Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Rebbi Shimon's Light - in the Darkness...


On the 33rd day of the Omer – Lag Ba'Omer, the students of Rebbi Akiva stopped dying during the plague that took their lives. It is told that they did not give honour – one to the other – and therefore received this harsh punishment.

Rebbi Akiva had 5 students, however, who did not die in this plague. One of the most famous of these 5 students – Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai ironically "left this world" on this day. How ironic! Rebbi Shimon certainly knew what real honour was all about and he certainly gave it to all. How could it be, that on the very day that all Rebbi Akiva's students stopped dying, Rebbi Shimon – that one to give honour did actually "die"? (Note: Tzaddikim do not die in the traditional sense of the word, as the Torah testifies, Tzaddikim even when they die are alive, and the wicked, even when they live, they are dead.)

Who is Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai?! He is most famous for his composition of that outstanding work – the Zohar. Thousands of pages filled with the most mystical insights of every aspect of G-dliness, available to us today – and the absolute core of Kabbalistic study. And while it seems that the Zohar may be finite, it is far from this. The famed and holy Ari HaKadosh would spend a week at a time meditating over just one paragraph of the Zohar – in order to plumb through the deep mysteries contained in it. If so, one would certainly need infinite lifetimes to be able to truly understand just how deep it is.

Rebbi Shimon represents *everything* light. Alive today as much as he was some 1900 years ago, the very name Rebbi Shimon brings light into the world – in every aspect of life.

What exactly is light? What is darkness? Don't we already see? There is so much light around us already – just look at the wonders of the world. Does one really need the additional light of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai?

Chassidim are known to farbreng – to get together speaking about words of Torah, of Chassidut, of encouragement, of miracles! A time for meaningful talk and growth. Although there are certainly special times for these meetings, any moment in time is as a good as ever to farbreng with friends, rabbis, mashpi'im and others.

It happened in the days of Rabbi Hillel of Paritch some 200 years ago. Rabbi Hillel was an outstanding Chassid (and practically a Rebbe himself) – of the Mittler Rebbe in particular. The Chassidim were "meeting" – and the location was in an old dark cellar. Time passed, and a certain chassid entered the room. As he sat down – in the total darkness of the room, and looked around, he turned to a fellow chassid and remarked how dark it was in the room. The chassid replied that he needn't worry. If he would just sit for a little while longer in the room, he would be accustomed to it and be able to see, just like he and all the other Chassidim. One starts to get used to it, and before long one can even see – he said! Rabbi Hillel heard the chassid speak this way and replied him, "That is the problem: becoming accustomed to darkness and thinking it is light! Always remember you are in darkness, and strive to elevate yourself above it."

While we live our lives in this world thinking we are already in the light, we should refresh our ways of thinking, of realising that while we may have gotten used to the lifestyle of physical and material things – this lifestyle is one of darkness. There is a far greater lifestyle awaiting us. One filled with real light.

Rebbi Shimon is just one of the Tzaddikim who has paved for us the path of light. Who show us in every word they say, what true light is really all about. The Torah – sharing a connection with the word "Orah" (light) and indeed the Aramaic word for Torah – "Orayta" means light – is the only real light of the world.

Let us use this special day of Rebbi Shimon's – a day of light – in reminding ourselves that there is a real light which we must strive for. It often takes our own energy of preparing wood, gasoline and a match – to get things started, but that is the wonderful world of Torah, of light and warmth that awaits each of us every single day. Light a candle for Rebbi Shimon today. And more than this, light up your life with some Kabbalah – some Chassidut – and some Halachic Torah (and more!) – every single day of your life.

Spend some extra time each day learning another teaching of Torah – or even studying the text of Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai himself – the Zohar.

May the merit of Rebbi Shimon stand by us all, so that we merit the ultimate light of the world, the coming of Moshiach, with the revelation of G-dliness in this world below.

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