Rebbe Shimon

(Torah Portion Emor) Rebbe Shimon!

Today is the Thirty-Third day of the Omer count, which is known as Lag B’Omer. What makes this day so special? Almost two thousand years ago, 24,000 devout students of Rebbe Akiva, one of the greatest Sages in Israel, died during the period between the Holiday of Pesach and the Holiday of Shavuos. This is why we conduct a semi mourning period during this time, and do not celebrate weddings etc. Lag B’Omer is the day the students stopped dying.

Rebbi Akiva, although he was in his nineties at this time, did not end his career as the teacher of the Jewish people. Rather he gathered the strength, fortitude and compunction to gather five worthy students and he once again began teaching and transmitting the traditions and laws of the Torah which he had received through an unbroken chain reaching all the way to our leader and teacher Moshe.

The Chidah says that Rebbe Akiva began teaching these students on Lag B’Omer, making it a day worthy of celebration.

Additionally, one of the students that Rebbe Akiva taught was Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochoi, the author of Kaballah – the mystical teachings of the Torah. Rebbe Shimon passed away on Lag B’Omer and on that day he revealed these Mystical secrets to his students, thus making Lag B’Omer a day of celebration.

Rebbe Shimon is buried in Meiron in northern Israel. Over 850,000 Jews are expected to be in Meiron for Lag B’Omer to pray and celebrate at Rebbe Shimon’s tomb.

Rebbe Shimon was pursued by the Romans for teaching and studying the Torah. He was forced to hide in a cave for thirteen years with his son Rebbe Elazar, where they were sustained in a miraculous way.

During this period, father and son raised themselves to awesome levels of spirituality, and during this time the secrets of the Torah were revealed to him.

The Talmud relates that Elijah the prophet revealed to Rebbe Shimon that the Roman threat on his life was over, and Rebbe Shimon and his son emerged from the cave. Being so removed from society and being totally immersed in spirituality for 12 years, they weren’t able to become acclimated. They therefore returned to the cave for an additional 12 months to work on the ability to conform and harmonize with society.

The Talmud relates that when they finally emerged from the cave they saw a man holding two fragrant myrtle branches for the honor and respect of the Shabbos.

Engaging in conversation with this person provided them with the necessary means to reconnect and reenter society.

It is not surprising that the encounter was connected with the holy day of Shabbos. For the Shabbos is the key ingredient to our connection to G-d and spirituality.

Rabbi Shimoshon Pincus o.b.m. asks a very penetrating question. Why is it that the laws concerning the observance of the Shabbos are so strict that the penalty for deliberately violating Shabbos is more severe than infractions and felonies that appear to be more destructive and harmful? For example one would suppose that the severity of burning a holy Torah scroll with all the names of G-d etc. would be more severe than a Shabbos violation, yet that is not the case.

Rabbi Pincus explains by way of example. If a surgeon while removing a growth from one’s arm or leg which requires only a half inch incision, made the incision a bit longer, we all agree that such precision is not as vital and critical as the accuracy and exactness necessary when operating on the essential brain or heart of a patient, where the slightest incorrect maneuver can cost a person’s life.

Says Rabbi Pincus, the observance of the Shabbos is the basis and wellspring of all holiness and blessing. Therefore we must care and focus on the slightest nuances of Shabbos observance, for it is so vital and fundamental for a healthy, and blessed spiritual connection to the Almighty.

Therefore after all the exalted spiritual levels Rebbe Shimon attained, he was only able to reconnect with civilization after seeing the eagerness with which the man they met had towards honoring the holy day of Shabbos!

Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks