A silhoutted man stands in front of a raging bonfire

Meron and Miracles

Three days ago, my husband’s back went out when he was trying to put his socks on before heading off for prayers at the Beit HaRav.

This has happened before, whenever there’s been a period of deep-seated stress going on, and before we figured out what sorts of things could trigger it, it could take weeks or even months for my husband’s back to recover. And in the meantime, he could barely get out of bed, or walk around.

Day 2, I asked him if he wanted me to drive him to the men’s mikvah, where he usually goes for a dunk every single day. He said yes – and it was total mesirut nefesh for him, because remember, even putting on his socks was difficult.

But he came out of the mikvah feeling approximately 50% than he went into it – and so, it looked like maybe, just maybe, we’d be able to swing going to Meron again for L’ag B’omer after all.


It was still touch and go all day Tuesday, but yesterday, Wednesday, my husband’s back improved enough for him to go to work. Then, we read the message from the Rav here on the site, talking about what a big deal Meron was going to be this year.

I can do it, let’s go!

That’s what he told me at 8pm yesterday night.

After 58 minutes of sleep, we left at midnight to try to get up to Meron in time for Rav Berland lighting the main bonfire there, at 3.30 am. We made great time between Jerusalem and Karmiel, where they have the usual park n’ ride shuttle service to Meron. They’ve opened up a new bit of Highway 6 near Yokneam, and it made a big difference.

After circling the parking lot a couple of times, and arguing over whether it would be ok for my husband to park the car practically in a tree, the way so many other people already had (I said no…) – we finally got a space. But then, things got a little more challenging.

It took ages to get on a bus, and when we got on a bus we were one of the last ones on, so there were no seats.

Is your back OK?

I stage-whispered to my husband at least 30 times. Also, the weather was disgusting – still registering 29 degrees in the middle of the night, until we actually got a little elevation in Meron and the mercury reduced a tad.

Then, the bus got stuck in some ginormous traffic jam by Peki’in, which meant it kept lurching forward in violent starts, like a spasmodic cough, every few seconds. After 10 minutes of that, the little girl sitting on her mother’s lap right next to where we were standing decided she needed to throw up.

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Luckily, her mother had a bag ready, but now it was my husband’s turn to throw me a worried glance, because even catching one whiff of barf is enough to set me off myself.

I have to admit, at that point in the journey I started to wonder to myself:

Is this really worth all this grief and hassle? I mean, I know it’s a massive, huge thing to come to Meron for the hilloula of Rabbi Shimon. And I also know from Rebbe Nachman that it’s the journey’s difficulties that really build the kli, or vessel, for all the blessings you get from travelling to the Tzaddikim.

But Hashem, I have to tell you, being stuck on a sweaty bus that has a bad case of diesel bronchitis when I’ve slept 58 minutes and my husband’s back is fragile and we have no seat and now some kid is throwing up right next to me…. This could be a little too much.

The young secular guy who’d been listening to a shiur on his massive i-Phone in the aisle next to the little girl legged it straight to the front of the bus as soon as he heard the first retching noise.

I wished I could follow him…

Just as I was thinking those thoughts, a young chareidi man who was standing next to us opened up his rectangular square case that I thought was a trendy tefillin bag, and pulled out a clarinet. At the same time, an older chareidi man somehow managed to assemble a saxophone while standing up and swaying in the aisle.

Apparently, they knew each other.

Someone let the saxophone man sit down to finish the assembly, someone else opened up a few windows before we all suffocated to death, and then the saxophone man bounced back on his feet and started rocking the crowd with a jazz version of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

The Sephardim on the bus went crazy!

They started clapping and dancing and singing for all they were worth, and the whole mood on the bus went from awful to amazing in about 8 seconds flat. Quite the miraculous turnaround.

The impromptu concert continued for around 20 minutes, and I stood there tapping my feet to the chareidi blues, and realized how very fortunate I am to belong to the Jewish people, and particularly that small bit of it that was heading up to Meron in very trying circumstances.

We got there just after the Rav had lit the bonfire, and I watched him ping off tens and tens of arrows into the darkness of the hills around Meron, before the crush got too much and I made me way out of the crowd.

I was so exhausted.

I fell asleep sitting up next to the tomb of Yonatan HaSandler, before waking with a start and shuffling off to find some building I could lie behind, with a bit more privacy. I was out cold on the floor for an hour and a half.

My husband finished praying with the Rav at 7am – having spent 5 hours straight on his feet – and his back was still doing ok. An open miracle.

As I left Meron, I felt a very good vibe in the air there.

Something very holy, something very good, was going on, albeit so very hidden under all the miniot and trash and sweat. If all that happened is that my husband’s back recovered, dayanu, it was worth it.

But I have the feeling there may be other presents from Meron this year.

You can read more of Rivka’s musings on her blog: https://rivkalevy.com/

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