Joy and Sorrow Marching Together

Thursday, 29 April, 2021 - 5:13 pm


The key to Jewish continuity is embedded in Lag BaOmer (the 33rd day of the Omer count) which we celebrate today.
Despite never having any formal education, at the age of 40, Akiva the ignorant farmer began his transformation into Rabbi Akiva, the greatest sage of his time and one of the most influential Jewish leaders in history.
Sadly a number of years later his by now 24,000 scholarly students’ passion led them to disrespect and disregard not just their colleagues' opinions but their character as well. G-d held these students accountable in a way that only the most precious are and a devastating plague killed all but 5 students.
In his mid 70s Rabbí Akiva had lost all that he had spent years building.
Resolve and resilience in the face of enormous adversity is what helped Rabbí Akiva recover and rebuild.
Lag BaOmer also celebrates the passing of one of these students, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai; universally known as the Rashbi (an acronym of his name). He was a great sage and scholar, the author of the famous kabbalistic work, the Zohar. Before his passing he requested that the anniversary of his passing (Lag BaOmer) be celebrated.
The central theme oft the Rashbi’s life and therefore that of Lag BaOmer, is the inner secrets of the Torah, the deeper dimension of wisdom that is contained in the kabbalistic works.
When we look at another Jew through the prism of the inner teachings we discover that in fact we are all one. On the surface we may be different beings; on the surface we have different goals and different priorities, but when we peel away the layers we realize that in reality we are all one.
When we study the inner teachings of the Torah contained in Kabbalah, as explained and elaborated upon in Chassidic teachings, we realize that the entire world - all of creation - is essentially one. As we work to reveal this oneness we will hasten the revelation of Moshiach; the entire benefit of which is that, at that point, the entire world will be cognizant of this Oneness and it will no longer be hidden.
While we may not always focus on this reality, we always sense it. That’s why news about Jewish people anywhere in the world affects us so deeply. That’s why this horrible tragedy that happened in Meron last night has deeply traumatized the Jewish world.
Lag BaOmer is supposed to be a special day of celebration, not one of mourning. It’s supposed to be a special day of unity, not one of recrimination.
While it’s impossible for us to make sense of such painful experiences, Lag BaOmer also teaches us that there is more than meets the eye and mustering our resolve and resilience, we still have a Divine mission on this world.
May we have only good news to share!
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