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Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai: Birth and Revelation

Published on Thursday May 3th, 2018

The Holy Tanna, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (also known by the acronym of Rashbi), was born nearly fifty years after the destruction of the Second Temple, on the 33rd day of the Omer, to a father from the tribe of Judah who was (according to the book Nachalat Avot) part of the small circle of spiritual leaders of his generation. He grew up wealthy and close to the kingship of ancient Judea.

Rabbi Shimon was married to a righteous woman named Sarah who was unfortunately barren. He was considering divorcing her in order to marry a new wife who could bear him children. This caused Sarah great pain. She prayed heartfelt prayers and her supplications were heard.

One morning, her illustrious husband told her that he had had a dream which he believed was a sign that they were about to have a child. They went to Rabbi Akiva who listened to their story and confirmed their interpretation. He added that this happy outcome was due to Sarah's prayers and tears. He also announced that their son would grow up to illuminate all the Jewish people with his Torah.

When Bar Yochai was born, their entire house was filled with light, similarly to the birth of Moshe. Yochai and Sarah raised him in purity and holiness and as soon as he was able to speak, his parents only taught him Torah content, verses and lessons from our Sages.

At the age of five, Bar Yochai’s parents entrusted him to the yeshiva of Rabban Gamliel in Jerusalem. He was an excellent student and despite his young age, was known to ask very sharp questions to his teachers and brilliant Torah masters themselves, Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Hananiah and Rabban Gamliel. He thus became one of the greatest masters of his generation.

The imprint left by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in the transmission and teaching of the Torah is simply enormous.

He is repeatedly cited in the Mishnah and Talmud and although he is best known for his authorship of the Zohar, (a kabbalistic work he composed with his students following years of hiding from the Roman forces in a cave during Israel’s occupation) he personally composed Torah compilations such as the Sifreh, Midrash Halacha on Bamidbar and Shemot and the Mechilte. His book, studied by Jews all over the world, contains many esoteric explanations of Torah secrets and is divided according to the weekly Torah portions. One of his other books, known in Aramaic as the “Raya Mehemna”, "the Faithful Shepherd,” is an explanation of the various commandments of the Torah. He was also authored the book Tikunei Zohar, in which he revealed 70 possible explanations of the verse "In the beginning G-d created.”

Rav Emmanuel BOUKOBZA - © Torah-Box

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