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Counting of the Omer

Counting of the Omer

Birth of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai!

Published on Tuesday May 14th, 2019

Yochai was a prominent member of the tribe of Yehuda. He was a wealthy and respected Torah scholar, with connections to government authorities and a. His wife, Sarah, descended from a prestigious lineage of Jewish princes and from Hillel the Elder.

For many years, Sarah was unable to bear children. Finally, Yochai began to think of divorcing Sarah and remarrying another woman who would bear him children. He even contacted a Shadchan (professional matchmaker) to this end. When Sarah heard about it, she tried to hide her pain. But she spent many days fasting, handed out large sums of money to Tzedakah and prayed fervently. Her heart was shattered to pieces. She cried to God, begging Him to give her children and to save her from the horrible predicament of divorce. On Rosh Hashanah night, Yochai had a dream.

He was standing in a vast forest. All he could see was a multitude of trees. Some trees were overripe with fruit,  while others were dry and bare.

Yochai leaned against a dry tree. Suddenly, the figure of an impressive Jew carrying a pitcher full of water on his shoulder appeared to him. The old Jew was watering some of the dry trees, but not all of them. As he approached Yochai, the man stopped. From under his cloak, he took a small pitcher of pure water and watered the tree Yochai was leaning on. He showered Yochai with innumerable blessings. Soon, Yochai realized that this tiny amount of water was truly blessed, as it covered the tree and all that surrounded it. Immediately, large and juicy appetizing apples surrounded by fresh leaves began to blossom. The tree continued to bloom, producing new branches, new roots and ripe fruit with an aroma that scented the entire forest.

Yochai woke up overjoyed. He hastened to tell his dream to his wife. The interpretation of his dream was obvious. The trees represented women: some had children, others were infertile. On Rosh Hashanah, G-d Decrees who will conceive children: his virtuous wife would be blessed since his tree had blossomed disproportionately.

However, one detail of his dream remained obscure: why didn’t this man of majestic appearance use the large jug, but only a small pitcher to water his tree specifically? Delighted and appalled, his wife suggested, "Let's talk to Rabbi Akiva! The latter unraveled the missing link in Yochai’s interpretation: "Know that Sarah was destined to be sterile. But thanks to her prayers and tears, she deserved to change her destiny and bear a child. The small pitcher collected her tears to water this tree”.

Sarah’s tears watered the tree that symbolizes her offspring! And Rabbi Akiva added, "Sarah! This year you will give birth to a son who will illuminate the people of Israel for generations to come through his wisdom and actions! Yochai and Sarah happily drank the words of Rabbi Akiva.

That year, on Shavuot, on the day the Torah was given to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, Sarah gave birth to a son who radiated a particular luminescence. All who glanced at him recognized that he was exceptionally blessed and that he would divulge a great light to all who came near him.

His parents thanked God and made a big banquet on the day of his Brit Milah. They called their child "Shimon" because God heard ("Shama") the prayers of his parents and had collected his mother’s tears. The child was reared in the highest purity and holiness. As soon as he began to speak, his parents taught him holy subjects and Torah verses to repeat. From the age of five, he was entrusted to Rabban Gamliel, who operated a Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

He was like a perpetually overflowing fountain of wisdom. While still a child, he asked relevant questions to his masters, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chanina and Rabban Gamliel.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai became one of the greatest masters of the Mishnah. He left this world on Lag Baomer, 63 years after the destruction of the Second Temple. On the day prior to his death, he revealed the secrets of Jewish mysticism to his disciples.

And thus, he made sure that this day would be a feast celebrated by the Jewish people throughout all the generations.

The Torah-Box Team - © Torah-Box

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