Monday, May 23, 2016

Lag ba-Omer Customs

(c) Dovid Sears

From “Breslov Eikh she-Hu: Breslov Customs and Practices, Past and Present” compiled by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears.


Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz writes lavishly about the simchah and hisorerus experienced by those who celebrated Lag ba-Omer in Meron, particularly the Breslover Chasidim who participated in the “hillula de-RASHBI.” He writes: “What can one say? A person should yearn, long, and exert himself all of his days with mesirus nefesh to experience and participate in this. In the inner part of the tomb, people weep and do teshuvah, and their hearts are deeply aroused; even on Yom Kippur, no one ever heard of such a place of teshuvah as this! On the outside [in the courtyard and surrounding areas], rejoicing, gladness, singing, music, and dancing prevail; even at the weddings of kings, no one ever beheld or heard of such ecstasy! Ashreinu mah tov chelkeinu, that we were privileged to witness all this!”


(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Yemei Shmuel, vol. I, chap. 56. For more extensive Breslov teachings and historical material on Lag ba-Omer, see Mo’adei Yisrael: Lag ba-Omer, Bnei Brak: Agudas Mayanos ha-Netzach 2003)



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On the Shabbos before Lag ba-Omer in the Breslover communities of Yerushalayim, Williamsburg, Monsey, and Borough Park, it is customary to sing “Bar Yochai,” etc., before “Ki-gavna” on Friday night. This is a widespread custom today.


(Heard from Rabbi Nachman Burshteyn and Rabbi Meir Wasilski)




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In the Tzefas community, they sing “Bar Yochai” and “Amar Rabbi Akiva” on every Friday night before “Ki-gavna.” (One can see the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai through the windows of the Breslov synagogue in Tzefas.)


(Heard from Rabbi Binyamin Rosenberg)



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This is also the custom in Meron.


(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)



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Tachanun is omitted on both Erev Lag ba-Omer and Lag ba-Omer, as stated in Shulchan Arukh. However, it is not our custom to omit Tachanun for the entire week of “hod,” as in some Chassidic communities.


(See Orach Chaim 493:2, with Mishnah Berurah)




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In Likutey Halakhos, Reb Noson mentions the minhag to give a child his first haircut on Lag ba-Omer.


(See Likutey Halakhos, Rosh Chodesh 3:11, 9:13; Pesach 7:24; Dam 1:12; Simanei Behemah ve-Chayah Tehorah 4:6; Hekhsher Keilim 4:4; Nezikin 3:3)



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In addition to participating in the traditional festivities, many Breslover Chassidim recite Reb Noson's prayer in honor of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai; see Likutey Tefilos II, 47.



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It is also a common practice to learn the Rebbe’s lesson “Lekhu Chazu” at the beginning of Likutey Moharan, which discusses Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and the Zohar. This lesson is usually delivered by one of the speakers at the Lag ba-Omer se’udah in the various Breslov communities. 



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The Rebbe states that shooting arrows on Lag ba-Omer is a segulah for having children.


(Sefer ha-Midos, “Banim” I, 63)



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Members of the Tzefas community visit the grave of Rabbi Shimon in Meron on Lag ba-Omer, together with the many thousands of Jews who come from far and wide in honor of the tzaddik and in order to pray for Hashem’s mercy at this auspicious time.


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Reb Avraham Sternhartz used to spend either the Shabbos before or after Lag ba-Omer in Meron.


(Heard from Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)

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