The Matzav Shmoooze: The Bar Yochai Cult


meronDear Editor,

I have a pet peeve about the Lag B’Omer festivities just completed and the misrepresentation of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai by some fringe movements in Israel and elsewhere. Not that secular Israelis have any better idea of what Lag B’Omer is about. Most think it is about shooting bows and arrows (“at the Romans”) and holding hootenannies around campfires, singing campfire songs.

Rav Shimon Bar Yochai was of course one of the greatest Torah giants of his generation. The writing of the Zohar is traditionally attributed to

Firstly, the little “Zohar or Kabbala Institutes” that are cropping up, like the one where Hollywood types pretend to study, are obscene examples of sacrilege in my opinion, pure chillul HaShem. And they basically promote paganistic beliefs in magic.

My problem with the Lag B’Omer festivities is the way that fringe Jewish religious groups turn the figure of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai into a great magician. In general, I am repulsed by those who misrepresent religion as magic.

Leaflets and ads are all over Israel this week urged people to “pray to Rav Shimon Bar Yochai ” and ask for his intervention, promising that he will deliver miracles, and that he already has delivered many. Tens of thousands flock to his kever on Har Meron for Lag B’Omer.

A few years back, Maran Rav Shach was asked why he never attends these festivities on Har Meron. He described them as obscene and said that anyone truly wishing to celebrate the life and teachings of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai should stay home and study his seforim, not run to Har Meron and light bonfires.

Rav Shimon Bar Yochai is not the only Talmudic figure to whom these fringe groups urge people to pray. Similar cults exist for the kevorim of Rav Meir Baal Haness and others.

Let me be clear. In Yiddishkeit it is completely prohibited to daven to righteous men, saints, or gedolim, dead or alive. This is clearly considered to be a form of paganism. One is prohibited from davening to Rav Shimon Bar Yochai (or anyone else). Instead one prays directly to G-d to ask for anything one wishes with no need or justification for intervention by anyone else.

And what of the claims by the Bar Yochai cult groups that Rav Shimon Bar Yochai is performing miracles as we speak from the grave? Well, there is a name for people who believe that a righteous man is performing miracles from the grave to assist those alive today. Such a person is known as a Christian. Such a belief is fine for someone practicing Christianity but is totally alien to Judaism.


S. Plaut

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  1. Melachim aleph yud tes yud ches, it is not intensively explained, perhaps left ‘open’ to apply to today’s Yahadus.

  2. I’ve heard that Rabbi Shimon himself can’t stand it so he makes Aliyah to Yerushalayim on his yartzheit

  3. The following is an english translation from the Zohar (Acharei Mos, p. 70b ff.)

    “R. Yeissa asked: ‘Why, when rain is needed for the world, do we go
    [and pray] at [the resting place of] the dead? For the Torah forbids [us to]
    “inquire of the dead.”
    “He replied: ‘You have not yet seen the wing of the Bird of Eden.
    The ‘dead’ to whom the verse refers are those who may certainly be termed dead, i.e., the sinners of the heathen who are forever dead. But of Israel who are truly righteous, Solomon says: “And I praise the dead, for they are already dead”; i.e., they have died in the past, but now they are living.

    “‘Furthermore, when other peoples visit their dead, they come with magic to arouse evil spirits upon themselves. When, by contrast, the Jews visit their dead, they come in profuse repentance before the Holy One, blessed be He, with a contrite heart and with fasting. This is all with the intent that the holy Neshamos entreat the Holy One, blessed be He, for
    mercy on their behalf — and then, for their sake, He has compassion on
    the world.
    “‘In regard to this, we have learnt: A righteous man even when he
    departs from this world, does not [truly] rise above or vanish from any
    world. For he is to be found in all worlds more than in his lifetime. In
    his lifetime, he is found only in this [material] world, but afterwards, he
    is found in three worlds, and accessible therein.

