On Monday night, May 8, the Bukharian Jewish Congregation of Briarwood, along with Chazaq, hosted a magnificent Lag BaOmer celebration, complete with a roaring bonfire, a sumptuous s’udah, and a special guest speaker from Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Lazer Brody.

A large crowd gathered around the bonfire in front of the Young Israel of Briarwood and basked in the warmth and light of the bonfire. Lively music filled the air as men danced in circles around the bonfire and sparks lit the sky.

After the dancing, everyone filed into the shul for the shiur.

Rabbi Simantov Yanetz greeted everyone and said, “May the z’chus of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai stand for you and your family for many years to come.“

Next, Rabbi Lazer Brody, famous author and speaker, posed a question. “What is the big deal about tonight?” He then taught that when Yaakov Avinu went down to Egypt, things looked bad. However, Yaakov’s sons multiplied, and he had 17 years in Egypt, and the gematria of 17 is “tov.” We have 17 days now until we receive the Torah on Shavuos.

Lag BaOmer is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Rav Shimon was in a cave learning with his son for 13 years to hide from the Romans who wanted to kill him.

Rabbi Akiva was one of his talmidim. Rabbi Akiva lost 24,000 students because they didn’t show enough respect to one another. “You can’t have Torah if you don’t have respect.”

Rabbi Akiva’s life work was gone, yet at the age of 100, he rebuilt with five talmidim. With emunah, we can make a new start.

“When we light the fire on Lag BaOmer, we light the fire of emunah in our heart. It is the fire of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai,” Rabbi Brody said. He explained that the Chofetz Chaim taught that every type of lashon ha’ra is a breach of the principle of loving your fellow Jew and a breach of emunah.

Rabbi Shimon’s whole life was devoted to the secrets of the Zohar. Rabbi Brody taught that loving a fellow Jew and emunah come from the neshamah.

He stressed that am Yisrael is one nation. Do not look at differences or the body of your fellow Jew. Rather, look at his neshamah. That’s your brother.” He taught that “the neshamah is a tiny bit of Hashem.” What takes our prayers up is our neshamah. It’s important to smile at others as it can help them feel better.

“It’s the power of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai when we love every other Jew.” Our spiritual DNA is Divine. The neshamah is making our heart beat. Hashem is with us.

When we have ahavas Yisrael, then Hashem is happy. Lag BaOmer is the power of love. He taught that sometimes there is a difficulty before we receive something really good. “The light of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is the power of emunah. It is our connection with Hashem and each other.” When we were together in achdus, that is when we received the Torah. He shared how he loves the Bukharian community. He suggested that everyone take on a kabbalah to never say anything negative about anyone in the community and this will spread all over. We lit the spark of the bonfire to light the spark of achdus that will spread to am Yisrael, and Hashem will bring Mashiach.

By Susie Garber