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Lag BOmer is coming up this Thursday night. If you don't prepare right, you're going to be sitting there with a pathetic fire, roasting a marshmallow.
I've been living in Israel long enough to know what a proper Lag BOmer bonfire is, and I am going to help you do it right.
Reason for the Fire
On Lag BOmer, we celebrate the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, known as the Rashbi. He is the rabbi who revealed the Kabbalah to us. We call this celebration a 'Heelulah' (a day of joy) as a rabbi’s death signals his reaching the culmination of his teachings, actions and deeds, and the ascendance of his soul. This also means they can’t come up with any new rulings of things that are forbidden for us to do. Which means that everybody should be celebrating, even the heretics.
The most celebrated Heelulah is that of the Rashbi. This is a huge celebration throughout Israel and we rejoice with bonfires. Here is my advice on how to celebrate the Heelulah based on what I witnessed in my own neighborhood.
Making The Bonfire
Due to the light Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai brought to the world by revealing the mystical layer of the Torah, bonfires are lit throughout Israel. A Yahrzeit candle isn't big enough to create a Kabbalistic safety hazard... Emunah. Instead, we have the children go out and make huge fires without parental supervision.
The Rashbi is the only rabbi that gets the huge Yahrzeit fire. Other rabbis are stuck with a Yahrzeit candle. The general rabbi gets a 24 hour glass encompassed candle, sitting there by the sink, like everybody else. If you see a bonfire or huge flame by a regular Yahrzeit, you worry.
The positive about the regular Yahrzeit candle is that after you finish it, you got a shot glass. After the candle finishes, you can clean out that glass, and celebrate their passing with a shot.
They should have a BBQ size for other famous rabbis. Right now it's only the Yahrzeit candle or bonfire, and we are only willing to risk communal safety once a year.
Collecting the Wood Inside Israel
The kids of Israel collect anything they can find that burns. This includes trees, branches, and homes; and it is not considered an act of anti-Semitism. The children take their wood collection very seriously; so, hide all inanimate objects. This includes houses, plastic and older people.
There is a fine line between a child’s understanding of religious vigilante and paying respects to the Rashbi. The children will burn everything. Hide whatever you can. Put a sheet over your house if possible. Stand by your door. Let them know it belongs to your house. If you are not around for Lag BOmer, hire a neighbor to make sure they do not burn down your villa.
Comments overheard last Lag B’Omer from fuming neighbors:
‘Why are we missing our cabinets?’
‘Where is the bench? It was just here yesterday.’
‘That door belongs on the hinges. Thank you. This is our home.’
‘Please put her back. She was sleeping.’
‘They burned my door last year. I boarded it up.’
The kids start collecting all immobile objects for this holiday six months in advance. If you are in Israel, guard your Schach, or your branches you used to cover the Sukkah will be gone. We couldn’t eat in our Sukkah the last time, because the kids took off the roof. This is another reason I suggest sleeping in your Sukkah, or at least taking shifts guarding it.
Collecting the Wood in the Diaspora
Collect anything flammable and bring it to the park. Different kinds of wood and flammable objects can easily be found around your home too: cabinets, tables, stools, couches, lamps, towels. I have seen towels burn after they were placed on lamps, so towels do burn. If you are using doors for your fire, it is suggested to unhinge them from the house before burning them.
Stay away from inflammable objects. Though kids in Israel like to burn plastic bags, they emit toxins into the air, as do televisions. Even though flags are flammable, one should not use Lag BOmer as a chance to protest.
Bringing Your Flammables to the Park in Israel
In Israel, last Lag BOmer, I learned that supermarket carts only cost 5 shekel. If you put the 5 NIS in the cart, it is yours. The children put the 5 NIS in the cart and then take the cart and load it with wood. If you pile it correctly over the sides, and takes up both sides of the street, you can push a good amount of your home in one trip. Bypassing the use of the parent’s car allows the children to burn more appliances. Loading a car with parents kills the joy of the holiday, especially when they make you return the table, cabinets and chairs to the kitchen.
Bringing Your Flammables to the Park in the Diaspora
In America, the carts are free. If you can, take a Costco cart. They are much bigger, and they cost nothing. It might look weird pushing your cabinets down the main street of your town in a shopping cart. But Costco does sell cabinets as well.
It's also important to find a place for your fire. The best spots in my neighborhood were found by the kids who saw smaller children and then kicked them out. That is a good way to find wood as well. The suggested flammables collecting technique. The bigger kids didn’t even have to bring their own wood.
What Happens at the Fire
There are many ways to use a fire. Most of them are dangerous. I suggest just watching it or eating marshmallows. Do not stick the marshmallows into the fire, unless if your fire is pathetic. That is a good way to burn yourself.
The kids in my neighborhood were running around it, throwing stuff into it. That reminds me. I forgot to add another item that is flammable; deodorant. Do not worry. The parents are not to blame for the danger of exploding bottles. The parents weren’t there to see it.
If you cannot make it to Israel, to fully connect with the tradition, make sure your fire is uncontained. In Israel, it is fine to make uncontained fires in the park. Your town might have issues with forest fires. If that is the case, take a couple of rocks and tell them it is contained. That usually seems to work. A couple of rocks at a height of four inches seems to contain flames. That is why I am assuming they always have rocks around the fires.
If you cannot make a fire, or your neighborhood doesn’t support uncontained fires, just eat marshmallows. That’s close enough to a bonfire experience. Playing a guitar is another bonfire experience. People see fires and play guitars. That seems to be what the guy playing the guitar enjoys. Nobody played guitar in my neighborhood last year. The kids threw that in the fire.
Though, I don't know what kinds of songs are proper for celebrating death, I have seen a lot of dancing. So get out there and party this Lag BOmer. It's the Rashbi's Yahrzeit, his Heelulah, so make it good times. And be sure to make a huge fire, to show that you too have Emunah (faith).
As the main focus of the holiday is about safety hazards, you can also celebrate with the tradition of taking bows and arrows to add to the danger of uncontained fires. If you're afraid that the cops will find your children on the streets with bows and arrows, throw them into the bonfire. The bows and arrows. Not your children.
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Wearing Israeli flags. Showing their support for Israel at the rally in DC. It would’ve been smarter if they brought coats. Based on experience, flags don’t work as good windbreakers.