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Chapter 5: Lag Ba-omer

7. Throwing Clothes into the Bonfire and Praying at the Gravesites of Tzadikim

Many people had a custom to throw expensive clothing into the bonfire at Meron, explaining that they do so in honor of R. Shimon bar Yoĥai.

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Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Cheshvan 12 5782

Many people had a custom to throw expensive clothing into the bonfire at Meron, explaining that they do so in honor of R. Shimon bar Yoĥai. There are even testimonies that great rabbis followed this practice. On the other hand, some authorities are skeptical about this practice, claiming that it has no basis and, worse, that it is forbidden because of bal tashĥit (the prohibition against destroying things needlessly). It is true that people used to burn the king’s clothes after his death, but that was because no one else may use them, out of honor for the king. Here, however, why should we burn clothing for no reason (Sho’el U-meshiv, 5:39; Ĥikrei Lev, Mahadura Batra, yd 11)? Others try to justify the custom, saying that one transgresses the prohibition of bal tashĥit only when destroying something for truly no reason, but if there is a purpose, like honoring R. Shimon bar Yoĥai, it is permissible (see Torah Li-shmah §206). In practice, if one’s ancestors did not follow this practice, it is inappropriate for him to observe such a disputed custom. But if one's ancestors had the custom to burn clothes, one may rely on the poskim who justified the custom. Nevertheless, it is preferable to donate the value of the clothing to charity than to destroy them in a fire.


When going to pray at the gravesites of saints and sages, one must be careful not to turn toward them in prayer, because we are commanded to pray to God alone. Anyone who prays to a saint violates a prohibition and is similar to one who engages in necromancy, which the Torah forbids (Devarim 18:11). Some authorities permit one to turn to a deceased saint to ask him to intercede before the Exalted One on behalf of those who pray at his grave (Pri Megadim, Eshel Avraham 581:16). Others, however, prohibit this, because this too has elements of necromancy. Rather, we must direct all of our prayers exclusively to the Master of the Universe, without involving any intermediaries. One who is praying to God may ask Him to accept his prayers in the merit of a particular sage or saint (Maharil, Taz 581:39), because when we connect to the Torah teachings and good deeds of a righteous person, we become better, more perfect people, and in that merit we ask God to accept our prayers. 

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