Our children are our future and the future of our people. Let's be sure to give them their rightful spiritual heritage. But, we can't give them what we ourselves lack. Therefore, this coming Shavuot (Tuesday night), let's make an extra effort to receive the Torah anew:
Here's an inside glimpse of what went on last week when 480,000 people (number issued by Israel Police Dept.) frequented Meron on Lag B'Omer, the yahrtzeit of the holy Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai, author of the Zohar:
Here's a glimpse of Chassidic life in Israel, showing the traditional Lag B'Omer eve bonfire led by the Melizer Rebbe shlit'a, this past Saturday night, April 27, 2013. May the fires of Torah always burn bright!
Lag B'omer dancing with the 3 year-olds, who've just received their first haircuts, the traditional "Chalakeh", now proudly (and maybe a little overwhelmed about being the center of attention of several hundred thousand people) sporting their new "payis" and "tztitzis"
Warmest regards from Miron and from Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. On the day of his departure from the material world, Rabbi Shimon called his disciples to his deathbed and commanded them to commemorate the anniversary of his death with joy and laughter. Mark it as "the day of my joy," he ordered. And so, ever since then, Lag B'omer has been a day of simcha, of happiness. To this day, we honor the directives of the tzaddik and come to Meron to sing, dance, and pray our hearts out. Rebbe Shimon helps our prayers reach the proper address.
The "Challakeh" ceremony is when a Jewish child receives his first haircut at the age of three.
The age of 3 marks a turning point in a toddler's life. Shedding the long locks of babyhood helps little boys look forward to their new "big boy" responsibilities. Gone are the days of bottle, diaper and nestling in Mommy's arms. A 3-year-old boy is ready to receive "payis", his side curls, a "kipa" (skullcap), and "tztitzis", the ritual fringes that every male Jew is commanded to wear. With his new haircut, kipa, payis, and tzitzis, the little fellow of 3 is ready to move up to the world of friends, school and formal Torah education. He will learn blessings, prayers and the Hebrew alphabet. Yes - we begin teaching our little boys to read at the age of 3.
Cutting his hair makes a strong emotional impression on the child. He knows he is entering a new stage of maturity, a fact that helps him live up to his new role and responsibilities.
Numerous families celebrate the "challakeh" at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai, in Miron, Israel, and cut the child's hair near the cave where he lived and later died. Others prefer to take the child to a yeshiva or to their own rabbi - preferably a scholar and a pious man, because the "upsherin", or actual 1st haircut, should be done in a holy place and by a righteous person. Oftentimes, before the child gets his final haircut, first the scissors go from hand to hand while family, friends and rabbis take turns snipping. The first cut is at the spot where tefillin will be placed.
In Israel, this custom is closely associated with Lag B'Omer, which this year is today, April 28. It's an incredibly joyous scene as hundreds of 3-year-old boys receive their first haircut at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai. Because this custom is tied into Kabbalistic thought concerning the spirituality of hair, many put off the ceremony until Lag B'Omer. Following their haircuts, the children each get a plastic Aleph-Bet card, with honey smeared on each letter. Parents then encourage their little ones to lick the honey while saying each letter, so that Torah should be "sweet on their tongues."
A hearty mazal-tov to all of us who will be making "Challakehs" for our 3-year olds today - may we have all the sweetness and joy in the world, and see our children and grandchildren growing in health of body and spirit, amen.