web analytics
September 17, 2014 / 22 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Shimon’

Rejoicing Proud Jews: Reflections on Lag B’Omer

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Driving through Israel on a packed bus heading for Meron on Lag B’Omer. Along the way I see small fires lit everywhere, the radio talks about the holiday, the police are directing the public transportation system to bring a million Jews to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Many, however, do not know what this celebration is all about. Why do we put so much emphasis on one great rabbi? Why do we make fires all over the country and Jewish world? Why do we go up on mass to Meron, while Jerusalem is emptied?

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, Rashbi, was a rebel. He rebelled against the Romans, and repudiated their culture. He saw nothing positive about the Roman physical and cultural occupation and was vocal and active against them. The Romans, ever vigilant, closed in on Rashbi and he was forced to flee. His flight was marked by a prolonged period of hiding, and while in a cave, Rashi and his son began writing down the Kabbalah, Jewish esoteric wisdom.

The Romans won. They put down the uprising led by Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon. They killed millions of Jews and exiled millions to Rome, selling them as slaves. They destroyed the Temple and sacked Jerusalem.

Judaism, now bereft of land and Temple, with millions dead and dispossessed, seemed to be on the brink of utter destruction.

But Rashbi and his colleagues put into place a system of surviving the exile. For the next 15 centuries, Judaism would become portable and just as Rashbi went into hiding, so did the Kabbalah, the internal life spirit of Judaism. For fifteen-hundred years did the Kabbala hide, passed secretly amongst the sages. This transmission kept the Kabbala alive through the persecution and the darkness of the exile.

But around 1550 CE a man came to the land of Israel who saw that the era of the exile had come to an end and that the spirit of the Kabbala could now be resurrected.  The man was the Ari HaKadosh, Rabbi Yitchak Luria, and from the holy city of Tzfat, he called on the Jewish people to do two things, to return to the land of Israel and to study the Kabbala – the two things the Romans had taken away from the Jewish people.

The Ari began teaching the Zohar, the Kabbalistic legacy of Rashbi, and he instituted Lag B’Omer, the day that marks the passing of Rashbi as a day of celebration, celebrating the victory of Rabbi Shimon’s war against the Romans 1500 years later. The Holy Ari saw that victory was at hand — the Jews will return to the land and the true Torah will be studied once again.

Indeed, the victory of the Jewish idea is celebrated on Lag B’Omer. It neatly fits between Israeli Independence Day and Yom Yerushalayim. These three days together all have the same spirit which drives them:

*  the liberation of Jewish peoplehood,

*  the return to the land, and

*  the reemergence of authentic Jewish culture which the Romans sought to suppress.

Our fire burns bright in the night, it shall not be extinguished. They sought to extinguish our flame in Rome as in Auschwitz. But we persevered. On Lag B’Omer we celebrate the victory, and we honor the great Jewish fighters who fought for liberation and lost, who hid away our the precious cargo of our holy Torah, who passed it hidden through generations, and who pined away for the great day when we could once again live on our land as proud Jews.

That great day has come.  Chag Sameach!

Strength of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

In mid-December, I traveled to Eretz Yisroel with my wife, Chanie, for a twofold purpose. Firstly, I wanted to visit my two children who are learning in yeshivos there. Secondly, in light of the fact that I had assumed the position of executive director of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, I wanted to solicit as many brochos from gedolim as possible, and to pray at kivrei tzaddikim (graves of righteous people).

We arrived in Eretz Yisroel on Tuesday evening, and stayed overnight at my uncle’s home in Ra’anana. On Wednesday morning, which was the fast of Asoro b’Teves, I began the day by immersing in a mikvah, and davening in the Lechu Neranenu shul. My family then visited my grandmother’s grave at the Ra’anana cemetery.

The next step was to begin our trip up north for a day of tefillah. We reached Miron in the early afternoon, and davened and recited Tehillim at the kever of the holy tzaddik, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Following an uplifting hour or so in Miron, we proceeded to Amuka, the burial place of R’ Yonason ben Uziel. Tradition has it that those who make the trip to his kever will be helped, especially those in need of shidduchim. We prayed both for the singles in our family and for many others whose names we carried with us.

Our next stop was the holy city of Tzfas. Many great people are buried in the ancient cemetery there. Since we are Kohanim, my son and I were not able to enter the cemetery, but my wife and daughter spent close to an hour at the various gravesites. By this time, it was starting to get dark, and I was trying to calculate what time Maariv would take place.

We have a niece studying in a seminary in Tzfas, and I figured that we would be able to reach her seminary and still be in time to daven Maariv in her neighborhood. We began driving there, and soon became hopelessly lost. We asked directions and made phone calls, but without success.

Suddenly, we saw a group of men on the street coming from shul. They told us that the seminary was just around the corner. However, much to my chagrin, we had missed Maariv! We inquired when the next Maariv would take place, and we were told that there usually was a Maariv minyan at 9:00 p.m. But since it was a fast day, everyone had probably already davened, and there was only a slim chance that there would be another minyan tonight.

After a short visit with our niece, we headed back into the center of Tzfas, hoping to find others who had not davened Maariv yet. However, we were unsuccessful. Several people suggested that we go to Miron. Perhaps we would yet find a minyan at the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. And so we got into the car and drove back to Miron.

In Miron, we found only one other person who had not yet davened Maariv. We waited for a while, and slowly came to the realization that we would not find anyone else to complete the minyan. I asked the people there to get together for Borchu, and davened Maariv without a minyan. It really bothered me that I would not daven with a minyan. However, I consoled myself with the fact that I was davening at one of the holiest sites in the world.

In the middle of Maariv, my cell phone rang. Of course, I ignored it. After Maariv, the phone rang again. Since I am a Kohen, I had been davening on the outer porch, and did not feel it wrong to answer the phone. It was a woman who urgently needed to speak to me on a work related matter. At the close of the conversation, I asked her if she had any request she wanted me to convey at this holy site.

After a few seconds of quiet, she said, “Of course. You know that my grandson Shimmy urgently needs a refuah.”

I had completely forgotten that her two-year-old grandson, Shimon, was suffering from cancer. This woman told me that the child was named Shimon, because close to three years earlier, the child’s father had traveled from New York to Miron to daven at the very spot where I was now standing. At that time, the father had promised that if their next child would be a boy, he would name the child Shimon, after Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Nine months later, Shimmy was born.

With this information, I realized why I had missed Maariv in Tzfas. Hashem had directed my steps back to Miron to beseech Him on Shimon’s behalf!

I thought that this was the end of the story. But it was not.

The next evening, the same woman called me and told me the following amazing story. On Wednesday, Shimmy was in the hospital getting blood transfusions. His blood count was low, and he was weak. Then, all of a sudden, his condition began to improve, and within a few hours, he was discharged from the hospital. What caused that sudden turnaround?

The child’s mother said that the improvement began at about 1:00 p.m. Calculating a seven hour distance between America and Eretz Yisroel, his improvement began at the exact time that I was praying at the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai!

I know that I am no tzaddik and cannot effect such miraculous occurrences. However, I was humbled by the fact that through my tefillos at the right time and the right place, the koach of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai helped bring a refuah to this child on that day.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/lessons-in-emunah/strength-of-rabbi-shimon-bar-yochai/2008/07/09/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: