The Yahrzeit of Shemu’el haNavi

Tonight is Yom Yerushalayim. But it was celebrated well before the Six Day War and the retaking of Yerushalayim after 1897 years.

We have a tradition that Shemu’el haNavi passed away on the 28th of Iyyar.

The Tomb of Shemu'el haNavi

And so, a custom arose, as recorded by the Radvaz, to come to Nabi Samwil, the traditionally identified location of his gravesite, tonight, on his yahrzeit. A bit north of Yerushalayim. And there children would get their first haircuts.

When Shemu’el was weened, he was sent to the Mishkan to live, and he grew up there under the tutelage of Eili, the kohein gadol. So there is a logical connection between Shemu’el and the transition from toddler to boy. Also, Shemu’el was a nazir, who did not cut his hair his entire life. So the navi has a connection to hair and haircuts as well.

When the Ottomans made travel from Tzefas to Yerushalayim difficult, that community could no longer make the pilgrimage to Nabi Samwil. And so they adapted the minhag, moving it from the 43rd day of the Omer at Shemu’el’s gravesite to the 33rd day of the Omer at Rabbi Shim’on bar Yochai’s.

The Radvaz’s description doesn’t contain elements that we today associate with Lag baOmer in Meron: no mention of parties, bonfires, or waiting until the boy is three.

Today is the yahrzeit of the navi whose job it was, among other things, to annoint David, who made Yerushalayim our capital, and prepared the way to bring Hashem’s Presence to the city. Some 2844 years before Hashem blessed the soldiers of Tzahal with the opportunity to regain the city, and again make it our capital.

(The Radvaz was Rabbi David iBn Zimra, an exile from Spain in 1492when he was 13. His parents took him to Tzefas. The Radvaz spent most of his life being a rav in Cairo, where he taught the R Betzalel Ashkenazi [the Shitah Mequbetzes] and founded the yeshiva in which the Ari studied. He left behind over 3,000 teshuvos. This is in 2:608.)

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