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.