Gallons of Grape Juice
We were a group of
young men in Ashdod rejoicing together on the night of Lag b'Omer. Caught
up in the holy spirit of the day, we began to recount the power of Rabbi Shimon
bar Yochai, during his lifetime and throughout the generations.
mentioned the segula (auspicious omen) mentioned in Ta'amei HaMinhagim
to pray at the grave of R' Shimon on behalf of a childless couple and promise
that, if the couple will be granted a child within the coming year, then on Lag
b'Omer of that year 18 roytel (approximately 54 liters) of wine will
be distributed in Meron to those who come to pray on R' Shimon's hillula.
of the young men present mentioned that on the previous Lag b'Omer, a friend
of his had made such a promise on behalf of a couple who had been childless for
many years. The couple had been blessed with a child and their friend was planning
to distribute 18 roytels of grape juice at Meron in the morning.
thought of a close friend of mine who was childless after six years of marriage.
I stood up and announced, "I accept upon myself bli neder (without
the force of a vow) to distribute 18 roytels of grape juice in Meron on
Lag b'Omer 5757 (1997) if [at this point, one inserts the husband's Hebrew
name, son of [his mother's Hebrew name]. The wife's Hebrew name daughter of [her
mother's Hebrew name) should be said as well will be granted a child within the
No sooner had I said these words than another man stood up and
uttered the same resolution on behalf of a friend. We drank "L'chayim"
and wished one another "Mazal Tov."
The next morning in
Meron, we repeated our promises.
One month before Lag b'Omer 5757,
my friend and his wife celebrated the brit of their newborn son. Two weeks later,
the other couple on whose behalf a promise had been uttered was also blessed with
The man who had made his promise on behalf of the second couple was
a friend of mine and lives in my neighborhood. Happily, we made plans
to transport the 36 roytel, which translates to 108 liters
(27 gallons) of grape juice - six extra-large cases, to Meron in honor
of Lag b'Omer to fulfill our promises.
Accomplishing this should not have been very difficult, since on Lag b'Omer
buses with large luggage compartments would be leaving from our neighborhood in
Ashdod for Meron. However, my friend and I agreed to use another means of transport
which would be more difficult and more expensive - but did have one advantage.
A charity organization in Bnei Berak charges a fee to deliver such "segula"
beverages to the tomb of R' Shimon in honor of Lag b'Omer, and also undertakes
to distribute the drinks among the multitudes there.
We were apprehensive
lest something go wrong at the last minute which would prevent us from honoring
our promise. But using the services of an organization which provides this service
annually seemed a sure way of having our grape juice reach its intended beneficiaries.
a very strange thing happened. We traveled to Bnei Berak, delivered the grape
juice ourselves to a drop-off spot from where the charity organization had it
brought to a warehouse. Later we were able to confirm that they had received our
There it was to remain until it would be transported to Meron
in the week prior to Lag b'Omer. However, each time that the organization
sent a delivery to Meron that week, our six cases of juice were mistakenly left
This happened despite the fact that this organization is known to
be highly reliable, and that my friend and I called their office a number of times
that week to ensure that our goods would be on the next truck to Meron.
time, there was a reason why the cases had been forgotten: the driver had misunderstood
.; he had been unable to locate our cases
.It was very
On Lag b'Omer morning, our cases were still sitting
in the storeroom in Bnei Berak. We were left with no choice but to go to Bnei
Berak and transport the cases ourselves. But we wanted to travel to Meron with
our friends so that we would be able to celebrate together with them, and we also
needed their help in carrying the cases of grape juice up Meron's steep hills.
So my friend and I made plans to transport the cases by bus to Ashdod in time
to catch our chartered bus to Meron.
But we missed the bus.
pulled into the Bnei Berak station at 12:05, five minutes ahead of schedule. My
friend, who is known to be punctual, arrived at the bus stop less than one minute
after the bus pulled away.
It was then that it became clear to me that,
for some unknown reason, Heaven was placing obstacles in our path which seemed
to be preventing us from accomplishing this mission.
