Torah Fax

Friday, May 7, 2004 - 16 Iyar, 5764

Torah Reading: Emor (Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23)
Candle Lighting Time: 7:40 PM
Shabbat Ends: 8:46 PM

The Student Teacher

We will celebrate Lag b'Omer this Sunday. It marks the 33rd day since we began counting the days of the Omer from the second day of Passover.

During the first 32 days of the Omer, the Talmud tells us, virtually all of the students of the great sage Rabbi Akiva - numbering 24,000 - tragically died. The reason these students died was because they did not treat each other with sufficient respect. Finally, on the thirty-third day of this period, Lag b'Omer, the plague ceased, and for this ray of light that shone in an otherwise dark period, we give thanks to G‑d.
There is also a second reason for the celebration Lag b'Omer: Rabbi Akiva's greatest disciple was the great Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, known as the Rashbi. He passed away (years after the above mentioned incident) on Lag b'Omer. On the day of his passing, he revealed some of the deepest mysteries of the Torah, the Kabbalah, to a select group of his disciples. These teachings were later compiled by his students into the book known as the Zohar. Interestingly, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai specifically instructed his students to celebrate the day of his passing with as much joy a one would celebrate a Hillula, a wedding. In Israel, many flock to the grave of the Rashbi in the village of Miron on Lag b'Omer, and mark the great Rashbi's Yahrzeit not in solemnity, but with great joy.
But why would the Rashbi want his Yahrzeit to be celebrated with joy? How could he personally connect such a tragic event with a wedding day? Also, what is the connection between these two events that both happened on the same day?
By way of introduction: Everything in existence has both a visible, external mode as well as an internal, hidden mode. Even the Creator manifests Himself in these two ways. There is G‑d's revealed manifestation - how he directs the movements of the planets, the growth of the plants, the inner workings of every organism, etc - and there is the hidden aspect of G‑d that, at first, is not evident to us.
The Torah, G‑d's wisdom, also possesses these two dimensions: the outer level, the laws that deal with down-to-earth aspects of life, as well as the spiritual and mystical dimension that are elusive to many.
Similarly, every person has his or her outer persona as well as his or her inner core, which we refer to as the soul. And indeed, even the soul is composed of these two dimensions, the part of the soul that is expressed routinely in every thought, word or deed, and the part of the soul that remains hidden, that is revealed only in times of great spiritual arousal or in times of crisis.
For us to connect to our inner personality, one can spend an entire lifetime, since the outer layers tend to obscure the light and purity of the inner core. Indeed, the very reason we count the days between Passover and Shavuot-a commandment that is mentioned in this week's parsha-is to refine our character, thus enabling our G‑dly soul to emerge.
There is a second, and more direct approach to eliciting the power of one's inner core. By learning the hidden dimensions of Torah that are expressive of the hidden and elusive manifestations of G‑d, one can touch one's soul and cause its flame to burn brightly.
Thus Lag b'Omer, the day that the Rashbi revealed the deepest secrets of the Torah and thereby opened the gates of the Torah's inner precincts, gave us the power to access our inner soul in ways that until his time were reserved for very few people.
This is why the Rashbi said that Lag b'Omer is a day for celebration. On Lag b'Omer, through the Rashbi's revealing of the Zohar, we are now able to access the inner facets of Torah and the inner layers of our soul.
As noted, this is also the day that Rabbi Akiva's students ceased to die. Now since the reason for their deaths, the Talmud states was their inability to respect one another, we can deduce that on Lag b'Omer, the energy to overcome discord and dissent was introduced into the world. Since Lag b'Omer is the day that unleashed the hidden dimensions of Torah and our souls, we can easily be capable of transcending the differences that keep us apart and are the cause of dissonance. Thus, the cure for disunity and lack of respect and tolerance for each other is exposing ourselves to the inner soul of Torah, by studying the mystical texts of Kabbalah, particularly Chassidic literature that has made Kabbalah accessible to all.
We can now also understand that the Zohar's teaching that the study of Kabbalah will be the catalyst to bring about the future Redemption and the Talmud's suggestion that achieving genuine Ahavat Yisrael, love of one's fellow, will bring about this Redemption are in no way contradictory. Through overcoming our differences by eliciting our inner soul with the study of Kaballah and Chassidut, we will usher in the redemption.          
Moshiach Matters

Wrote the Chafetz Chaim: "We must prepare ourselves with all our might for the coming of the righteous Moshiach, each person according to his that we merit the complete and true redemption and so that we are able to greet Moshiach joyfully. And whoever doesn't listen to these words, it's his responsibility, and in the future he will be judged, G‑d forbid, for then it will be made clear, known and publicized concerning each person, who prepared himself for his [Moshiach's] coming and how he prepared himself, with Torah learning and good deeds, and who did not prepare himself. (Kol Kitvei HaChafetz Chaim HaShalem 3:50)

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