Halacha for Thursday 18 Iyar 5778 May 3 2018

The Day of Lag Ba’Omer

Today is Lag Ba’Omer (the 33rd day of the Omer) which is the day where we express joy in honor of the saintly Tanna, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, may his merit protect us all, Amen.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that one of the unique things that we find regarding Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai that we do not find among any of the other Sages is the revelation of the secrets of the Torah. Until the time of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, Hashem did not grant anyone permission to reveal the secrets of the Torah in public (as we read in Patach Eliyahu). This was the case until Rabbi Shimon appeared in this world, at which point he merited revealing the secrets of the Torah and Kabbalah in public to great students who were righteous and pious. One of the reasons Rabbi Shimon merited this as opposed to many other great Tannaim, was as a result of his boundless dedication and pursuit of study of the holy Torah, as the Gemara (Shabbat 11a), “For instance, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai whose Torah is his occupation.” This means that Rabbi Shimon was worthier of being crowned with the coveted title of “Torah is his occupation” than others.

This is because Rabbi Shimon was faithful to his own opinion (quoted in Berachot 35b) that the entire Jewish nation must sit and toil in Torah day and night, as the verse states, “And you shall delve in it day and night,” literally. In this way, the labor of the Jewish nation will be performed by others, as the verse states, “And stranger shall stand and feed your flocks and foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers.” Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai could not tolerate those who would disregard pursuit of eternal life in favor of worldly matters, such as one’s livelihood because he understood the ultimate value of the holy Torah. (Ma’or Yisrael-Derushim, page 161)

Once, a student of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai left the Land of Israel to pursue a business venture. When he returned and all of his friends saw that he had become a rich man, they began to grow jealous and they thought to themselves that it may be worthwhile for them to travel abroad for a short time to earn some money and live comfortably.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai heard about this and gathered all of his students to valley near Mount Meron. He prayed and exclaimed, “Valley, valley! Become filled with gold coins!” A river of gold coins started to miraculously fill the valley as the students stood and watched in awe. Rabbi Shimon told them, “If it is gold that you want, here it is, take it! However, you must know that whoever takes it now is taking from the reward prepared for him in the World to Come, for the reward for Torah learning is not given in this world, only in the next, as the Sages taught (Eruvin 22a), ‘Today to perform them and tomorrow to reap their reward.’”

The above is a true lesson regarding what is primary and what is secondary in life. What are the important areas and ideals where we should be investing our time and energy and which direction we should be leading our children. “Know the reward of the righteous in the World to Come.”

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