foods, and another one for meat dishes. And although a large amount of steam may come out of the openings of the plastic lid, the moisture does not have the ability to accumulate on the walls and on the roof of the microwave and absorb flavor; kal v’chomer (all the more so), such steam does not have the ability to release flavor that might have been absorbed in the walls of the microwave, and enter the food being heated.

Also, one can determine that the normal state of the microwave is chalavi, and if he wants to heat basari food, place an additional plate on the permanent plate or some other separator, and cover the meat dishes in a container or wrap them in a bag. And when the microwave is chalavil’chatchila, even parve food one wants to eat with basari foods should be covered.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.