Rabbis Attempt to Delay Lag Ba'omer Over Fear of Sabbath Desecration

Despite arguments, the holiday commemorated with bonfires will still be celebrated on Saturday night.

Despite leading rabbis' efforts to reschedule the holiday for fear of desecrating the Sabbath, nothing will prevent the traditional bonfire-lighting and the pilgrimage to Mount Meron as part of the Lag Ba'omer celebrations in two weeks' time (May 21 ).

This year, like last year, Lag Ba'omer begins on a Saturday evening, when bonfires will be lit throughout the country. Fearing a possible mass Sabbath desecration, leading Orthodox rabbis, including the Tzohar rabbis, asked the Chief Rabbis, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar to postpone the holiday by one day.

Lag Ba'Omer
(Ilan Sayag)

The Education Ministry agreed to the rabbis' request to postpone the Lag Ba'omer school holiday from Sunday to Monday, but also demanded postponing the traditional pilgrimage to Mount Meron as well. However, the ministry said later it would be impossible to switch days due to the math matriculation exam scheduled for that Monday, May 23.

The pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai at Mount Meron is organized by leading rabbis (some of them anti-Zionists ), for whom the ceremonial bonfire-lighting is the holiday's spiritual and traditional high.

A few days ago Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger met the Boyan rebbe, who has the privilege of lighting the first bonfire at Mount Meron every year, in a bid to persuade him to join the initiative to move the holiday.

Metzger told Haaretz yesterday he was still waiting for the rebbe's answer. "Now it depends on whether the ultra-Orthodox community will agree to this move," Metzger said. "The rabbis are facing a dilemma. They have an ancient tradition of hundreds of years of lighting the bonfires on time. On the other hand, I told the rabbis they cannot ignore the Sabbath desecration there."

The chief rabbi yesterday sent a letter to the ultra-Orthodox yeshivas, asking them not to sit around idly on the Memorial Day for the fallen IDF soldiers, and to consecrate a special study session in their memory.

"Our beloved IDF soldiers who fell in the wars are seen as martyrs," he wrote. "Their holiness and privilege are great, we all owe them our gratitude, should lower our head, contribute our time for them."

Metzger called on the yeshiva students to study Mishnah (oral Jewish laws ) chapters on Memorial Day and "consecrate your studies throughout that day for the transcendence of their souls."