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Lag B'omer (5760)
This holiday, commemorating the Death of a Holy Jew called Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) over 1800 years ago, is celebrated with great joy.
In Israel huge bonfires are lit all over the country amidst music and great festivities. And near the grave of Rabbi Shimon himself in the village of Meron, over one hundred thousand people rejoice for 24 hours non-stop!
Who was this man? Why is he more celebrated than any of the other great men in Israel? Why is his death a cause for rejoicing?
The answer to all these questions is found in the book that he authored,“THE ZOHAR”.
This book explains the hidden mystical meanings of most of the sentences, ideas and commandments in the five books of Moses.
The Zohar is so successful in doing this, that at one point in the work G-d tells Rabbi Shimon:
“WITH THIS BOOK OF YOURS, THE ZOHAR, THE JEWISH PEOPLE WILL TASTE FROM THE TREE OF LIFE AND GO OUT OF THE EXILE IN MERCY.”
In other words... what will bring Moshiach; the end of all pain and suffering in the entire world, the spiritual awakening of ‘Am Yisroel’, the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the gathering of all the Jews to Israel, is…..the ZOHAR!
This explains the tremendous rejoicing!
The reason that one book can do all this is very simple: Everything depends on the Jewish people.
If the Jews learn and observe the Torah with joy (because the Torah is G-d’s Wisdom and Will), it improves the entire world. If not....there is exile.
But Rabbi Shimon knew that Joy depends on understanding. Without understanding the greatest riches or even life itself (and certainly the Torah) is worthless.
That was the accomplishment of ‘Rashbi’; he made it possible for us to understand and appreciate, systematically and accurately, for the first time in history, the true secret value i.e. the G-dliness, in the Torah and its commandments.
That is the ‘Tree of life’ in the aforementioned quote from the Zohar ; the G-liness in the Torah. When one feels it, suddenly the Torah and Judaism become ‘alive’.
And the Rashbi brought it within our reach. (The Baal Shem Tov brought it even closer and the Rebbe brought it closest to date)
But that isn’t all. Really the Rashbi did something much more important than just give us a system of knowledge.
In fact, 90% of the people rejoicing on Lag B’Omer have no idea what the Zohar says, [and conversely it is possible to understand the entire Zohar and remain completely cold to everything it says (G-d forbid)]
This is where the real contribution of Rashbi comes in.
The real goal and accomplishment of The Zohar is that it lights a fire and a yearning in its readers for the days when everyone will know G-d - the days ofthe Moshiach. In fact, this is the most developed theme in the entire book.
The Zohar explains that every Jew in the world has this yearning deep in the recesses of his soul for Moshiach whether he/she is aware of it or not.
This feeling is the secret of Jewish Joy.
We feel that we are actually partners with HaShem bringing WORLD PERFECTION closer with each and every good deed we do! (And the Zohar explains exactly what each good deed does.)
In fact, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai himself was an example of what type of man Moshiach will be. He was a true leader; brave, outspoken, (that is why he had to hide in acave for 13 years from the Romans) expert in the entire Torah (both revealed and mystical), and his advice was always exact.
In fact, he lived in a different world than anyone in his generation, a world of complete truth.
Exactly the type of man this world needs.
Therefore we see very strange things written about the Rashbi: His pupils called him the ‘Face of G-d’ (Pnai HaShichina)! His teacher, Rabbi Akiva, said that no one except for himself and G-d could appreciate his greatness. The Zohar testifies that for Rabbi Shimon there was no exile; he was living in the revelations of Moshiach and the Holy Temple
He said of himself, “ I can exempt the entire world from G-d’s anger” and, “If there is one truly elevated person in this generation, it’s ME!”
The reason that he merited such praise (and self-praise) is that Rashbi knew, as we said earlier, that the world depends on the Jews, and the Jews without a proper leader are like sheep with no shepherd.
And he knew that he was that leader.
In fact in his lifetime there was no rainbow (see Rashi Berashis 9:12) because he removed the evil (the confusion and the lack of awareness caused by Adam’s eating of the tree) of his entire generation.
Just before he passed away on Lag B'Omer he merited his highest revelations, dictated his deepest teachings and ordered his pupils to rejoice every year thereafter. (See Aruch Chiam 493 Magen Avr. 3)
On that day he knew that he had fulfilled his purpose in the world; to prepare the world for the Moshiach and to hasten his arrival by illuminating the Torah and inflaming the thirst for redemption.
And that is why we light fires and rejoice on Lag B’omer.
May we all dance with the revelation of Moshiach NOW!
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