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Little Fires Everywhere: Lag B'Omer and Creating Micro Communities at Temple Aliyah

04/29/2021 12:05:21 PM

Apr29

Kayla Reisman

Fire is central to many Jewish origins, traditions, stories, and rituals. Off the top of my head, here are a few that come to mind:

  • Adam, the first human, being created into an “ish” (man) from “esh” (fire)

  • The burning bush telling Moses to return to Egypt to free the Jewish people

  • Lighting candles on Friday night to begin Shabbat, and on Saturday night to end Shabbat (and the same with other holidays)

  • Monitoring the eternal flame that burns by the ark that can never be extinguished

  • Remembering the menorah in the ancient Temple of the Hanukkah story, whose oil flames burned for 8 days and nights, when the oil should have only lasted one day

  • The list could go on! 

From the earliest days, fire brought people together. We’ve adopted the cavemen’s need to gather around fires for warmth for our own purposes of inviting others over to our houses to join around a firepit, to light candles together, or to enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner. 

 

From the synagogue perspective, we’ve always seen ourselves as being able to provide the “big fires'' for people’s lives: big events like Rosh Hashana services, Purim Carnivals, concerts/plays, and End of Summer BBQs, all with the intentions of lighting within people spiritual, educational and social fulfillment. However, in a Covid world, we came to realize that we couldn’t bring people together for “big fires” like we’d been doing for years. Instead we shifted our focus to an idea we got from the Jewish community in Cleveland (and the popular contemporary Netflix show) to create “Little Fires Everywhere.” 

 

The motivation behind “Little Fires Everywhere” was that instead of having one main centralized Hanukkah celebration for our whole community, which would violate local Covid guidelines, we could better serve our community by offering more intimate, Covid-friendly gatherings at individual homes. We decided to host these Hanukkah bonfires in members’ backyards to celebrate the “light of Hanukkah” and the miracle of the candles burning with the miracle of warm-ish bonfire outdoor gatherings in New England in December. This would allow members of our community to nurture existing relationships and develop new friendships while celebrating the holidays in a safer, outdoor environment. 

 

We were so successful with this program, that we will be bringing it back for the upcoming holiday of Lag B’Omer, which falls this year on the evening of April 29th. Unlike Hanukkah, fewer people are familiar with Lag B’Omer, a minor Jewish holiday that commemorates the Bar Kochba revolt against the Romans in the first century CE and is usually celebrated with large bonfires. Once again, we will commemorate a holiday, not by bringing together the full community, but by hosting smaller “fires” in congregant backyards to continue to accommodate social distancing, mask wearing, and only outdoor gatherings. In this way, we are continuing our Jewish obligations to “keep the fire burning” and keep our community connected through the pandemic. 

 

Additionally, we are hosting a bonfire for Lag B'Omer our Incoming and Current Kindergarten Families to welcome them into our Mercaz Aliyah community, for which registration will open soon! If you are interested in learning more about our Religious School program, Mercaz Aliyah, contact kayla@templealiyah.com. 

 

Saturday, July 31 2021 22 Av 5781