Rabi Shimon bar Yochai’s power of salvation is surely still potent, wherever a Yid will find himself on 18 Iyar
he usual throngs won’t be heading to Meron this Lag B’omer, but Rabi Shimon bar Yochai’s power of salvation is surely still potent, wherever a Yid will find himself on 18 Iyar. While everyone knows someone with a miracle story, we asked a selection of entertainers — who are especially attached to the simchah of the day and the reprieve of music in the middle of Sefirah — about Rabi Shimon and their personal yeshuah.
The Baby’s Advocate
Seventeen years ago, the first Lag B’omer after the birth of my special-needs daughter Malky, I wanted to take her to Rabi Shimon. I feel a special attachment to Meron, as I still treasure fragments of memory from my own upsheren, when my father brought me along from London to Rabi Shimon. But with nine-month-old Malky, it wasn’t an easy trip. I flew from London, then rented a car in Bnei Brak, but when I reached Meron, it was impossible to get close to the tziyun. I waited for a while, thinking the crowds would ease up, but they didn’t. After making it all this way, I really wanted to go in and daven with my daughter next to Rabi Shimon. We reached the entrance, but it was too packed. I tried to get in a side door through the balcony, but there was no chance. People started to scream at me, “What are you doing here with a baby?!”
I responded to one of them, a middle-aged Sephardic man, “I’ve come thousands of miles to daven with my daughter here and I’m now two meters away from the tziyun. Can I not go in and daven? She needs a lot of brachah and yeshuos.”
When he heard me, he yelled out to the crowd, “There’s a child here who has traveled from overseas to daven for a yeshuah. Make space for her!”
Dozens of people pushed their arms up against the wall and others moved in a way that a tunnel was formed for me to walk through under their arms. Holding Malky tightly, I got into the tziyun and said a few kapitlach of Tehillim. The crowd, led by my Sephardic protector, then started a kapitel for her pasuk by pasuk, and even made a Mi Shebeirach for the refuah of Malka bas Frumet. It was an amazing feeling — inside, it’s like Yom Kippur, and outside it’s Simchas Torah. As Malky’s parents, we have experienced huge siyata d’Shmaya throughout many complications, and I believe that Rabi Shimon has been an advocate for her all along. Zechuso yagein aleinu ve’al kol Yisrael, especially in these times.
—Singer SHLOIME GERTNER
Our choir sang on Beri Weber’s hit “Rabi Shimon ben Yochai omer… ki lo sishochach mipi zaro” music video. It’s definitely a great song, composed by Pinky Weber, but even so, its success — millions of hits — was unexpected. I couldn’t understand it — how many Jewish music fans are out there already?
This past winter, I was in Moscow where our choir, together with Beri Weber, sang at the wedding of the daughter of Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar. There were thousands of people at that wedding — it seemed like all of Moscow’s Jews came out to celebrate the chasunah. One Jew came over to me and wanted to speak about the Rabi Shimon song. He told me that he’d lived in Russia his entire life, and never had the opportunity to go to Eretz Yisrael, but he nurtured an inner longing to experience the holiness of Meron. When he needs a yeshuah, he said, he opens up the video of “Ki Lo Sishochach,” and he begins to sing and pray. That fellow taught me that hundreds of thousands of people have a corner in their hearts for Rabi Shimon. And some of them even get regards through this song.
—PINCHAS BICHLER, Malchus Choir
My wife and I waited to be blessed with children for five years after our marriage. As time passed, we began to look into various options, and of course, we’d also go to rebbes to request brachos. My wife brought up the idea of going to Rabi Shimon to daven on Lag B’omer. But I’m from a Satmar home, both of my grandparents are against traveling to Eretz Yisrael, and my parents have never been there.
Instead, we went to the tziyun of the Satmar Rebbe, Reb Yoelish, a few times, including once on Lag B’omer, and of course on the Rebbe’s yahrtzeit. But we still weren’t helped, so my wife asked again to go to Rabi Shimon. We went to Rebbe Aharon, the Satmar Rebbe in Monroe, to ask him about traveling to Eretz Yisrael, and he told us “tzi Reb Shimon meg men furen” (to Rabi Shimon you may travel).
