The Evolution of Lag ba-Omer’s Hero from Vengeful Misanthrope to Avuncular Man of the People

Sunday was the minor Jewish holiday of Lag ba-Omer, the 33rd day after the beginning of Passover. Since at least the 18th century, the date has been associated with the 2nd-century sage Simon bar Yohai (known by the acronym Rashbi), who according to tradition is also the author of the Zohar. Its celebration has in recent decades brought hundreds of thousands of Jews to the Galilean city of Meron to light bonfires.

Elli Fischer takes a close look at this somewhat mysterious celebration of this mystical rabbi, and his transformation in the popular imagination from the “misanthropic” or even “vengeful” figure of older legends to an “avuncular” “man of the people.” Fischer continues:

Another refrain . . . is “li-khvod ha-tanna ha-eloki, Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai” (In honor of the godly sage, Rabbi Simon bar Yohai). A popular song that is sung here introduces a slight mispronunciation: “Li-khvod ha-tanna ha-Elokai, Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai” (In honor of the sage, the my God [sic], Rabbi Simon bar Yohai”). Perhaps this is no more than a simple rhyme (Elokai/Yohai), but this egregious conflating of Rashbi with the Almighty, which flouts both Hebrew grammar and Jewish theology, hints at a pagan temptation hovering over the bonfires of Meron—may Rashbi forgive me for saying so.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Judaism, Kabbalah, Lag ba'Omer

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy