Miracle at Meron
On the eve of 18 Iyar, the thirty-third (33=lamed-gimmel="lag")
night of Counting the Omer in 5683 (1923), as every year, an enormous
crowd was assembled on the roof of the building in Meron that enclosed
the tombs of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son. The huge
annual bonfire was throwing off heat and smoke, radiating light that
could be seen as far away as the streets of Safed and casting shadows
on the circle of chassidim and leading members of the community that
danced energetically in front of it. All the other menstood off to
the side and sang and clapped enthusiastically to the pulsating beat
of the traditional Lag b'Omer songs. Below, in the large courtyard,
the women and children also sang and rejoiced, in honor of Rabbi Shimon
Lag b'Omer is the anniversary of the passing-on more than
eighteen hundred years ago of the renowned Mishnaic sage and foremost
Kabbalist, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, whose teachings comprise the text
of the primary Kabbalah sourcebook, the Zohar. (This of course
is in addition to its halachic significance as a cessation
in the semi-mourning observances that obtain between Passover and
Shavuot.) The yahrzeit is celebrated with great joy in accordance
with the recorded express wishes of Rabbi Shimon himself. Written
accounts from more than five hundred years ago cite the old tradition
and the great virtue of attending the tombsite in Meron. Sages and
common folk alike attest that anyone who prays to G-d sincerely there
on Lag b'Omer, will surely be answered in Rabbi Shimon's merit. The
barren, the poor, and the critically sick have all made the pilgrimage
there and found salvation.
As always, the "stars" of the Lag b'Omer festivities that
year were the little three-year-old boys, whose proud parents had
brought them to have their first haircuts and peyot-shaping
at Rabbi Shimon's tombsite on this day. As the children were transferred
from mothers' arms to fathers' shoulders, the scissors would be passed
around to relatives, friends and bystanders, so all could share in
the merit of snipping the long strands and curls, while leaving the
That year Lag b'Omer fell on a Thursday night-Friday. After mid-day
on Friday, most of the visitors from Tiberias, Tsfat, Haifa and other
towns in the Galilee left for their homes in order to arrive before
the commencement of the Shabbat.Many of the celebrants from further
away, especially the ones from Jerusalem, elected to stay on for Shabbat,
knowing that the holy day emerging out of Lag b'Omer in the presence
of Rabbi Shimon would be an extraordinarily exalted occasion.
Friday evening everyone prayed together. The holiness and joy of
Shabbos spirit was palpable. Then everyone turned to their lodging
places, where the pleasure of the holy day continued unabated throughout
the evening meals.
Early Shabbat morning, as soon as the first streaks of light infiltrated
the sky, men gathered in large groups to descend the valley to the
small Meggido Lake where they immersed themselves to prepare for the
morning prayers. Many Sephardim arrived at the tombsite for the Amidah
exactly at sunrise minyan. After them, the "regular"
minyanim took place, and finally, the chassidim arrived for
the late-morning shift in their own inimitable ecstatic style. Afterwards,
when they too returned to the large communal eating area, the happy
singing of the earlier arrivals left no doubt that the spirit of Shabbat
joy was continuing to expand with each passing moment.
But then, a loud bitter wail shattered the shimmering atmosphere
of Shabbat joy. A little boy, who had come with his mother for his
haircut, had unaccountably fallen sick and stopped breathing. Aid
was given, but to no avail. He was dead, and his broken-hearted mother
was screaming uncontrollably. All the women around her were crying
The word spread quickly. Almost instantaneously, melancholy gloom
replaced the exuberant rejoicing. The singing stopped, the dancers
froze; the mother's loud cries pierced every heart.
Before they could recover from their shock, a further development
struck. The British Mandate police assigned to keep order suddenly,
without any warning, locked the gates of the courtyard. They then
announced that they were forced to take this precaution because maybe
the disease that had struck down the hapless child was highly contagious,
and they were obligated to do everything possible to prevent it from
Pandemonium reigned. Many families were divided by the padlocked
gate; numerous little children were cut off from their parents. The
British police didn't seem to care, and turned a deaf ear to every
appeal. Masses of Jews were being prevented from reaching Rabbi Shimon
on the day of his celebration.
The stunned Jews still inside pushed closer to the tombsite, to express
their crushed hearts in fervent prayer. Suddenly the crowd rippled,
and like at the Splitting of the Reed Sea, a clear path miraculously
opened. The grieving mother was staggering determinedly towards the
place of Rabbi Shimon, carrying her dead son in her arms.
The sight was enough to break every heart. Some sighed, some cried,
others nodded their heads as if to show understanding and empathy.
The distraught mother came up to the tomb. She placed her son on
the ground. Seemingly unaware of all the people around her, in a quivering
voice she spoke out through her tears, "Oy! Tzaddik! I,
your humble maidservant, came here to honor you. Only you know that
in bringing my son here to you, I was fulfilling the vow I made on
this spot four years ago, before I merited to be a mother for the
first time. Yesterday we inaugurated him with joy and song in the
mitzvah of leaving peyot. And now, woe is me! How can
I go home without my son!?"
All those present choked back their sobs. No one dared to make a
sound that might interfere with her words.
The mother stopped crying. She straightened up and took a deep breath.
In a firm clear voice, she pronounced: "Rabbi Shimon! I have
laid my son on the ground next to you, dead. Please do not disappoint
me. Return my son to me alive and healthy as he was when I brought
him here to you. 'Yitgadal v'yitkadah shmei rabbah'-'Exalted
and blessed is His great name,' and also the name of Rabbi Shimon
Bar Yochai. Everyone knows that you are holy and He-our G-d-is holy.
Please give me back my son!"
She stopped speaking, then spun and exited the structure built around
the tomb. Every other person present followed her out. They closed
the door after them, leaving the dead child behind, unattended.
A few minutes passed. From inside, behind the closed doors, a weak
voice was heard. "Mommy, Mommy! Water. I'm so thirsty."
Everyone stood as if paralyzed, trembling with conflicting emotions
of fear and disbelief, of shock and delight. The mother burst through
the doors and swept up her child into her arms. Everyone ran in and
surrounded them, and spontaneously burst out with overflowing hearts,
"Blessed is He who enlivens the dead!"
The local doctors that subsequently examined the child announced
in wonder that this was not a natural occurrence or a normal incident,
but rather a miracle which must have happened in the merit of the
great Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.
The bewildered British quickly re-opened the courtyard gates. The
throngs of Jews impatiently standing outside streamed back in. When
they heard about the great miracle that had just taken place, the
thanksgiving and celebration multiplied sevenfold.
The sound of their enthusiastic singing of the most popular "Bar
Yochai" song (composed by the Kabbalist, Rabbi Shimon Labia approximately
450 years ago) could be heard for miles around-and, no doubt, penetrated
to the highest heavens, including the celestial abode of Rabbi Shimon.
"Bar Yochai, nimshachta ashrecha, shemen sasson meihavarecha"-"Bar
Yochai, fortunate are you, annointed with joyous oil over and above
[Translated and freely adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles (and first
published in Kfar Chabad Magazine - English) from Sichat
HaShavua #281, and supplemented from other written and oral
When I immigrated to Tsfat in 1978, many older residents had been
present at this incident in Meron, or had heard about it from parents
and grandparents who had been there. --YT
Shimon Bar Yochai
Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed,
and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org
websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.