Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lag BaOmer as Hilula for Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai - R' Zvi Leshem


Received by e-mail from Rav Zvi Leshem


BS”D

BECHUKOTAI-LAG B”OMER: THE FIRES OF RASHBI

Rav Zvi Leshem


Friday is Lag B’Omer (LBO), the 33rd day between Pesach and Shavuot. On this day marriages and haircuts are permitted, as the 24,000 students of Rebbe Akiva, who died from a plague due to internal dissention, ceased dying. In addition LBO is celebrated as Hilula d’Rashbi, the Yarzeit of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai, student of Rebbe Akiva and author of the Zohar, the foremost book of the Kabbala. Bonfires are lit throughout Israel, especially at his grave in Meron, children have their first haircuts and a great celebration is held.

According to the Bnai Yissaschar and Rav Zaddok HaKohen, Rashbi not only died on LBO, he was born on the same day. It is brought in the name of the Ari that Rebbe Akiva ordained Rashbi and his colleagues on LBO, thus insuring the continuity of the oral law after the death of his earlier students. The Gamara (Shabbat 33(!)b) narrates how Rashbi and his son hid in a cave for twelve years after he fled the Roman decree of death. There, covered in sand, fed by a carob tree and drinking from a spring, the greatest secrets of the Tora were composed. Emerging from the cave, Rashbi perceived Jewish farmers working. Dismayed by their lack of Tora study, he “burned them up”! His shock is understandable in light of his position that Jews should only study Tora and not work. He is considered the one person whose Tora study is so great that he need not pray (although he did pray in the cave). Nonetheless they are ordered to return to the cave for another year, after which a mellower Rashbi emerges, whose love for every simple Jew is apparent. This too, writes the Aruch HaShulchan, was on LBO!

The Zohar relates how on the last day of his life, the sun stood still as Rashbi revealed the greatest secrets of the Tora. Dying happily, he encouraged his followers to make his Yarzeit a celebration. Thus the Ari, the Ohr HaChaim and other great Kabbalists would journey to Meron to celebrate on LBO. We light bonfires, explains the Bnai Yissaschar, in honor of Rashbi, known as Bozina Kadisha, the Holy Candle, and in honor of the Zohar, the Book of Splendor. We also remember the great light of the day that the sun did not set, and mark the final stage of preparation for the giving of the Tora on Shavuot. Seventeen days before, on LBO, the light of that Tora begins to shine. Thus Rav Baruch of Mezebizh would finish the Zohar on LBO, and in his Bet Midrash they would dance hakafot for the Simchat Tora of Kabbala. Rav Zadok tells us that as Rashbi continued the Oral Law of Rebbe Akiva, himself killed by the Romans; this is a day when every Jew has great potential for internalizing the Oral Law in all its manifestations. It seems to me that the reason for haircuts (as well as the ancient Sephardic custom of burning garments) is to symbolize our desire to throw off externalities (chizoniut) and connect with the deeper reality (penimiut) that Rashbi teaches.

Parshat Bechukotai begins Im Bechukotai Talachu, If you will walk in My statutes. The Mai HaShiloach, uses play on words on the root chkk, which in addition to statutes, means to engrave. He writes, so that My statutes will be ingraved upon thy heart. The Tora that flows from the heart is expressed when we reach the level of spiritual perfection that enables us to naturally flow with the mizvot in all aspects of our lives. Rashbi is the greatest example of this aspect of Tora. May we merit to appreciate the holiness of LBO and to internalize Rashbi’s message. May we merit that HaShem’s statutes will be engraved upon our hearts. Shabbat Shalom.

(Picture courtesy of a bit of light)

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Its amazing this one and the next are identical in cotent but this says it way more CHASSIDISH

DixieYid said...

It's true. This blog is for everyone. I like to help communicate things to others in both a Chassidisher shprach and in Litvak-ese.

:-D

-Dixie Yid