TRADITION TODAY: Celebrating Bar Yohai with caution

I suppose Bar Yohai attained this status because he was thought to be the author of the Zohar, the central book of the Kabbala, the magnificent text of Jewish mysticism.

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May 3, 2018 23:04
4 minute read.
WORSHIPERS GATHER at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai on Lag Ba’omer in 2016 in Meron

WORSHIPERS GATHER at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai on Lag Ba’omer in 2016 in Meron. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Rashbi – Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai – has been praised and celebrated by thousands this week as crowds gathered in Meron, where his grave is said to be, on Lag Ba’omer, the traditional date of his death. Songs were sung in his praise, dances danced, children’s hair was cut and in general Bar Yohai’s status as a folk hero was ratified once again. I am not aware of any of the other great Sages of Israel receiving that kind of attention and adulation, even though many were much more important than he was, nor are the days of their deaths celebrated in such a way. I sometimes wonder why.

I suppose Bar Yohai attained this status because he was thought to be the author of the Zohar, the central book of the Kabbala, the magnificent text of Jewish mysticism. The fact is that scholars today are quite certain that he had nothing to do with the Zohar, which was probably written in the 14th century in medieval Spain, possibly by Moses de Leon, long after Bar Yohai’s time. But facts like that are not likely to interfere with long-held traditions and beliefs.

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