Bonfires of Lag B’Omer


By Rivka Tal

Lag B’Omer, falling this year on May 10, is a day of pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in Israel’s Galilee town of Meiron. This 33rd day of the Omer count is his yahrzeit, the day of his death. An estimated 300,000 Jews visit Meiron during this 24-hour period — praying, dancing, and celebrating his wonderful spiritual legacy.

In honor of his yahrzeit, people are not satisfied with your ordinary small yahrzeit candle. Bonfires are the rule. Kids start collecting wood for their fires right after Passover.

On Lag B’Omer, the whole country fills with bonfires. Symbolically, they illuminate the paths of those who seek to understand the deeper truths of Judaism as revealed by the rabbi.

Bonfires are fun (of course, safety rules must be carefully observed). And while Israel Independence Day usually marks the opening of Israel Barbeque-Grilled Meat-Season, Lag B’Omer is also an opportune time to try your hand at other kinds of campfire cooking.

Salmon With Basil Butter (Parve or Dairy)

  • 15 fresh basil leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • few drops lemon juice
  • 4 salmon filets (6 oz. each)
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 lemon slices

Prepare basil butter: Chop basil and garlic in small food processor bowl. Add butter and lemon juice and mix to combine, scraping sides as necessary.

Place each salmon filet on a double piece of aluminum foil. Place a spoon of basil butter on each. Add lemon slice. Season with salt and pepper and seal packages tightly.

Preheat charcoal grill. Place the foil packets on the hot grill and cook for 10 minutes for a 1-inch thick piece of salmon or until fish flakes easily. Serve in the foil packets.

Serves 4.


Hot Potatoes (Parve)

Hint: If you don’t want to wait 45 minutes or so, potatoes may be par-cooked in a microwave and then put into the fire to get that BBQ taste.

  • 1 potato per person

Scrub each potato well; dry and poke several times with a fork. Double wrap each potato separately in aluminum foil.

Place foil-wrapped potatoes directly on the hot coals and embers of your campfire. Roast potatoes for 45 minutes, or until you can pierce them easily with a fork.

Carefully remove the blackened aluminum foil before serving.

Grilled Eggplant Salad (Parve)

Quantities of seasoning are truly up to you in this recipe.

  • 2 eggplants (1 lb. each)
  • olive oil
  • techina
  • lemon juice
  • salt

Wash and dry eggplants. Do not peel. Important: Poke a few holes in the eggplants with a fork or a skewer to allow steam to escape.

Grill for about 8 minutes, turning every few minutes. Transfer eggplant to a plate to cool.

As soon as eggplants are cool enough to handle, split in half and peel off the skin.

Mash and add olive oil, techina, lemon juice and salt to taste.

Serves 8 as a side dish.

S’Mores (Parve or Dairy)

Here’s a vintage Girl Scout treat that no one can resist. (I’m sure you’ll want s’more!)

  • 4 large marshmallows
  • 8 graham crackers
  • 6 oz. chocolate bars (parve or dairy)

Toast marshmallows on sticks or skewers until they begin to melt. Sandwich 2 to 3 chocolate squares between crackers and marshmallows. Cool a bit before eating.

Serves 4.

Rivka Tal is a former Minnesotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 45 years. She is a food writer and translator. Email her at: [email protected]


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