Last night I headed into Beit Shemesh Ramat Bet to see how the Chassidim in Israel handle Lag B'Omer. I took the 12 bus deep into Bet by the Boyan Chassidim. And they had a small fire in front of their shul. The men and women stood on different sides. Some were talking in Yiddish, which is always amazing to hear as a living language. But by the time we got there they were putting out the flame as I guess it was time for bed. One mother become concerned when her son took a rake and played a little too long and close to the flames and called him to move away. Overall the people were peaceful. I saw before me a community and family scene.
So I walked on up Yarden and then up Rebbi Yehoshua St. towards another Chassidic group. And they were holding a concert which featured a Chassid with a terrific voice along with a clarinet and a keyboard. Again the men and women were on separate sides. There were a slew of children in the middle, all dressed up and cute as can be. The women were dressed very modestly and elegantly and everyone was quite peaceful.
I headed on to another gathering on Yehuda HaNasi street. The music there was too loud for my taste so I didn't get so close. But again the people seemed peaceful.
Finally, I headed over to Satmar. I'm always curious about Satmar. And they had a small fire upon a tall stand in the middle of Hillel St. They also had a live singer on a platform on top of the building on the East Side of the street. But surrounding the fire was a huge circle of men, hand in hand, rocking back and forth to the music. It was an amazing site, their unity, their slow rhythmic motion, and their beautiful coats and streimels. I watched them a bit and a man turned around and invited me to the circle. He wasn't pushy. It was a pleasant invitation. So I danced with them a while. Then I stepped out and watched some more. I found myself getting entranced by the music and the rocking back and forth, back and forth. Another man turned around and seeing me watching smiled at me and also seemed to invite me to join. I needed to go home at this point but couldn't pull myself away. There was something so holy about the sight. I felt almost drunk watching it and found myself transported back to Eastern Europe to a shtetl in the 19th century. No cell phones. Perfect tznius. Togetherness. Peacefulness. I believe that the Chassidim are some of the most peaceful people in Israel. How do they do it?
Post Script: It's the next day now and I realize what I saw that made me feel as if I were drunk. I believe it was the shechinah.