Thursday, May 19, 2016

Burning the Torah for Lag B'Omer

Update: I noticed today that the saplings had in fact not been broken and taken for burning - perhaps the boys took their "avodah" elsewhere after I objected. If so then the claim that this was just a case of "boys will be boys" is obviously wrong.

As soon as Pesach is over, it is common to see groups of young boys – roaming the neighborhood looking for flammable material to add to their personal bonfire. It is truly amazing to see the cooperative efforts to drag heavy boards or tree branches a number blocks to where they construct the structure for their "medura".

While it would be nice to say they are budding kabbalists for whom the Rashbi is a major inspiration in their life or that they have parents who tremble when they study the Zohar – that is not really what is happening. The issue is more akin to the excitement of avoda zara and the once a year opportunity to be allowed to make a really big fire using material that they have exerted tremendous energy and ingenuity to gather.

On my way from shul today I witnesss the sight of trees moving very strangely. When I got closer I saw a group of about 10 eight year old yeshiva boys trying to break down a series of ten foot saplings that were growing by the fence that enclosed the grounds of an apartment building. I went over and told them to stop it – which they did. They were genuinely puzzled and asked what the problem was.

I asked them who gave them permission to destroy living trees. Is this your building? Did your parents tell you that you could do this? When they realized what was bothering me they called out enthusiastically in unison, "It's for Lag B'Omer!"

I said why are the laws of stealing or damaging public property being ignored?

Again they answered cheerful in unison, "It's for Lag B'Omer". Obviously they felt sorry that I couldn't comprehend such an elementary fact. But they respectfully and patiently answering the irrelevant questions of someone who simply didn't get it.

At that point I just left. They could not conceive that anything could stand in the way of a proper bonfire. It didn't matter that these young saplings would grow to be shade trees in a few years that would give pleasure on hot summer days. It didn't matter that the green saplings would probably not burn. It didn't matter that they hadn't consulted with the residents of the apartment building to see if it was o.k. All that mattered to them was that the saplings were made of wood and that their bonfire required wood. All that mattered was the exciting challenge of finding out how to bend and break these young trees relying entirely on their childish strength and youthful enthusiasm. Once a year they knew they could break anything that might be flammable without regard to whom it belonged to or what damage they were causing.

The Torah is being burned to celebrate Lag b'Omer.

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