Last year, in honor of Lag B’Omer, I held a backyard picnic/campfire for Ella’s class and lots of other friends. We roasted marshmallows, sang songs, kicked around the soccer ball, and played with toy bows and arrows. Everyone hung around for hours because it was so much fun; it was one of my favorite gatherings I’ve ever hosted.
Did anyone learn anything about Lag B’Omer? Nothing more than it’s a special, fun day.
This year, I was delighted to see that our shul was hosting a bonfire. I was excited to have something to do on Lag B’Omer without having to plan and host it myself (there were no organized events at all last year.) People were invited to bring lawn chairs and drums, and it really sounded like a lot of fun. Enough fun to allow my daughters to attend something that didn’t even start until an hour after their bedtime.
The idea was great. And it was, indeed, fun to sit around a fire under the stars with people of all generations, some familiar faces, and some new faces. It was fun to have someone else be in charge of making sure no kids got burned by flaming balls of Passover marshmallows, and it was fun to have Zoe fall sound asleep on my lap.
But, I guess because it was a shul-shuling event (and yes, it’s not lost on me how much this sounds like the hebrew word for diarrhea) there was a larger agenda of turning this fun event into a “learn a lot about Lag B’Omer event.” There was a lot more talking at us than singing, or just shmoozing, with us. Most people never even got a chance to use their instruments. Despite a lot of talented folks contributing to the event (my friend Aharon in particular!) I found myself bored. At a bonfire. Who thought that was possible?
To be clear, I’m really, really glad my shul is starting to do more for families. I hope, and I’m nearly sure, that these programs will get better and better. As we move forward, I think it’s helpful to remember that sometimes demonstrating that Jewish holidays are fun is educational enough.