#443 (s5766-33 / 17 Iyar 5766)

Twenty-Eight Gallons of Grape Juice

Caught up in the holy spirit of the day, we began to recount the power of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.



Twenty-Eight 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.

Someone 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.

One 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.

I 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 year."

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 a child.

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.

But 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 delivery.

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 behind.

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.

Each time, there was a reason why the cases had been forgotten: the driver had misunderstood the instructions….; he had been unable to locate our cases….It was very strange indeed.

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.

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, "Ashdod, Ashdod!"

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)."

We 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.

After 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.

Upon 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.

"This morning," 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 (being strengthened)."

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.

And we will be reminded of the incredible workings of hashgacha pratit (precise Divine intervention) that brought us to celebrate with them.


From "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.

FOR more information, teachings and stories on Lag B'Omer, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and Meron, you will enjoy visiting our othere website as well:


Yrachmiel 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.

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