Bechukotay - Lag BaOmer

Thursday, 15 May, 2014 - 3:00 pm


Dear Friends,


“A Freilicher Rebbe” (a happy Rebbe) – that’s what the Rayatz, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson of Lubavitch, used to call Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Of course he was a happy rebbe; he was happy and made others happy. In his burial place in Meiron over half a million people will be jumping and dancing during the 24 hours of this coming Sunday. Rabbi Shimon will made people happy in every corner of the world where there are Jews – some of them participating in parades of brotherly love, and some of them in events involving music and fire – and it will always be a combination of light, warmth and joy.

In tractate Shabbat (33b) it is told, that when Rabbi Shimon and his son, Rabbi Elazar, came out of the cave where they had been hiding for 12 years, they saw people plowing and planting. They were puzzled: “These people are setting aside eternal life and engaging in temporary life?” Every place they laid their eyes on was incinerated on the spot. A Heavenly voice came out and said: “Have you come out to destroy my world? Return to your cave.”

So they went back and sat in the cave for another 12 months. When they came out again, they saw at dusk on Erev Shabbat an old man running and holding onto two sprigs of myrtle. They asked him: Isn’t one sprig enough for you? He answered them: One for “Zachor” (remember) and one for “Shamor” (observe) [Shabbat]. Rabbi Shimon then said to his son: See how much the Jews love the Mitzvot!

I understand their puzzlement. After 12 years of only spiritual endeavors – Torah and prayer day and night, the mundane activities of plowing and sowing seemed almost like a travesty. And that brings about the question: How can a Jew, who has such a holy, G-dly soul, involve himself in the physical world?

But they received a message from Above: You need another year in the cave, in order to take note and internalize, that the goal is not to separate between the material and the spiritual, but to connect the two. The task of man in the world outside of the cave is to bring the spirit to the material world, to sanctify the physical world and to purify it. When you look at it from that angle, you will see the beauty of the fragrant but material sprigs of myrtle that are brought in order to honor the Shabbat. You will see the sweetness and the purity in the face of the old man who is excited about picking two sprigs of myrtle for his wife.

Rabbi Shimon is a happy Rebbe, and we simple Jews should be happy Jews. Joy and happiness, my friends, lie in the simple things – so simple, that sometimes we don’t pay attention to them, because G-d is in the small details.

Happy Lag Ba’Omer!

Shabbat Shalom,

Zalmen Wishedski

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