The Great Spring Fair

Friday, 24 May, 2019 - 6:40 pm

There is a passage in the Friday night service called V’shamru that is not recited according to the Chabad custom. When R’ Schneur Zalman, the first Chabad Rebbe, reset the prayer book to fit the Chabad custom, he inserted the passage with instructions that it be omitted. Why have it if it is not going to be recited? He explained that his close colleague, R’ Levi Yitzchak of Berdichov, was a strong proponent of reciting this passage saying “that when the Jews recite V’shomru on a Friday night, a big “yerid” - fair of angels assemble in the heavenly realms.” Out of respect for his colleague he inserted the passage. But since he maintained that there was a halachic issue with reciting it, it was to be omitted. His Chassidim asked, “What about the big fair of angels?” To which he replied, “One does not need to attend every yerid.”

Fast forward 150 years. In the early 1940s, the Rebbe launched the idea of gathering Jewish children for a march and an assembly on various occasions. This evolved into the iconic Lag B’omer parades that are held all over the world. At one of the first gatherings outside of 770 Eastern Parkway, the Rebbe was addressing the children. His father-in-law, the Previous Rebbe was proudly watching from his second story window. He commented to an aide who was standing nearby by sharing the above story and concluded by indicating that this assembly outside was one “yerid” that the Alter Rebbe was certainly attending.

The Lag B’omer parade was a phenomenon that was possible only because of the freedoms that the USA afforded to all including Jews. Coming from the oppressive Soviet regime, this was an opportunity that the Rebbe seized with enthusiasm. There were also many new ideas and attractions competing for the attention of Jewish children and Jewish people in general. Therefore it was necessary to place a bold public emphasis on the celebration of being Jewish and the pride in living Jewish.

Here is a personal Lag B’omer parade memory that I shared a few years ago -

Children watch a sports team parade after a championship victory or a Thanksgiving or Mardi Gras parade celebrating this idea or another. Now, all of a sudden, they can participate in a parade that celebrates Judaism. A Judaism that they are being told by society is archaic and irrelevant. The positive feeling that this experience provides for the child is immeasurable. Since the first parades in the 1940s, the Lag B’omer parade has grown and developed into a global brand experienced by hundreds of thousands of children around the world.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Comments on: The Great Spring Fair

Adam wrote...

But since he maintained that there was a halachic issue with reciting it, it was to be omitted

What is the halachic issue?