The writer is the Chabad emissary
The truth is I was a little ashamed, not only did I not know who held the position of Commissioner of Fire and Rescue Services, I was not even aware that such a position existed at all. So you can imagine how surprised I was this week to find out that not only is there such a role and that someone actually holds it, but that by virtue of his authority, he also issued an order to prohibit the lighting of Lag Ba’omer fires this year “Due to extreme weather conditions that increase the likelihood of the formation and spread of fires throughout the country.
”With all the disappointment involved, safety is first. And I, too, will give up lighting the fire this year and will celebrate Lag Ba’omer by participating in Chabad’s children’s parades, which I highly recommend. I checked and found that the Commissioner of Fire is by no means the first to put out fires on Lag Ba’omer. There was already someone who preceded him, none other than the hero of the holiday, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai himself!
This is what the Talmud tells us:“After Rabbi Shimon and Eleazar his son had sat in the cave for a dozen years, they came out of the cave and saw people plowing and sowing. Rabbi Shimon said: ‘These people reject a life of Torah study and engage in the life of worldly things?!’Every place they put their eyes immediately was burned. “A voice from heaven said to them: ‘Have you come out to destroy my world? Go back to your cave.’ They went back and sat in the cave for another twelve months… At the end of the twelve months, a heavenly voice came out and said: ‘Get out of your cave.’ So they got out of the cave. Then, everyplace that Rabbi Eleazer put his eyes was burnt until Rabbi Shimon came to fix and heal it.
”Since according to tradition Lag Ba’omer is not only the date of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai but also the day he came out of the cave on Lag Ba’omer itself, Rabbi Shimon put out the same fires that Eleazar his son had lit .Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was not a “commissioner” and certainly not a firefighter, but the fact that already on the day he leaves the cave we find him putting out fires tells us more than anything else about him.
The way of absolute and extreme righteousness has always been the easiest way. So it is no wonder that after 13 years of solitude in a cave, with complete detachment from material life and sublime spiritual transcendence, it is difficult and nearly impossible to come to terms with the existence of a routine and mundane life. Therefore, Rabbi Eleazar’s almost obvious response is to burn them with his eyes. Here is revealed the power and greatness of Rabbi Shimon, whose great spiritual rank causes him not to exaggerate, disengage and burn, but allows him to see the wholeness created from the connection and combination of noble spiritual insights along with material and mundane life.
Therefore, the first thing he does, as soon as he comes out of the cave, is to ask the people of Tiberias “Is there anything in the city that needs repairing?” Dear Friends, “On the place we are absolutely right about – will never grow flowers.” Extreme self-righteousness has ignited such terrible fires that even a thousand firefighters will not be able to put out.
I wish that on Lag Ba’omer this year we might be inspired and embrace the way of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai – the heroic firefighter. And instead of lighting fires, we will all join the extreme firefighting efforts – Lag Sameach!
The writer is the Chabad emissary to the new northern neighborhoods, and rabbi of the Sea & Sun Synagogue in Tel Aviv.