Ask the Rabbi: May one steal wood for Lag Ba’omer bonfires?

Rashbi himself would undoubtedly remind all celebrants that the Torah prohibits stealing and admonishes us to guard our health zealously.

By SHLOMO BRODY
May 1, 2014 14:23
4 minute read.
Lag B'aomer

Lag B'aomer. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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The question alone is repugnant, yet a quick glance at neighborhoods throughout Israel reveals children (and sometimes adults) entering building sites and other private properties to collect wood that does not belong to them. This phenomenon, alas, is the latest example of the excesses that have plagued this holiday, which itself stems from cryptic origins.

The marking of the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, which falls on 18 Iyar, is not mentioned in biblical, talmudic or geonic literature. The Bible commands the Jewish people to count the seven weeks between the second day of Passover and Shavuot. This period later became associated with mourning because of a Talmudic tradition that 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva died during this period, leaving him to restore Torah study with five exceptional students, who included Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai (Rashbi). In the geonic era, various scholars recorded a custom to abstain from getting married during this entire 49-day period, with no mention of the 33rd day.

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