Delaying Lag B'Omer Bonfires - Loving Our Neighbors

Rav Chaim Soloveichik made a shul announcement this past shabbat that the Chief Rabbinate had asked that everyone celebrates their Lag Baomer bonfires on Sunday evening in place of Motzei Shabbat.

Rav Chaim then spoke on the topic of "Love your neighbor as yourself" - which features in the weekly torah portion.

Rav Chaim told us about Rabbi Spektor of Beit Shemesh who, many years ago, discussed the latest alterations being made at that time to the first eiruv around the new Ramat Beit Shemesh neighborhood with Rav Chaim.

Rav Spektor said that the existing eruv is certainly kosher, but it used many "kulot" leniencies, because of the state of construction of Ramat Bet Shemesh. Rav Spektor explained that since there are many people in Beit Shemesh who are not shabbat observant and would carry objects in the public areas regardless of the existence of an eiruv, he rushed to have a sufficient eruv to ensure that people carrying would not be breaking shabbat by so doing.

As soon as he was able, Rav Spektor upgraded the standard of the eiruv, meeting many stringencies, allowing more residents to rely on the eruv.

Rav Chaim continued that someone had asked him at that time - why should Rav Spektor be concerned about people who are not shabbat observant? If it doesn't bother them to carry on shabbat, why should it both Rav Spektor?!

Rav Chaim said that loving others as ourselves doesn't mean we should look after just our families, our community, our means we should look out for every Jew.

That's why it was important to Rav Spektor to make an eiruv even if only the non Shabbat observant community was going to benefit from it. It was not a kiruv (outreach) exercise to make them more observant. However, because Rav Spektor cares deeply about ALL the Jews of Beit Shemesh, he addressed their spiritual needs, without any coercion and even without their knowledge or appreciation.

Similarly, in the case of Lag BaOmer.

No-one in the Soloveichik community needs to be concerned that their children would break shabbat in order to prepare or light their bonfires (on Saturday night).

However, there are many people who would not know better, and would certainly break shabbat if Lag BaOmer bonfires were carried out on Saturday night.

We are all one "Am", one nation, and we need to care and watch out for each other.

It is therefore important that everyone accords with the instructions of the Chief Rabbinate by making their bonfires on Sunday afternoon/evening - in order to be shoulder-to-shoulder with all of our fellow Jews, both observant and non-observant.

"V'Ahavat L'reiecha" - Love you neighbor as yourself.


  1. "he addressed their spiritual needs, without any coercion and even without their knowledge or appreciation"

    What makes him think that non-religious people have spiritual needs? Typically, non-religious people don't even believe in anything spiritual, let alone need it.

    1. Every Jew has spirtual needs, even if he doesn't belive in that.
      The Mitzvos are made for them too, and we need to do our best to help them even when they don't know and don't care, because we love them and we know that every Mitzva they are doing, even not knowing, is good for them!

    2. Anonymous, your statement is very condescending and is typical of religious fundamentalists who believe they have the one and only truth and need to save other people's souls.

      A non-religious person doesn't have spiritual needs. You are welcome to delude yourself that they do, but that doesn't make it a reality.

    3. No less a religious fundamentalist than Abraham Maslow (look it up) would disagree with you.

  2. The frum 'camp' which truly cares for other Jews (and isn't out solely to 'convert' them to orthodoxy) is the Dati Leumi.

    The whole Mamlachti Dati school system, the Rabbinate (enabling everyone to keep a kosher kitchen, kosher marriage, etc) and many other institutions run by the DL are examples of ve'ahavta lereyecha - looking out for EVERYBODY.

  3. Josh - you could add "Lema'an Achai".

    That's the chesed/tzedaka organization David and Rav Soloveichik established, which is a remarkable example of "Ve'ahavta lerayecha" - helping everyone who needs help, regardless of their religiousity.

  4. Call me Scrooge if you like, but I will say it anyway.

    While it is very noble and commendable to do what we can to help avoid Chilul Hashem and Chilul Shabbat for our fellow Jews who are not Observant, I can’t help but wonder why we are not looking to OURSELVES first.

    Aside from the obvious risk the medurot put us all in, it is widely known that children – Dati children of all stripes – spend weeks ahead of Lag B’Omer doing all kinds of aveirot in the name of celebrating the day. They take and use shopping carts to gather wood, which is a form of stealing. Many steal wood (I’ve seen young trees cut down, wooden benches broken apart and construction site wood being carted away). Many burn pressed wood and other objects that release very unhealthy chemicals into the air, harming the health of others. The smoke causes suffering to people with breathing problems who are forced to close their windows and stay inside. The list of all the aveirot associated with the bonfires is long.

    Why, oh why aren’t the Rabbanim calling for an end to this Chilul Hashem on the part of *Datiim* who have taken what might be a minhag (what is the source of this anyway?) and allowed it to turn it into an excuse for looking away on all kinds of aveirot by people who, the rest of the year would never consider stealing or harming another person? When people who dress like Dati people publicly do aveirot, this is certainly is a true Chillul Hashem. Imagine the Kiddush Hashem it would create if the Rabbanim would issue a statement that because of the aveirot that have come to be associated with making medurot on Lag B’Omer, they are strongly recommending that there be no medurot. It would show our fellow non-observant Jews – who we are so eager to help – that we recognize that WE are not perfect, and we are doing what we can to minimize the areas where we have weaknesses.

    If Rav Scheinberg, ZT”L, can tell Jewish women to rein in their impulse to spring clean (NOT halacha) lest it leave them too wiped out to properly fulfill the mitzvah of having a Seder (an ACTUAL halacha), then why can’t the Rabbanim work on getting this insanity to stop so that we can properly observe Lag B’Omer and Sfira?


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