So we went — of course we promised to name the child after him — and within the year we were expecting a simchah. In the end my wife gave birth… on the yahrtzeit of the Satmar Rebbe. Our first child is a girl, so when our next child was born, we named him Shimon. And our next son is named Yoel.
—Producer and musician NAFTALI SCHNITZLER
When I released my L’Chayim Tish Lag B’omer CD, the effort and cost involved seemed tremendous for a celebration that is really only one day long. But I told myself that we just had to do it, in honor of Rabi Shimon. When the master CD was ready, I traveled north to Karmiel, to bring it to the factory where it would be duplicated. From there I went on to Meron, to daven for hatzlachah. Afterward, I stopped in Tzfas to eat something before driving back to Yerushalayim, and while there, I “happened” to bump into a well-known person with a connection to Meron. He had heard about the new project, and when he met me, he decided on the spot to order a large quantity to give out to visitors in Meron. Rabi Shimon took care of my hatzlachah right away!
—YOSEF MOSHE KAHANA, L’Chayim Tish series
Days That Shaped My Future
When I was a bochur I used to help set up the stands of free drinks provided by Yad Ezrah on Lag B’omer. I would go up to Tzippori, then to Tzfas, and arrive in Meron toward evening on the day of Lag B’omer. I did that for six years and it was always packed, without an inch to move. I would also go up north to Meron with my yeshivah every Shabbos Mevarchim and would spend Rosh Hashanah there too. I was very connected to hisbodedus and spent many days davening by Rabi Shimon. The time spent in Meron played a big role in shaping my emunah and preparing me for the next stages of life. I can’t imagine that this year there won’t be a crowd there on Rabi Shimon’s yahrtzeit, but realize that his connection to each and every Jew is beyond the physical.
—Singer SHLOMO SIMCHA
To Plead on His Behalf
My father, the Belede Rav ztz”l, always had Meron in his heart. He was originally from Eretz Yisrael, and when he was able to travel, Meron was a constant destination. When he became sick, he went to daven by Rabi Shimon, and he cried his heart out there for a yeshuah — and if he’d be healed, he promised to come back and say thank you. After my father returned to America, he was introduced to a top-tier medical expert from Chicago who got very involved in his case, and as the right shaliach, he guided my father through a specialized protocol, which helped him immensely.
Throughout, my father constantly repeated what Chazal say, “Kedai hu Rabi Shimon lismoch alav beshe’as hadechak — It’s worthwhile to rely on Rabi Shimon in times of trouble.” Whenever he had to go through procedures, he sent messengers to plead on his behalf in Meron. Right after Pesach of 2012, the doctors gave my father permission to fly, and of course the first thing he did was arrange to be in Meron that year.
—Singer RABBI SHLOIME TAUSSIG
Like for the rest of Klal Yisrael, the soulful tunes of Meron never fail to uplift me. Although I’ve had only one opportunity to sing in Meron on Lag B’omer, I sing many of the songs year-round at chasunahs. One Meron song I often sing is actually not one of the classics, but a Yiddish song named “Reb Shimon,” from the L’Chayim album Dos Yiddishe Hartz. The lyrics describe a childless couple’s pained tefillos in Meron and their subsequent joyous visit for their little son’s chalakah. It’s a very touching song that taps into the hope and longing of all those who come to Meron.
I’ve started a recent tradition to sing this song on Motzaei Shabbos at the annual A TIME shabbaton. At the heart of this precedent is a story that dates back to the organization’s first years. A TIME took a group of couples on a trip to Meron where, after hours of earnest tefillah, they broke into dance. Suddenly, an older man appeared and started pulling people into the center, dancing with them separately. Somebody was keen enough to take note of the people he danced with and found that by the end of the year, each of them had had a yeshuah.
—Musical artist ISAAC HONIG
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 809)
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