Thursday, May 22, 2008
Lag BaOmer - Why Celebrate on the Yohrtzeit of a Tzadik?
Anonymous Guest Posting by "Marbitz Torah"
The Simcha of Lag Baomer is a strange concept. The Shulchan Aruch says on the day A Tzaddik dies you make a fast. Where did this day of happiness come from? The GR"A says it was the day that the Students of Reb Akiva Stopped dying. The Question still stands. Reb Shimon Bar Yochai died on this day, so what is the Celebration about?
The answer brought by the Kadmonim is that Reb Shimon Bar Yochai himself said there should be a celebration on the day of his death. The Shach in Hilchos Aveilus also brings down a similar premise that if a father says not to act like an Avel the full 12 months we follow his command. This is because the whole Halacha of mourning is only in honor of the parent. Therefore if he asks you not to act in a manner of mourning then of course you listen.
Now we must understand why did Reb Shimon say to celebrate his death when we know when a Tzaddik dies it like the Destruction of the Beis Hamikdash? There is yet another problem with the Lag Baomer Celebrations the Shoel Umashiv and the Chasam Sofer in their Seforim in a very strong language say that the Minhag of burning clothing which is prevalent at the Kever of Reb Shimon Bar Yochai in Miron is a problem of Baal Taschis (Destroying things without Purpose) and worse Darchei Amori (Behaving as a Idol worshipper). In defense we have a Mesorah that the Ohr Hachaim Hakodesh followed the Minhag of burning the clothing.
The Aruch Hashulchan provides another reason for the Celebration of Lag Ba'omer; that that it was the day Reb Shimon and his son where finally allowed to leave the cave in which they where hiding. A remez to this concept is that the Gemora that says the story of Reb Shimon leaving the cave is on Daf: Lamed Gimmel. The Mon also started falling on Lag Ba'omer. There is a Zohar in Parshas Hazinu that says that the day that Reb Shimon said over the secrets of the torah was on Lag Ba'omer and that was the day he died ,The students where afraid he would die before he would give over all the secrets, so when it happened they where overjoyed. In his final conversation he said "The whole day is in my control and now I have the right to say over all the secrets before I go to the next world in order that I not be embarrassed when I go up to Shmayim."
There are two thousand two hundred and twenty five Teachings from Reb Shimon Bar Yochai in Sifra, Bavli, and Yerushalmi. But the Secrets of the torah the SOD he was only able to tell over the day he died.
In conclusion, what is the answer to all the above questions? The reason the day the Tzaddik dies is such a sad day that it is considered similar to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash is because of the loss of Torah to the people in this world. The Tzaddik is going to Gan Eden. The only people who lose out are the people he left behind in this world. The day Reb Shimon died is fundamentally different. That is because as the Zohar says the secrets of the Torah the actual text of the Zohar was able to be said and copied over on this day so it is not a day of sadness and fasting but a day like Purim and Shavous a day of receiving the torah of Nistar (the hidden aspects of Torah) and therefore a day full of joy happiness and a celebration.
The significance of the Mon was as the Mamar Chazal says the Mon was only given to those who ate the Mon. Now to the final question why burn the clothes? When Reb Shimon bar Yochai left the cave everything one looked at got BURNT thereafter the other would look at it and return it to the way it was. The reason why everything was burnt up was that they where so separated from the frivolity of this world they could not stand to look at it. The burning of the clothes symbolized that we should aspire to be like Reb Shimon and try to separate ourselves from Gashmius of this world and try to live on a higher spiritual level. The burning of clothing is being allowed to teach a moral lesson would still seem to be a problem. This too can now be answered.
The gemara in Meseches Tomid states when the Kohanim had Guard duty and they feel asleep on the job the Gemara says "Reshus Hayah Lisrof Es bigadav" Therefore we plainly see a source that allows the burning of clothing to teach a lesson in Halacha. This is as long as there is a lesson to be learnt hence the Chasam Sofer and the Shoel Umashiv are answered.
There is also the question of what is the reason for the fires? The simple answer given is just as we know we light a small candle for a soul on a Yahrtzeit like the Chazal say "Ner Hashem Nishmas Adam" therefore for a great soul we light a large fire. There is another answer given that Reb Shimon was on such a level that with his Ohr Hatorah he was able to stop the Night from coming therefore we light fires to symbolize the light of his torah that is still here.
(Picture courtesy of chairotel)
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