Yes, It’s Still Lag Ba’Omer

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Last night: the campfire was every bit as awesome as we wanted it to be, except the kids were asleep. This was probably better for all concerned, because Boruch and Itta were doing musical stuff, Karen was tending the fire, and I would have been grabbing all three of them by the scruffs of their collars and held them in the air and not let them walk anywhere because there were ticks and an open fire pit and I am pretty much the typified neurotic paranoid parent who never lets my daughter out of the house, except to stand in the sun for 10 minutes twice a week to get exactly her recommended dose of vitamin D. Yeah.

lag ba'omer in meronThis morning: Taking the Monsey Bus back to the city. Monsey being the place that it is [thanx, Chaviva], I expected the bus to be packed with every sort of Hasid — the roly-poly kind, the diamond kind, and the opens-three-hardcover-books-on-your-lap-at-once kind — but found that, pleasantly, it was filled with every sort of Jew, like a mini-Israel crammed into the narrow borders of a Greyhound-type bus. Hot girls in tight pants with sunglasses bigger than the circumference of their faces. Yarmulke-less balding dudes with cell phones that look like Star Trek phasers. And, yes, the roly-poly Hasidim.

At one bus stop, there was nobody waiting except for two pint-size boys in identical white shirts and argyle vests, heads shaved except for their payot. They couldn’t have been more than five and six, respectively. As the bus rolled to a stop, the driver joked to the person in the front seat, “You think they’re going to 47th Street?” — a wink and a nod to the street where all the Hasidic diamond merchants work.

The bus pulled over, and a passenger leaned out. “Where you headed, boys?” he asked, then repeated the question in Yiddish. “Monroe,” they replied — saying the word like it had never referred to a president of the United States, much less pronounced in English. They moaned the M through their noses, rolled the r, and hooted the o from the apex of their mouth, not the back, owl-like.

Next to me, two men talked about their respective kids, all of whom had gone to Meron the night before for the holiday. My traveling companions were both old, and both Orthodox, but, you know, casual Orthodox — colored shirts, knit yarmulkes. Their kids had gone Hasidic, with twenty grandchildren each and wives in burqas, the whole deal. But they talked about them like rebellious teenagers. Their crazy bonfires, the crazy praying. It was pretty utterly awesome. It inspired me to crank up the Sonic Youth on my headset all the way, startling the hell out of the dude sitting next to me, who was learning Talmud out of three books at once.

We’re taught that a plague killed off thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students because they did not treat one another respectfully. I feel like the massive party that happens in Israel every year — and like, in some small way, my bus ride — are all tikkunim, or healings, of that rift.

And the trip took under an hour — less than the time from Brooklyn to here! If the bus ride is this exciting every morning, I think we may have a new neighborhood to consider.

Posted on May 12, 2009

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