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Rabbi Shmuly and Adina Altein and Baby Yisroel
All photos by Chaim Peikoff


Loving energy at Lag Ba'Omer BBQ


Group at Lag Ba'Omer BBQ


Rabbi Yacov Simmonds

 
LAG-B’OMER – The Lubavitch Family BBQ

By Chaim Hart Peikoff , May 25, 2011

Before I tell you about  the  Lubavitch Family Picnic last week, let me tell you a little  history on the [kat.tahn-small] holiday, Lag Ba’Omer.
 
Thirty three days following the first day of Passover, Jewish people celebrate a “minor” holiday called Lag B’Omer, the thirty third day of the Omer. This is a warm joyful holiday which gives us  a break in the midst of the terribly sad Sefirah period which is practically unnoticed by most contemporary Jews. However this holiday delivers historic lessons of great severity. Our generation must come to understand this holiday’s mystery. As well we shall all note our own fate is wrapped in the mystery of its secrets.
 
The seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot are the days of the “Counting of the Omer,” the harvest festivities which were observed in Eretz-Israel when the Temple stood on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem.  The holiday of Lag B’Omer, is one day during this sad period when our mourning is halted, when sadness is forbidden. The reason for this sadness which should have been a period of happy anticipation is told in the Babylonian Talmud [Yevamot:62:2] is that Rabbi Akiva’s  24,000 students who lived 1,850 years ago in the land of Israel dominated by Romans died from a mysterious plague sent by G-D. This happened because these students did not show proper respect for one another. So, Lag B’Omer is celebrated on the thirty third day because on that day this plague ended and Rabbi Akiva’s students did not die anymore. But other than this joyful 33rd day we do not allow weddings or celebrations with music and dance to take place during these weeks. We also do not allow haircuts or wearing new clothing. Of course this is not an easy commitment to embrace coming from a contemporary background. Hey, I am not judging anyone lest I be judged myself.
 
The custom is to take children out doors to a park. Many celebrate with bonfires. The reason for these customs as Rabbi Avrohom Altein explains is the Holiday of Lag B’Omer  is associated with the Talmudic sage Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai as well. He authored the Zohar, the seminal text of the Kabbalah. The Zohar explains the reason why these customs are honoring the desire of Rabbi Shimeon who passed away on the day of Lag B’Omer. And the Zohar describes how Rabbi Shimeon was considered to be the master teacher of Kabbalah, the esoteric teachings of Judaism. He taught his students profound knowledge, deep esoteric knowledge, on a level previously unparalleled. A heavenly fire surrounded the rabbi’s death bed as an expression of the intense holiness he had achieved.
 
His final request was that the day of his passing should not be mourned, but rather celebrated—because he rejoiced that his soul was to be reunited with its Creator. Respecting his wish, the custom even today continues in Chassidic circles around the world. And probably other observant Jewish groups as well observe and celebrate this holiday and its depth.
 
Rabbi Shimeon states in the Zohar something along the following lines; there are three distinct interlocking bricks between Jews. They are The Jewish People, The Torah and G-D. I have come to see the Torah is presented with an outer and inner level. The outer layer contains the laws which we must live by which governs our behavior. However, the inner level of Torah helps us understand life more clearly and Hashem or G-D as well. I believe Jews today long for this spiritual connection. Our soul’s inner layer truly defines who we are. Chassidim allows us to understand and apply the Torah’s inner layer as well as our personal inner souls.
 
Hillel who was born in 111 BCE was quoted as saying: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to others.”  “THIS IS THE ENTIRE TORAH.”  He proceeded by then saying, “The rest is commentary. Now go and learn it.”
 
The Lubavitch Barbecue at the Duck Pond at Assiniboine Park was full of fun and love. The weather held out and no rain appeared. The barbecue cooked hot dogs and corn. Other delicious dishes included coleslaw, potato salad, pickles and many cut fruit choices as well as marble cake which brought back memories of my late Mom’s baking. Pop, water and juice was served and probably other menu items but not being the sharpest knife in the drawer I do not recall at this moment in time other items. As soon as I hit the send button it will all come back to me.
 
This Lag-B'Omer day left one with a memory which will stay with those who attended for if not forever--then for a long, long time. This thought and feeling was reinforced by the atmosphere at the picnic tables? Adults and children discussed spiritual matters as well as environments in the world in which we all live and as important laughed and enjoyed each others company. No one is required to be a Rabbi to spread goodness in this world. I love that last statement as it at least gives me/and all of us mere mortals the chance to empower ourselves and bring forth goodness to this world longing for exactly that. It does not come though without effort. And that last statement does not require a question mark ending its sentence.
 
There were a lot of side bars to this event. [Using the now common computer language]  One of them was watching Eliyohu Simmonds, the ah.bah of Rabbi Yacov Simmonds playing the harmonica next to the BBQ and at times broke out into dance with other people. The soft music resonating from the harmonica and the genuine warmth brought forth from the small intimate dancing display which added another dimension to this dinner and celebration. Often “time” stopped for a moment. And it was nice to see people I have not seen for a while.
 
I left a little early as my daughter called and needed her car to go out for dinner. Never the less the memory of a warm experience along with Torah Thoughts delivered by Rabbi Avrohom Altein will leave me longing to attend this affair next year too. This is only “the world according to chaim.” I know for certain others live in this world too. Well, don’t you?
 
Enjoy some of the attached pictures which will give you a visual feel of the event itself.

 
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