The Chief Rabbinate''s decision to move the lighting of bonfires on Lag B''Omer from Saturday night to Sunday is commendable. While their decision should have been made in tandem with the Ministry of Education (who for some reason, feel it necessary to declare Lag B''Omer a vacation day), I think that the celebration of public events (particularly ones with religious overtones) shouldn''t be reliant on Shabbat desecration.

But, in my mind, the rabbinate missed a golden opportunity to go farther. With Lag B''Omer coming up and the nation''s attention featured on the celebrations, the rabbinate should have looked deeper into the manner in which this holiday is celebrated and particularly, its repercussions.

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 A couple of times in the past decade the Environment Ministry has published data showing that air pollution on Lag B''omer is twice as bad as on a regular day. According to recent scientific studies, bonfires enhance global warming. Recently, the Knesset Interior Committee has recommended that bonfires be reduced or eliminated in order to minimize the damage caused to the environment.

If you look at satellite pictures of Israel on La B''Omer, you can see a trail of smoke. This isn''t the way our planet should look. I''m relatively certain that what goes on, on Lag B''Omer is a violation of the spirit of the directive given to mankind, "L''ovda u''lshomrah," to work the land on take care of it.

The rabbinate should have stated that they were encouraging local communities to cease the practice of bonfires altogether, not only because Shabbat is important, but because our future on the planet is important. Would anyone listen to the rabbinate?  Probably only a select few.  But even with the present statement, only a small percentage of Israelis will pay any attention. The fact that the chief rabbis will appear at Meron on Sunday this year, rather than Saturday night, won''t move many people. My sense is that these movements have to start small.  The chief rabbis ought to boycott the Meron festivities. Instead, they should use Lag B''omer to visit a solar power plant, or now use electricity at all (like Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai).  Maybe then, we''ll have a better appreciation of the message of Lag B''Omer.



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