Wednesday, Iyar 17, 5776 / May 25, 2016 – HAKHEL YEAR
Tonight, (Wednesday night)and Thursday is Lag B'Omer – A dayassociated with two of the greatest sages and leaders of their generation; Rabbi Akiva, and his student, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
Lag B’Omer is related to Rabbi Akiva because a plague which claimed the lives of thousands (24,000) of Rabbi Akiva’s students, miraculously stopped on Lag B’Omer. As a result, this day is celebrated with great joy and has special significance for children and students.
Although weddings are not performed during most of the Sefirah days, yet, on Lag B’Omer, because it is such a joyous day, weddings are performed.
Rabbi Akivalived about 2,000 years ago, at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, when the land of Israel was occupied by the Romans. Rabbi Akiva was one of the "Ten Martyrs." He was brutally murdered by the Romans for teaching Torah.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, or as he is commonly called by the acronym of his name, “Rashbi,” passed away on Lag B’Omer. He and his son, Rabbi Elazar, are buried in Meron, Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Jews visit Rabbi Shimon’s gravesite on Lag B’Omer. Bonfires are lit in Meron and throughout Israel on Lag B’Omer, in honor of Rabbi Shimon.
Q.Why is the day of Rabbi Shimon’s passing a joyous day?
A.On the day of his passing, Rabbi Shimon revealed to his disciples the deepest secrets of the Torah and mystical teachings of Kaballah. On his last day he accomplished the greatest level of holiness a human can accomplish. Rabbi Shimon instructed his disciples to mark this day a day of joy.
Q. Why are bonfires lit in honor of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai?
A. The Zohar says that on the day Rabbi Shimon died, a great light of endless joy filled the day because of the Torah secrets he revealed to his students. A fire surrounded the house, preventing anyone, but his closest students, from approaching. In commemoration, bonfires are lit on Lag B'Omer.
Q.Why is the day called Lag B’Omer?
A. “Lag” is a combination of two Hebrew letters, Lamed & Gimmel which spell Lag. Each Hebrew letter has a numerical value; “Lamed” = 30 & “Gimel” = 3. Together they add up to 33. Lag B’Omer is on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer.
Rabbi Shimon said: “There are three crowns: the crown of the Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of royalty; but the crown of a good name excels above them all.”
He told his students: “One should rather jump into a fiery furnace than offend someone in public.” May their memories be a blessing to all. Amen
HAVE A HAPPY, HEALTHY, SUCCESSFUL AND WONDERFUL DAY
Thursday, Iyar 18, 5776 / May 26, 2016 – HAKHEL YEAR
Today is Lag B'Omer. As mentioned yesterday, on this day we celebrate the lives of two great Talmudic sages: Rabbi Akiva & Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
Although it is the day of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s passing, this day is a celebration honoring his life. On this day, when he returned his soul to G-d, he had accomplished his life’s mission in this world.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai authored the Zohar which deals with the hidden and deepest mystical teachings of the Torah and is the basis for the Kabbala. The Talmud is full of the teachings of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai together with his son, Rabbi Elazar, spent 13 years in a cave hiding from the Romans, who wanted to kill him for teaching Torah and for speaking out against their oppression of Jews in Israel. To avoid the death penalty, they hid in a cave and were sustained by a carob tree that miraculously appeared by the cave and by a stream of water that ran just outside.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai gave the following example to impress upon his students the importance of every individual’s action and how each person's deeds affect everyone else. He explained it with the following illustration: A boat filled with people was sailing on the ocean, when one of the passengers took a sharp tool and began to bore a hole under his seat. The other passengers shouted, "What are you doing? Stop!"
The man replied, "What business is it of yours? I paid for this seat. I'm boring a hole under my seat!"
"Fool! Don't you realize that by boring a hole under your seat, you will cause us all to drown?1"
"Similarly," says Rabbi Shimon, "a person must remember that we are all riding in the same life-boat. Every good deed we do affects everyone and every sin we commit affects the entire world!"
Rabbi Akiva would always say, “Whatever G-d does is for the good.” The Talmud tells that Rabbi Akiva was once traveling and he had with him a lantern, a rooster, and a donkey. At night, he came to a village, but no one invited him in. Instead of despair, he said, “Whatever G-d does is for the good,” and set up camp in the forest nearby.
During the night a wind blew out his lamp, a fox ate his rooster, and a lion slew his donkey. Rabbi Akiva again remarked, “Whatever G-d does is for the good!”
He awoke the next morning to find out that during the night soldiers had attacked the village which refused him lodging. Had he been in the village, he would have been captured together with the other residents. Had he had his light or his animals, the soldiers would have seen or heard them and he too would have been doomed. He always reminded his students: “Everything G-d does is for the good!”
HAVE A HAPPY, HEALTHY, SUCCESSFUL AND WONDERFUL LAG B’OMER