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Lag BaOmer

Lag BaOmer

The great light of Lag BaOmer

Published on Tuesday May 21th, 2019

We will try to unravel the mystery of that day. The Talmud mentions the story of Rabbi Akiva and his 24,000 students who all died at the same period, from Passover to Lag BaOmer, because they had lacked respect for one another [by the way, they were particularly virtuous and holy men, who were judged according to their extremely high levels, because the Holy One, blessed be He, is rigorous with His loved ones, if they deviate slightly from the truth or if they make a mistake]. Our Sages testify that their death was felt so keenly that “the world had been reduced to a desert.”

Rabbi Akiva then traveled south to teach Torah to five students who later became rabbis. They were the ones who afterward ensured the transmission of the Torah to the Jewish people. One of those students was Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai – and it was no coincidence that, later on, he died on Lag BaOmer. Rabbi Akiva was driven by hope and love of his fellows. He is the one who taught the adage: “‘Love your fellow as yourself’ is ‘a cardinal principle in the Torah’.”

But what is the relationship between Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (known as Rashbi) and Lag BaOmer? How is this all related to Lag Baomer? Rabbi Akiva's students died because they failed to offer selfless love. Rashbi and his fellows repaired this lack by leading their whole existence under the sign of love and by developing disinterested love, accordingly to the saying of Rashbi: “We depend on kindness”.

Rabbi Shimon, in his immense holiness, had the privilege of perfectly fulfilling his master's principle: “Love your fellow as yourself”, and instilled it into the hearts of his students, which enabled them to entirely repair the damage that had been caused by the students of Rabbi Akiva. The day of Lag BaOmer has always enlightened us and, still today, it is a day of joy, love, unity, and brotherhood. Joy comes from unity: the human spirit shines like a light, and when everyone gathers and unites, they become like one man, thus creating a great light.

This may be the reason that led to the custom of lighting bonfires at Lag BaOmer. Just as many lights unite to form a bonfire that illuminates in the distance, such is the power of unity: it is like a great torch that has the power to light and warm hearts and to eradicate the evil from human spirit and from the world. The day of Lag BaOmer, everybody gathers at Rashbi’s tomb in Meron.

Hundreds of thousands of people from all horizons gather and unite, and like a great bonfire composed of thousands of flames, souls illuminate the world with their spiritual light. It is a gathering against division and hatred. There is another reason for lighting these fires: the day of Rashbi’s death, deep secrets were revealed and a great light came down to earth.

It is the light of the Zohar! The Kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero explains the meaning of the title “Zohar”: “The publication of this work gave birth to a light which emanated from heaven and spread down here; in reality, the book drew its source from this light.” In return for the spiritual light, it contains, we light bonfires that create a great light, symbolizing the light of the Zohar that we were privileged to receive. But because of its holiness and of the secrets it contains, only those who sanctify their deeds, words, and thoughts can devote themselves to Zohar study, as the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, indicates.

It is customary to gather at Rashbi’s grave in Meron, but also in the Diaspora, some light candles and gather to study his writings that are scattered in the Talmud and the Midrashim. We recite prayers and supplications, so that by the merit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the Master of the world may send us Geula (deliverance) and open our eyes – it is the Segula of that day – to let us discern the truth, as the psalm says: “Uncover (Gal) my eyes and I shall look at hidden things from Your Torah.” Our Sages have noticed that the word “Gal” is composed of the same letters as “Lag”, indeed that day has the power to reveal the truth and the specific light concealed in each Jew.

The Torah-Box Team - © Torah-Box

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