A Guest Post By E. Fink
Over on the Matzav, a letter that was posted before Lag B'Omer last year has been reposted without any mention that it is a rerun. Basic honesty and decency aside, they must have thought no one would realize. You can't fool me. I read and commented on this letter last year. I know this because I read the Matzav like Jon Stewart watches Fox News.
When they posted it last year I left some comments under my Matzav / VIN anono-name and I thought the letter writer had been eviscerated enough that Matzav would not dare publish the same letter again. I was wrong. So this time I am going all out. Here is a more snarky and detailed reply to the moron of the week. My commentary is in parenthesis.
Confused About Lag B'Omer
There is something about Lag Ba’omer that I just cannot understand. I understand that we celebrate this special day for a number of reasons. The talmidim of Rebbi Akiva stopped dying on this day. (Sort of.) Rav Shimon bar Yochai revealed to us secrets of the Torah. (He did? When? Also, please note that several great giants of Torah dispute the authorship of the Zohar and do not attribute it to Rav Shimon Bar Yochai) Three thousand halachos were introduced on the day Rav Shimon bar Yochai died. (What does this even mean?)
There is a true cause for celebration. This inyan is brought in halacha and goes back many generations. (How many is many? It's not in the Mishna, it's not in the Gemara, it's not in the Rishonim, it get's a brief mention as a day which tachanun is skipped by some in the Aruch HaShulchan and the Mishna Brura ignores it entirely.)
There is also a minhag to shoot bows and arrows. (A minhag? Or a tradition?) This minhag is brought in seforim (like what? None of the classic halachic seforim mention it) and has been performed by many tzaddikim for many years. (Tzaddikim do all sorts of things.) Various reasons are given for this minhag. (There is a reason for everything.)
However, there is one minhag I cannot understand and have not been able to find a reliable source.
Many schools around the country celebrate Lag Ba’omer. This is quite understandable. The seforim say it is a day of simcha. But how to we justify minimizing limudei kodesh in honor of Rav Shimon bar Yochai? How do schools take away precious time of tinokos shel bais rabbon learning the heilegeh Torah for a Lag Ba’omer trip? Is this serving as an aliyah to the heilegeh neshama of this holy Tanah? (Actually, yes it is. Torah should be enjoyable. There should be carmeraderie among students. Most of all, these are children, let them have some fun. But I'll save the real reason for later.)
I was thinking that maybe, to be melamed zechus, there is some explanation. Maybe since the talmidim of Rebbi Akiva died because they did not act properly to each other, we take the boys out to the park with their rabbeim, where the rabbeim teach the children how to act towards each other, even when competing in a sports game. Maybe. (That's a nice lesson. Certainly more meaningful than any of the reasons given for shooting arrows!)
But now this minhag has been developing new twist. There are yeshiva ketanas that have turned Lag Ba’omer into trip days. School turns into camp. (Maybe school should be more like camp in general.) They take off from limudei kodesh and take their boys to amusement parks or bowling and the like. L’iluin Nishmas haTanah Rav Shimon bar Yochai! Entire schools being mevatel Torah on such a grand scale in honor of this special day! (Yes sir. The lesson is that Torah is not just a classroom tool. It is supposed to help us be better people in everything that we do. What better way to take the heilige lessons of Torah and put them into practice than to use our limudei kodesh time - once a year - to teach our children that the beauty of Torah is not found exclusively in the text and analysis. It's true beauty is found when we use the Torah to make ourselves better people in every possible way. The true test of Torah is outside the classroom, not inside the classroom.) Is this truly in the spirit of Lag Ba’omer? (Yes!) It’s hard do believe and it is difficult to understand. (Not really.) A kumzitz in a park, maybe. (Why would that be okay? Seems like a waste of time to me. And what about the poor kid who is tone deaf or doesn't like to sing?) But has it gotten out of hand? (No.) What are we teaching the children? (To be normal.)
And besides all this, we all know that as the weather gets warmer, the harder it becomes for children to concentrate on their learning. It becomes a challenge to motivate a boy to learn in the summer. But kicking it off with a trip so early in the season does not help things at all. It helps set the summer mode in and makes it even more difficult for our precious tinokos shel beis rabbon to continue their holy work. (Maybe when it gets warmer the rebbeim need to step up their game and make learning more interesting. Maybe they should go for walks and experience niflaos haborei once in a while. Or maybe you should move to the North Pole where it's always a good temperature for learning.)
Anybody have an explanation? (I think I've done a sufficient job.)
Link: Matzav.com 2011 and 2012
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