On the 33rd day of the Omer we celebrate the holiday called Lag B'Omer.
The Talmud relates that Rabbi Akiva had 24,000 students, all of whom were very great. Rabbi Akiva himself was one of the greatest rabbis in the Talmud. Yet, during this period of just 33 days, all these 24,000 students died because they didn't act respectfully to one another.
When they died, the world was left desolate until Rabbi Akiva came and taught Torah to five new students: Rabbi Meir Baal Haness, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, Rabbi Yossi, Rabbi Nechemya and Rabbi Yehudah. These great Tzaddikim were later responsible for restoring the entire Torah. They are the rabbis of the Mishnah (Yevamot 63a).
Rebbe Nosson of Breslev explains that during the Days of the Omer, we work to purify ourselves in order to receive the Torah. The Torah was originally received because the Jews came to Har Sinai as one, achdut, with one purpose, and one heart (Rashi, Exodus 18:1). The students of Rabbi Akiva achieved the highest levels of Torah learning, but failed in this crucial aspect. They were followed by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his disciples, a very closely knit group.
The great love and unity they displayed between Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his students, for which we find references throughout the Zohar, brought rectification to the 24,000. The greatness of Lag B'Omer is that it represents the conclusion of the period of mourning. Through the spiritual strength and power of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, and through the unity and peace between all Jews, it is possible to rectify even the greatness losses and tragedies that befall the Jewish people (Likutey Halakhot, Rosh Chodesh 6).
Original Torah insights provide great spiritual light for the world. But this light, which emanates from the Or Ein Sof (the Infinite One), can only be drawn down and brought into this world through contraction and limitation. Otherwise, it is far too overwhelming for man to appreciate. He just doesn't have the spiritual "strength".
One way to get that "strength" is by joining together with other Jews. This in itself is a form of self-contraction for the sake of the larger group. Through this we can understand why the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva died. Each of these students was very outstanding in his own right and received many Torah insights from his most illustrious teacher. These Torah insights brought them great spiritual light, but they were unable to maintain it. Why? Because there was no love and harmony between them. They lacked the bonds which would have given them the "strength" to absorb the Torah's great light and have it be a blessing. As a result, they died. And their deaths took place precisely during the Sefirah period, when we should be trying to rectify ourselves so as to receive the Torah.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his cheva of talmidim were very different than Rabbi Akiva's students. Their relationship was a rectification. And through the "strength" which their bonds of love created, Rabbi Shimon was able to bring down a great light. This was the revelation of the Zohar HaKodesh, the basic source of the Kabbalah as it is known to us today. Not only were his students able to bring receive the brilliant light of their teachers Torah insights without it harming them, but Rabbi Shimon's revelation of Hashem's Greatness were such incredible rectifications that, even today, no matter where a person has fallen spiritually, he can always come back to Hashem. This is why Eliyahu HaNavi told Rabbi Shimon that his teachings 'The Zohar Hakodesh' will lead the Jews out of exile (Likutey Halahkot, Minchah 7).
It is precisely during this time and at Chatzot that we can anticipate redemption. May it be this year at this time that we all join together in achdut (unity) to end this galut (exile). And remember this "Eem atah lo shoel atah lo kabel", Simply if you don't ask you don't receive. So, at 1:30 AM this Monday night walk outside and look up and simply ask our Father in Heaven to have mercy on us and bring the righteous redeemer this very day!!!!
Sunday, May 10, 2009
// 5/10/2009 //