We are approaching a very special day, known as LAG Baomer (33). This is the day in which Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai revealed to his close disciples many hidden Secrets of Torah and then passed on to the world to come. Reb Shimon desired that this day be celebrated for all future generations. There are various different customs related to this holy day. Some of the great chassidic masters wrote that this day has holiness similar to Yom Kippur. The Chasam Sofer writes that it is the beginning of the horizon of Yom Kippur. It is known that twenty four thousand disciples of R’ Akiva died during the days of Omer counting and on the 33rd day the plague stopped.
The Talmud in Yivamos 62, describes the reason for the death, that they failed to honor each other. After their passing the world was barren until Rabbi Akiva went to the south and taught Torah and established five new Rabbis who saved the Torah world. The most prominent was R’ Shimon bar Yochai. Let’s imagine how R’ Akiva must have felt. We know that he only started to learn Torah ate age forty. He reached the highest levels and became the teacher and famous leader of so many great people, and now he was facing such great loss. An ordinary person would have said “it wasn’t meant to be” and at best would move on in life. Reb Akiva is not phased, he begins rebuilding and merited to have the greatest teacher of the hidden secrets of Torah, Rebbe Shimon, as his prime student. This is the message of Lag Ba’omer. No matter what the situation, if one is determined to do the right thing, there’s no limit to what can be reached.
Let us hope that the teachings of R’ Shimon will continue to shed light on all of us and defend us from all harm. May we merit to be blessed.
Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin