Weekly Story: Lag B’Omer

by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon

In honor of Lag B’Omer, I am posting a thought I presented in a farbrengen this past Wednesday night. As always your feedback is greatly appreciated.

A Stoliner chossid was once in a town for Shabbos. The Rabbi of the town hosted him for Shabbos, and in their lively conversation at the meal Friday night, the chossid informed the Rabbi, that his custom is to daven every word loud. The Rabbi warned him, that he must daven silently the entire time.

Wanting to keep the peace and avoid any confrontation, the chossid put all his efforts to daven silently. However, when a person is davening with feeling and emotion, how long can one remain silent. By the time, he came to Boruch She’umar, the people sitting next to him heard him and in Birchas krias Shema, the entire shul heard him. After davening, the Rov and the entire congregation congratulated him on such a heartfelt davening.

The chossid was perplexed, last night the Rov warned him not to daven loudly, and now the Rov is thanking him for doing so?

The Rabbi explained; “When you told me you plan on davening loud that was noise that I wanted to stop. But today when it burst forth from your heart, that was music to the ears, and that is what we enjoyed and thanked you for.”
Now what does this have to do with Lag, B’Omer and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai?

We all know, that on the 18th of Iyar, which is the 33rd day of the Omer, thousands of Jews go to Meron, to sing, dance and celebrate around the burial spot of the great sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Reb Shimon Bar Yochai revealed the pnimiyous HaTorah (the inner or secret dimension of the Torah), and on this day, the last day of his life, he revealed aspects that were never revealed before and he stated, I am one with Hashem.

The Rebbe discusses the statement of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai numerous times. In one maamar, he asks, wasn’t the Rashbi connected to Hashem his entire life? Was it only on the final day of his life on this earth, when he attained completion, is it only then that he became one, and united with Hashem? Doesn’t the gemorah state that Rashbi was exempt from many mitzvos because his only focus was Hashem’s Torah throughout his entire life?

The explanation is: Yes, his entire life he was connected to Hashem’s Torah, but the question was, was the connection a connection of two entities that became united, but there is a possibility they can be separated, [so in essence it was never really one], or was he united to the extent that it was only one thing.

In Chassidus we explain the difference between these two possibilities, as the difference from letters that are written and letters that are engraved. A mezuzah is a piece of parchment that the letters of the first two portions of Shema are written on it. However, over the years, especially if there are powerful vibrations, sometimes that can cause the ink to fall off. So while it was one for many years, in essence it is two things that came as one.

However, when you have letters that are engraved in stone (or something else), such as was with the Luchos, the letters and the stone can never be separated, they are one.

This is the greatness of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai; on the day of his passing, it became evident that he wasn’t just an individual who served His Creator, and became united with Him, but he served Him with such feeling, that he himself was not existent, he was completely nullified; there was only one thing, Hashem.

The question then becomes, this is such a lofty level, that the Rashbi attained before his hillula (passing), how is it expected that simple individuals as ourselves can learn from this and emulate it in our service to Hashem?

A Jew can fulfill all the mitzvos, because he feels obligated to do so. While this is wonderful, something is lacking. He is doing it out of obligation. The proper way to do it is that it is part of you, You are not you, if you don’t do it. You and the mitzvah are a natural match and are one.

The way to get to this level, is through studying Chassidus and elevating yourself.

I heard from my father, Harav Hachossid Reb Meir a”h

The Rebbe Rashab met quite often with the rabbonim of Russia. In one of his conversations with the Chofetz Chaim, the Rebbe Rashab expressed his bewilderment, how in honor of Shabbos, the student’s of the Chofetz Chaim shave their beard, which according to some authorities is transgressing numerous prohibitions of the Torah.

The Chofetz Chaim replied, that he has written a booklet explaining the holiness of a beard, and wishes that his students do not shave. However, to his distress, his students don’t listen to this point. Turning to the Rebbe Rashab, he said, if the Rebbe of Lubavitch can give over the message that he tells his students which prevents them from shaving,

I will try to give it over to my students as well, and hopefully they will now listen.

The Rebbe replied, I never told them not to shave.

So why do they let they beard grow, asked the Chofetz Chaim.

When they learn Chassidus, this thought doesn’t have to be spelled out, it is a natural and automatic outcome.

This is the lesson of Lag B’Omer. When we do any mitzvah, it is not enough that the others hear how busy I was and how difficult it was for me to participate, in the class for example, but it should be done in a manner that it is recognizable that the person and the mitzvah are one and inseparable, and it was no big deal to get away from my hectic schedule to participate, because this is what I am.

In the merit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, may each and every Jew that his/her prayers are accepted and fulfilled, and in the merit of Pnimiyous HaTorah may the world merit the coming of Moshiach, NOW!

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechaneh and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gmail.com

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