My friend and I were
contemplating taking a sheirut (group taxi) from Bnei Berak to Meron when
suddenly a sheirut pulled up in front of us and the driver called out,
What good fortune! That time of day, one does
not expect to find a sheirut to Ashdod. Moreover, the driver, a secular
fellow who was quite amiable, hopped out and helped us load our precious cargo
onto the van.
"Since when does a sheirut go to Ashdod this
time of day?" we asked the man. "I myself don't know," the driver
replied. "It just worked out that way."
As we headed toward Ashdod,
we discussed the cost of the trip. Rafi, the driver, wanted a hefty surcharge
for transporting the grape juice and we felt that he was asking for too much.
I told Rafi that we were on a mitzva mission, and proceeded to relate the
entire story to him.
The driver was obviously shaken by my words. Gripping
the steering wheel tightly, Rafi told us with emotion that his sister was already
married for twelve years without children.
"I'm transporting your cases
for free," he now declared, "but I want you to do this for my sister:
when you go up to Meron, mention my sister and brother-in-law's names and promise
the 54 liters of wine for them if they have a baby. I'll take responsibility to
bring the wine next year, b'ezrat Hashem (with G-d's help)."
arrived in Ashdod on time and Rafi helped us load our cargo onto the chartered
bus. "We will stay in touch," he told us happily as we parted.
Lag b'Omer, I phoned Rafi to say that we had prayed at R' Shimon's tomb
on behalf of his sister. He told me that his family had prayed as well. However,
we did not stay in touch after that conversation.
On 15 Tammuz, 5758 (July
9, 1998), we hired a van to take us from Ashdod to Bnei Berak to attend a brit.
The van had only gone a few blocks when the battery died. The driver could not
believe it, as the van was brand new.
We quickly made our way to a nearby
taxi stand and were relieved to find an available van. As we headed on our way,
our new driver exclaimed that that very morning at 3 A.M., his sister had given
birth to a girl, her first child after thirteen years of marriage.
hearing this, it dawned upon me that the driver had been looking at me strangely
soon after I had entered the van. Could it be
As I was sitting there
wondering, the driver suddenly turned around to me and with a shy smile asked,
"Excuse me, you look familiar. Is it possible that you once rode with me?"
It was Rafi.
Rafi began to cry and I cried with him.
he said, "when they woke me up to tell me the news, I said to myself, 'How
will I ever find my friends and benefactors to tell them that their prayers had
been answered?' All that happened to you today can only be from HaShem,
so that I could tell you that news."
I was speechless. All I could
do at that point was to begin reciting Tefillat HaDerech (Prayer for a
journey). Rafi withdrew a kippah and placed it on his head. "I have
to do this," he explained, "I am coming closer to Judaism. I am mitchazek
When with G-d's help, we will visit Meron this
coming Lag b'Omer, we will be joined by a very happy family who is drawing
closer to Hashem and His Torah through the wonders which they have merited.
we will be reminded of the incredible workings of hashgacha pratit (precise
Divine intervention) that brought us to celebrate with them.
"Lag ba'Omer", compiled by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman (Mesorah) --
lightly edited by Yerachmiel Tilles.
A slightly more detailed version is to
be found in "There is no such thing as Coincidence" by Baruch
Lev (Feldheim), to which the following note is appended:
The Segula of
Giving Drinks in Meron
According to Sefer Ta'amei haMinhagim (p.263),
the Bobover Rebbe, Rabbi Bentzion Halberstam, Hy"d, zy"a, wrote
a letter to Reb Yaakov Yisrael Shmerler of Jerusalem, father of the Rosh Yeshiva
of Sanz, in 1932, asking him to distribute eighteen rotel (fifty-four liters;
approximately fifty-seven quarts) of drinks at the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai
in Meron on Lag b'Omer. He asked to have this done for one of his chassidim, who
heard from Jerusalem Jews that this is a segula to be blessed with children.
Today, Rabbi Shrage Shnitzer of Agudas Ohel haRashbi in Meron tells many amazing
stories of singles who have found their spouses, and of patients who have recovered
after their doctors had lost hope, after they, or someone in their name, had given
eighteen rotel of drinks to distribute to the worshipers in Meron.
information, teachings and stories on Lag B'Omer, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and
Meron, you will enjoy visiting our othere website as well:
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.