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Tuesday, Iyar 18, 5783 (Hakhel Year) 33rd Sefirah / May 9, 2023


Today is Lag B’Omer. It is the day of passing of the great Talmudic sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.


In Israel, especially in Miron, where Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was laid to rest, there are hundreds of thousands of people celebrating on this day his illustrious life and his great accomplishments.


Rabbi Shimon lived in Israel at the time when the Romans occupied it. The decrees against Jews were harsh. Rabbi Shimon spoke out against the Roman government and as a result he was sentenced to death. He and his son, Rabbi Eliezer, hid in a cave for 13 years. No one knew where they were.


G-d performed a miracle, and a carob tree grew at the entrance of the cave and a spring of water which supplied them with sustenance for all these years.


When they came out of the cave and Rabbi Shimon’s father-in-law saw him and realized how much he suffered, he said, “Wow is to me that I see you so physically run down.” Rabbi Shimon replied, “Fortunate that you see me like this.” Rabbi Shimon and his son, during these thirteen years of physical suffering, attained such great spiritual hights in their Torah studies and holiness which no one else was able to achieve.


Q.Why is the day called Lag B’Omer? 


A. “Lag” is a combination of two Hebrew letters, Lamed & Gimmel which spell Lag.  Each Hebrew letter has a numerical value; “Lamed” = 30 & “Gimel” = 3.  Together they add up to 33.  Lag B’Omer is on the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. It is a day of joy and festivities, where children are taken out on parades and outings.


Rabbi Shimon was a student of Rabbi Akiva. It was Rabbi Akiva who said that “Love your fellow like yourself,” is one of the greatest mitzvot in the Torah.


Rabbi Shimon said: “There are three crowns: the crown of the Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of royalty; But the crown of a good name excels above them all.”


He also said, “One should rather jump into a fiery furnace than offend someone in public.” 


Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai gives the following parable to explain how we are all responsible for each other.  A boat filled with people was sailing on the open seas, when one of the passengers took a sharp tool and began making a hole under his seat. 


"What are you doing?  Stop!" The other people on the boat shouted hysterically. The man replied, "What business is it of yours? I paid for my seat. I’m making a hole under my seat!"


The other passengers replied, "Fool!  Don't you realize that by drilling a hole under your seat, you will flood the boat and we all will drown?!” Similarly, said Rabbi Shimon, every good or negative act we do affects not only us but the entire world. May their holy memories be a blessing to all. Amen