Ashkenazi Hasidim use a Sephardi prayer book, and the bonfires and haircutting ceremonies on Lag B’Omer are distinctly Sephardi rituals.
A little-known holiday that coincides with Mother’s Day this year offers the perfect excuse for a barbecue, a bonfire — even bows and arrows.
Marking the 33rd day since the beginning of Passover (this year on May 22), Lag B’Omer is a less of a holiday than a mystical occasion to party. In Meron, right outside of the northern Israeli city of Safed, an annual gigantic celebration called Hillula takes place. Safed is famous for the medieval kabbalists who settled there, as well as the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a first-century rabbi regarded as the originator of the mystical tradition in Judaism. People dance, blast music, and feast. Matthue Roth, whose performance poetry was recently featured on The Arty Semite, is here again with a poetic narration of the Hillula.
Praying by the graves of long-deceased holy men is a time-honored Jewish practice, especially on the recent holiday of Lag b’Omer, when thousands flock to the resting place of R’ Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron. But what about kohanim, who are not allowed to come into contact with the dead, or even enter a cemetery?