Tragedy and Religion
Dangerous to mix these 2 subjects.
I really am ‘praying’ for those who have died or have been injured, for their families and friends. No one deserves this.
First of all, the holiday of Lag BaOmer has been happily shared between the religious and secular sections of the Jewish world for many generations.
The main connection goes back to the important 2nd C Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a disciple of Rabbi Aviva, and celebrates the day on which he revealed some of the most important mysteries of the Kabbalah.
Jews celebrate the day in many ways. The secular will good-naturedly allow the kids to gather wood (occasionally from spare room furniture) to chuck onto the bonfire in some local open area. Like Guy Fawkes (November 5) in the UK, the emergency departments know that mistakes will be made and accidents will happen.
A price to pay.
Many religious in Israel have traditionally flocked each year to Mt. Meron and the grave of Rabbi Bar Yochai. With the lighting of bonfires, it’s also a celebration to be enjoyed with the children, which means that the mothers/wives also attend, although in separated areas.
This causes the usual safety headaches. Being the classic ‘accident waiting to happen’, only now will they look more closely at the access to the grave area. The narrow walkways, one now known to have a slippery downhill surface. Not only has it always been a predictable accident, the cancellation of last year’s event made Thursday night even more crowded.
45 dead, including some children; many injured. I have not yet been able to see whether the numbers include women. That separation may have saved them.
Funerals within the Jewish community usually happen within 24 hours. (It’s unbelievable how, somehow, the notices go up, the messages are communicated and the numbers turn up at the funeral of someone who was alive the day before). But no funerals on the Sabbath. So some were rushed before the Sabbath started. The rest will happen later tonight and tomorrow. Sunday will be a day of national mourning.
The news on this tragedy refers only to ‘religious’. This is not the time to dissect that word into context.
But I shall.
I always have so many questions about the religious, in particular about the Jewish religious. ‘Religion’ is one thing, but the effect it has on the individual, its power of division, is something I have difficulty understanding. It’s easy to say that we are all sheep-like, and love to follow ’a good story’. But why create so many sects?
I don’t know enough about some of the major religions. I am sure some amongst you will enlighten me. I am not aware of the divisions within Hinduism, Buddhism (not a religion?) and so on. I certainly am aware of at least 3 major divisions within Islam (and presume there are many more). Within Christianity, it’s an absolute JOKE.
I remember reading an Evangelist book on the various ‘popular’ Christian religions, such as Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox (Greek, Russian, Armenian etc.), Baptist, Methodist, Mormon, JW, Amish, Menonite, and ‘that minister down the road who waves his miraculous hands’, etc. etc. The opinions of that book were ’shocking’ to say the least. Christians can and do hate each other.
So, it may come as a surprise to you when I list my questions about the Jewish religion:
Why dress the way they do? It may be a reflection of life in the ‘stetl’, the Askenazi community in Central Europe, primarily focusing on the 19th C. It is certainly not a reflection of thousands of years of Jewish life in Israel.
Black is not exactly the most positive of colours. Nor is it particularly practical in the land of Israel. (Maybe, when the Messiah does finally re-appear, as is believed by most Jews not yet to have happened, they will all begin to wear more practical and comfortable clothing).
And why, within that ‘black’ community, are there so many differences. Each sect wears different hats, longer socks, sleeker coats etc. You and I may not notice these differences, but I assure you, THEY do.
The religious women wear modest clothing. But some are ‘more or less modest’ than others.
There are, of course, religious fashion houses. I can understand that. But the shaving of heads and wearing of wigs is a strange one. Again, can be understood, but then some will go out and spend a lot of money on the most beautiful (attractive?) wigs.
Then there’s the division between men and women, which of course happens in most societies. The videos of the Lag BaOmer tragedy show only masses of men. The incredible videos of the earlier celebrations, masses dancing in unity, seem to show only men. Yes, of course, there is great respect for the woman in Jewish society, just as long as she stays at home and looks after the (many) children.
The religious in Israel had a big decision to make in 1948. Their land can only exist upon the return of the Messiah, and, for them, that hasn’t happened yet. So I suppose we should be thankful for the ‘religious Zionists’, who do support Israel in every possible way.
And I suppose we should not be surprised at the still quite large number of those who live here, but who sometimes
– Refuse to serve in the army
– Refuse to perform any community service
– Study the Talmud at the cost of no practical education
– Pay little or no taxes, yet expecting to be protected and supported
– Get involved in politics to ensure financial support for, e.g., their religious education and their many offspring.
– Live in relative poverty, and expect the state to provide the necessities
– Suffer the most during the pandemic.
– Blindly follow the leaders.
The Chief Rabbi of Israel was there on Thursday night. He led the singing and the celebrations. Around 5,000 police actually were on duty there. But the accident that was predicted to happen did happen.
Some must pay the price of this. But will this bring the religious and secular communities a little closer to each other? Or the Orthodox closer to the Ultra-Orthodox, the Conservative, the Reform and the Liberal?