Every Israeli schoolchild knows that Lag Ba'Omer celebrates Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), the Mishnaic sage who died on that day. The schoolchildren, it turns out, have been misled by an ancient typo.
Reporting in last Friday's Makor Rishon, Hagai Segal describes the research of Rabbi Avraham Kosman of Jerusalem. Having finally gained access to fascimiles of original manuscripts, Rabbi Kosman discovered that the day which was originally described in the writings of the Ari, R' Yitzhak Luria, as "Rashbi's celebration" was transformed via scribal error to "Rashbi's death".
This goes some way towards explaining the odd phenomenon of a Jewish festival celebrating the death of a sage.
Furthermore, he has uncovered evidence that Lag Ba'Omer may have originally been a fast day associated with an aborted attempt to build the third Beit Hamikdash - and that it may have even earlier roots back to King Solomon's day.
The article, available only in Hebrew, is here.
I don't suppose it will have any effect on the volume of smoke released into Israel's atmosphere tomorrow night. Close the windows! Cough, cough