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The Answers Man

Aryeh Ehrlich

The family of Rav Mordechai Dov Kaplan, the rav of the Ari shul and the Old City in Tzfas, was entrusted with a sacred mission by the Rebbes of Ruzhin. Every Lag B’omer, he’d travel to Meron, to watch flames of joy and salvation overtake the dark hilltop. And while he views today’s massive crowds as a sign of blessing, he misses the unity that marked the Meron of his childhood — when there was one fire for everyone.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

It was Erev Lag B’omer, 1945. The Jews of Tzfas had made their yearly journey up the isolated Mount Meron, and were now convened on the roof of the tziyun of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai. Rav Avraham Leib Zilberman, rav of Tzfas, stood with the torch in his hand, ready to carry out the task entrusted to his family by the Ruzhiner dynasty — to light the fire in honor of Rashbi. But the sky was still shrouded in darkness, with no moon in sight. According to tradition, the fire was only lit when the moon grew visible. The people of Tzfas and their rav stood and waited. The hour grew later; nine o’clock came and went. Still no moon. A low murmur overtook the crowd: “Let the rav light already, there is no use waiting.” But one of the assembled, a mekubal from Tzfas, silenced the grumbling. “The rav should not be pressured,” he said. “Wait until the moon appears. Perhaps it is a hint from Above.” At 9:50 the news rippled through the assemblage on the mountaintop:AdolfHitler had killed himself in his Berlin bunker. A few minutes later, the moon emerged, andRavAvrahamLeib lit the fire. Finally, the lonely hill erupted in glorious song. Lag B’omer had arrived, bringing with it salvation and a rare glimpse of Divine favor in the darkest of times.

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