Thirty Third Day of the Omer
I read that it was the custom in some Eastern European towns and shtetls to visit their cemetery on Lag B’Omer to clean up the paths and check for broken grave-stones. After the “clean-up” the Chevra Kadisha (burial society) arranged a meal of eggs, pastries and vodka!
One such town was Homil, whose rav was Reb Aizel Homiler, a disciple of Dov Ber of Lubavitch. One year he followed the volunteers, checking on their work. He paused by one grave, deep in thought and then said to the shammas of the burial society, “In the Heavenly Court they are demanding about this man “Where are all the wonderful traits that his tombstone speaks of?” Go and get me an axe.” He then got the shammas to obliterate the inscription!
Far be it from me to suggest we search our cemeteries for inscriptions that we think do not accord with the character of the person they are memorialising and sadly the desecration of cemeteries is so often reported on. But the tale gives me an idea, and our cemeteries are mostly kept in good order but, I do see a number of neglected graves which nobody seems to take care of. Maybe there are no living relatives remaining. If not on Lag B’Omer then on Mitzvah Day or any day, might we not seek permission of our cemetery management to arrange a party to help clean up such graves?
Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein