Corona Interferes with Celebrations in Israel

  • There is no normal life in Israel because of Corona.
  • Israel Independence Day will be celebrated Digital without fireworks.
  • Eurovision Song Contest in Israel has been cancelled.

Israel Independence Day will not be the same in the midst of Corona Quarantine. This month the holiday of Lag B’omer where gathered hundreds of thousands of Chassidism to the village of Meron the Tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai will only be celebrated by Ten Chassidim and two Torch lightings. The holiday of Shevuot where at the Western Wall gathered hundreds of thousands of Jews will also be limited to ten Jews.  Eurovision Israel song contest has been cancelled. These are today only memories.  Madonna called Corona on her website “the great equalizer.” Corona strikes both religious Jews and secular Jews in Israel equally.

Celebrations of the holiday of Lag Bomer this month have been limited to small gatherings unlike in the past.

Eurovision was celebrated last year in Israel in May but this year because of Corona it has been cancelled. Singers from all the nations of the world came to Tel Aviv for this great occasion. Today there is no plane traffic into Ben Gurion airport. Public gatherings within the nation of Israel have been cancelled even Congregational prayers in synagogues. Life this year is not the same. Israel will have to do without Eurovision 2020.

Many of the enjoyments of life which were once done together in stadiums today are being done digitally. These ceremonies are brought live on YouTube.  It is not the same as a seeing a live performance but amidst the dangers of the spread of Corona it is the only alternative.

In Israel on the holidays Jews travel from all over the world to pray at the Western Wall. Passover this year at the Western Wall, there was only a congregation of ten Jews far from the usual when thousands of Jews would gather in prayer on the holiday. Passover is seven days.  The next holiday will be Shevuot also called Weeks. Shevuot is one day but on Shevuot on this one holy day more Jews gather at the Wailing Wall more than any other day the whole year.

Thousands of people gathered at the Western Wall on the holiday of Shevuot next month not like this year.

Between Passover the Shevuot is 49 days. Each day between Passover and Shevuot is a countdown called Sephirot HaOmer counting of the Omer. Each day between Passover and Shevuot in Biblical Times was the waving of the new wheats until the holiday of Shevuot on the fiftieth day when was prepared Twelve Breads in the holy temple.  On Passover it is forbidden to eat leavened bread only Matzos unleavened bread. The Matzos were prepared special according to Jewish law with the wheats from the old season. On Shevuot the new wheats become sanctified. Bread is the staff of life. Without bread there is hunger no life.

Shevuot is also a celebration of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai which occurred fifty days after Passover in the wilderness of Sinai. Torah and bread are united like material and spiritual. As the sages teach, “Where there is no bread; there is no Torah.” Where there is no Torah; there is no bread.” Life without religion is not life. Secular life is compared to bread, each person has their own job in life; like it says the butcher the baker, the candlestick maker. There is also the Rabbi, the clergyman representing religion. Corona is called by Madonna on her website the great equalizer to bring secular and religious together; to bring all religions together; to bring all nations together. If there is no health; there is no life.

Madonna was the guest star at Eurovision last year. Eurovision has been cancelled because of Corona.

On the 33th day of the counting of the Omer is celebrated the holiday of Lag B’omer.  The holiday of Lag B’omer is celebrated for two major reasons. It was established after the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem.  Today it is written in Jewish law.  Between Passover and Lag B’omer a total of 33 days died thousands of the students of Rabbi Akiva the greatest of Talmudic scholars who lived at the end of the second holy temple. Rabbi Akiva was tortured by the Romans together with nine other great Talmudic scholars remembered as the ten martyrs. It was a great sadness for the Jewish people to witness the death of thousands of Talmudic scholars the students of Rabbi Akiva who died from a deadly plague.

Today Corona has taken the lives of many Torah scholars especially in America.  It is hard to explain the will of God.  The sages relate that these students died because they did not give respect for each other. God expects Torah Scholars to behave with more righteousness from other people. A small sin for the normal Jew is considered to be a great sin for Torah scholars. Many Torah scholars have blamed themselves for Corona Pandemic. The claim that they are being punished for refraining to rebuke other Jews in Israel and abroad and other peoples who their paganist behaviors.  God made the Jews the representative of the Torah the Law of Moses. Torah Scholars represent the Law of Moses to teach these laws to the Jewish people. They are held responsible for the behavior of mankind. The 33 days when the students of Rabbi Akiva passed away are days of mourning, Jews are forbidden to make weddings and musical concerts.

A second reason for the celebration of L”ag Bomer is that on this day passed away the holy saint Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai one of the remaining students of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is also recognized as the author of The Book of Splendor call The Zohar the foundation of Jewish Mysticism. Jewish mysticism called Kabballa became very important in the last eight hundred years after was discovered The Book of Splendor in Spain and studied by Torah Scholars. The Book of Splendor gives a larger picture to Judaism then just study and observance of Jewish law written in the Talmud. It is written in the Zohar, that in the merit of the Zohar will come the redemption of Israel in mercy. Hundreds of thousands of Jews gather on L’ag Bomer at the Tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai the author of the Zohar in Meron, Galilee. Children are brought to Meron to have their first haircut at the age of three years. The holiday is filled with dancing and music, as well as prayer and Torah study. On the roof of the Tomb of Rabbi Shimon is lit a great fire to represent the fire of the soul of the righteous saint the fire of God. This year the torch will be lit without an audience due to Corona.

Eurovision last year came out in May about the time of L’ag Bomer. It was a universal event in Tel-Aviv a song contest. Entertainers from all over the world competed in this contest. The special guest was Madonna the American Guru, entertainer, the Messiah of song. This year Eurovision will have to be celebrated digital. Song is related to the coming of the Messiah. Moses split the Red Sea with song. The world needs to keep singing amidst the suffering of Corona. The songs of Madonna are devoted to faith and prayer.

Another inspiring performance was made by Sehat from San Marino with a song with a simple theme and healing energy which is needed today living in a Pandemic.

The winner of the song contest last year was Duncan Lawrence from the Netherlands with his song Loving you is a losing game. Life is difficult living in a Pandemic. Love is difficult. Corona strikes hard at the love of life.

This week Israel will be celebrating Independence Day. It won’t be the same type of celebration as Israelis make each year. This year the Memorial Torch will be lit without an audience. The celebration including the speech of the Prime Minister will be digital. Also the song HaTikva the Israel National Anthem will be sung in each home together with Netanyahu and Benny Gantz the leaders of their new government.

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David Wexelman

Rabbi David Wexelman is the  author of five books on the topics of World Unity and Peace, and Progressive Jewish Spirituality. Rabbi Wexelman is a member of the American Friends of Maccabee, a charitable organization helping the poor in the United States and in Israel.  Donations are tax deductible in the USA.

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