Friday, May 4, 2012

Why go to Rabbi Shimon on Lag Ba'omer--A guest article by Yechiel Frischman

The question is commonly asked, even by religious people,   Why make such a big deal about Lag Ba'omer and going to to the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai?  We rarely even paskan like Rabbi Shimon in the Gemara, and  besides,  aren't there many other equally great and  holy Tanaim such as Rabbi Yosi, Rabbi Meir, and Rabbi Yehuda that  we could go to and ask to intercede on our behalf?   Why should one go to all the trouble of traveling all the way to Meron, and waste so much time which we  could be spending learning Torah? And why specifically me? Why do I need to go! I don't have any family crises or issues that necessitate a deliverance. And even if you want to contend that Rabbi Shimon was unique in that he revealed the Holy Zohar, I would answer you that I am not a kabbalist, and I've got plenty of revealed Torah, meaning Gemara which I need to learn first.  So what does Rabbi Shimon have to do with me and what do I gain by going to Meron?

The answer to all of these questions can be found in the Gemara Shabbos 138b, which tells us that after the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the sages moved from Jerusalem to Kerem B'Yavneh and lamented that the Torah was destined  to be forgotten.  But only Rabbi Shimon emphatically disagreed, quoting the verse in devarim 31:21, "  For [the Torah] will not be forgotten from the mouth of his offspring."

Why however,  didn't the other great Tannaim also consider  this famous verse? Didn't they know of it?  The answer  though, and the deep meaning of this story as explained in the holy books,  is as follows:  Of course the tannaim were familiar with the verse and understood it's meaning.  But what they were unable to grasp was just how  the Torah could continue to live as  a  vital guide to communal life after the destruction of the Holy Temple? As we say in davening, "for they (the Torah and the Mitzvos)  are our lives and the length of our days." And though the Torah would certainly continue to be observed, at least for one generation, how could they be assured that without the prophets and without the Bais Hamikdash,  that there would not be a great disconnect, and that their children and grandchildren would not be able to withstand this enormous challenge and G-d forbid, assimilate?!

It was to this troubling problem that Rabbi Shimon triumphantly declared, The Torah itself explicitly guarantees that what you fear, will never happen, as the verse says, "  For [the Torah] will not be forgotten from the mouth of his offspring."

It's also interesting to note that Rabbi Shimon is even hinted at in that verse, for the last letter of each word of that verse spells out Yochai.   But why specifically through Rabbi Shimon will this promise be fulfilled?  Because as Rabbi Shimon writes in the Zohar (Nasso 124) ‘With this composition, (The Zohar) the Jews will come out of the exile.’ Meaning that in the merit of the holy Zohar, which reveals to us the inner meaning of the Torah we learn the great mercies of Ha-shem how He is with us and cares for us even in our most bleak situations,  and  how to apply this mercy to our daily lives.   This is the essential message of the Zohar,  and it is this great mercy which has enabled the Jewish people to attain a great quality of holiness, even to this day, and which has kept the Torah vital and alive, and has made us worthy of being redeemed.  So why go to Rabbi Shimon on his Yahrzeit and "waste time" from your learning?  Because your entire existence is due to his vision.   Therefore,  shouldn't you  show your appreciation,  and give thanks to the one who has  enabled you to have a Torah from which you can  learn with peace of mind, and has  assured us  that the Torah would remain living, vital and eternal,  even in the darkest of hours and after the greatest of tragedies?

Hope to see you there!


Rabbi Shimon

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