  4. Zohar (Acharei Mos, p. 70b ff.)

    Thus when the world requires mercy, the living — those who are worthy — go and inform the Nefashos of the righteous and
    weep over their graves. Why are they deemed worthy? Because their desire is that a Neshamah will cleave to a Neshamah. The
    Neshamos of the righteous then come together and soar aloft to the sleepers of Hebron (the avos), informing them of the sorrows of the
    world. They then all enter the gateway of Gan Eden and inform the Ruchos. Those Ruchos that are crowned in Gan Eden —
    celestial angels go about among them. They then inform the Neshamos, and the Neshamos inform the Holy One, blessed be
    He. They all implore His mercies for the living, and God has compassion on the world for their sake.

  5. Lag Baoemer Trivia

    1) Where is Kever Rashbi located ?
    According to R. Menachem Hachevroni (14th century) in Kfar Chananya
    (15 km. south of Meron)

    2) When was Rashbi niftar ?
    According to the Chida there is no Mekor that he was niftar on Lag Baomer

    3) Who wrote the Zohar ?
    According to the Yavetz it was R. Moishe d’Leon

    4) How can you bring nachas to Rashbi (guaranteed) ?

    The Shoel Umeishiv ( 5 – 39) writes ” if you distribute the money to Aniyei Eretz Yisroel
    instead of spending it to go to his Kever etc., he guarantees Rashbi will have much more Nachas Ruach.

  6. This is one of the worst articles I have ever seen.
    The author is completely ignorant of basic tenets of Judaism based on the Zohar, Ari Hakodosh and Chassidus, which emphasizes the necessity to connect to the true Tzaddikim, and not the Korach’s of the generation who lead the mass astray.
    First of all, it states in the Zohar Hakodash that if weren’t for the teffilot of the “dead” the world would not exact a half a day.
    R’ Shimon, as stated by the Ari Hakodash is a Gilgul or reincarnation of Moshe Rabeinu and is inclusive all the souls of Israel, doesn’t that seem natural that the jewish people would flock to their leader.
    In the sefer Shivhe Ha’Ari, it states how the Beit Yosef wanted to abolish the custom of people going to R’ Shimon on Log Ba’Omer because of possible immodesty, but the Ari quickly had to stop that and said that G-D Forbid they would be a terrible plague if done so, as R’ Shimon enjoys the simcha and blesses everyone who comes, and those that sin, their sin is on their own hands.
    As far as the issue of prostrating on the graves of Tzaddikim, the proofs are too long to get into now, But a quick Halacha (Ben Ish Chai) when we go to a Tzaddik’s grave, we either ask Hashem to help us in the merit of this Tzaddik, or we ask the Tzaddik to pray on our behalf.
    Rashbi said, he can eliminate all judgement forever, who in their right mind wouldn’t take him on his word.

  7. Stick to the daled amos of halacha, and the mussar of the Bavli, and all will be well, and there is more than enough to keep a person busy.

  8. To comment #6

    The blog you posted is probably run by the author of this article.

    It is written in Kisvei HARI that Lag B’omer is the yohrtzeit of Rashbi (in fact, he used to go to meron on Lag B’omer).

    The Baal Hatanya in his Shulchan Oruch writes that Lag B’omer is the yohrtzeit of Rashbi

  9. Difference of opinions never go well on this site or any!!! as you can see from #7, either his way or the highway.

    The author gave an OPINION that is a daas and one that is share by many. Doesn’t have to be the only DAAS on the subject, so cool jets every1.

  10. You’re right.

    I don’t know why everyone thinks that the Zohar was written by Reb Shimon. It was actually written right after the times of Rashi.

    1) The Zohar mentions the fact that the moon doesn’t have its own light, it’s only a reflection of the sun; this was not known by anyone in the time of Chazal. The Zohar also mentions fact that the world has, ‘various time zones’, which was not yet accepted in times of Chazal.

    2) The Zohar writes that, ‘in todays days we no longer have a Bas Kol’; yet, in the time of the Gemoro, there was.

    3) The Zohar recounts the Seder Hatkious of Rosh Hashono, which was M’Sakin by Reb Avihou much later.

  11. Dear author,

    Yisroel kedishim heim!!
    Please understand that youbdontvknow evrything. Maybe they should cancel the kinus of Degel hatirah and agudah and one will say ‘you know where the Degel hatirah is? Not in binyonei ha’uma but in ‘Amar Rava’

    We don’t understand why so many acheinu bnei Yisroel feel attracted to that great tzadik, and lets just take advantage and show the world the greatness of a Tanna that 1800 years after his death he still attracts ppl from all over the world.

    Should we stop going to the kosel bc of some pritzus or bc some actually daven to the wall?

    Look up the mishna in avodah zarah…ye’abeid Es hailem mipney hashotim?

  12. Which of these gedolim told the oilam at large to go to Meron on Lag Baomer

    1) Chazon Ish
    2) Rav Schach
    3) Rav Elyashiv
    4) Gerrer Rebbe

    Answer: None of the above.

    Why don’t people follow the gedoilei hador instead of the yeshuah and segulah merchants and hucksters limineihem?

  13. i am shocked at this article. u see in the torah that kalev ben yefuneh went to daven by kivrei avos to be saved from the meraglim. why are you being controversial? you are usually so good not to report bad stories. why are you printing this? i thought i have a sight to get my news thats kosher and doesnt talk against so many yiden that go there? please remove.

  14. I received hundreds of thousands of dollars in orders for my failing business the day after I got back from Meron.

  15. Rashi says’ that Yeshua and Kalava two of the spies that Moshe send to check Eretz Yesroal along the way to E.Y. they stop at Marat Hmachapala TO DAVEN TOGETHER WITH THE AVOT.

  16. This article reminds me of another problem. The problem of certain organizations promising yeshuos.

  17. Moshe Deleon was the publisher not the author. The yavetz argues regarding the Zohars authenticity. The Beis yosef, Ramo, Arizal, Vilna Goen, Baal Hatanya and the overwhelming majority of our Tzadikim and poskim, all disagree with the yavetz’s assesment of the Zohar. The argument is weather Rashbi actually wrote it or it is a compillation of his teachings written by his talmidim.
    The view that Deleon was the author is promoted today by the reform movement and is not accepted by the frum world.

  18. “The author is completely ignorant of basic tenets of Judaism based on the Zohar, Ari Hakodosh and Chassidus”

    One of the worst comments I’ve ever seen here. The basic tenets of Judaism are in the Torah, Nach, Mishnah, Gemara, Rashi, Tosafot, and Rambam. Rambam’s fifth ikkar of faith includes the statement that there is no being besides H’K’B’H to whom it is proper to pray, and in the Mishnah Torah he states that anyone who serves an intermediary is a “min” (heretic) who has no place in olam ha-ba.

  19. That was the point of the letter. If you read the fliers (maybe most of the pro respondents here are from the US?), I’ve seen ones that promise – promise! – that anyone that comes to support their Tzedaka, Rashbi is guaranteed to provide their Yeshua. Uh-huh. “K’dai hu R’ Shimon…” has come to mean, to too many, to be relied upon to supply yeshuas!! Instead of the real reason we go to Kevarim, to connect ourselves to their Zechus Avos and to ask them to daven along with us, on our behalf. Not to ask them to save us!!!!!

  20. lag bomer is a time to celebrate rabbi shimons life and celebrate by his kever with all different stipes of jes sheves achim gam yachad THAT brings tremendous nachas ruach to the rashbi

  21. The practice of davening by kivrei Tzadikim for them to intercede on our behalf or for Hashem to accept our tefilos in the Tzadiks zechus is a yesoid by Chasidim and has been practiced since the time of Moshe Rabeinu (with mekoros that were mentioned above by others and many more throughout shas and shulchan oruch).

    I understand that the Litvishe world has a different derech in avodas hashem and they feel that the emphasis should be in other areas. Anyone has the right to promote their derech and if that was the point of the article It would be fine with me.

    However, what Mr Plaut is doing is spreading sinas chinum amongst yidin by labeling others as having christian beliefs – he went way too far. It is just unacceptable

  22. It’s one thing to pray to HaShem at kivrei tzadikim and another thing (assur!) to pray to the tzadikim buried there. However, is asking something form these tzadikim (such as to intercede with HaShem) a prayer or something else?? Detailed conclusive answers are hard for me to find. Similar issues apply to piyyutim directed to malachim.

  23. To 13: I’m not taking sides but your logic isn’t clear. Did these gedolim tell people NOT to go or just didn’t tell people TO go?