Lag BaOmer Upsherinish

Shalom Aleichem!

This Sunday is the holiday of Lag BaOmer. We will be cutting our son’s hair for the first time, and we’re very excited! Please join us on Sunday behind our home for a BBQ, petting zoo, live music, and, of course, a chance to take a snip of Shmuel’s golden locks! Drop in from 4:30-6pm.

“Lag” stands for the letters lamed (thirty) and gimmel (three). It is the 33rd and only joyous day of the mourning period known as Sefirat HaOmer.

Two sages are associated with this day: Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Rabbi Akiva was raised poor and ignorant; he began studying Torah at the age of 40, and went on to become one of the most revered Sages in all of Jewish history. He was the head of a Yeshiva that had 24,000 students.

One year, a terrible plague afflicted the students during the time of Sefirat HaOmer, and they nearly all passed away. Our tradition tells us that the cause of this plague was that the students did not treat each other with proper love and respect.

Students were passing away daily, and this came to a temporary halt onLag BaOmer.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was one of the key disciples of Rabbi Akiva, and is the author of the seminal work of Kabbalah, the Zohar.

The Zohar enshrines many of the secrets, the mystical teachings, of the Torah.

I was wondering: If anyone can read these so-called secrets, then what makes them secret?

Perhaps the answer is that even after you know the secrets of the Torah, they remain a mystery, as we can never truly fathom their depth.

Allow me to share with you one such “secret” from the Zohar (III 73a):

Israel and the Holy One, Blessed be He, are One.

My attempt to explain this “secret,” based on a Chassidic discourse that the Lubavitcher Rebbe delivered on Lag BaOmer 1962:

Once, in the times of Rabbi Shimon, there was a drought. People came to Rabbi Shimon and asked for his assistance.

They no doubt expected him to pray, but instead, he offered a teaching on a verse from King David’s Psalms (“Behold how good it is when brothers sit together as one”), and the heavens opened up with rain.

The basis of his explanation of the verse was the Biblical injunction to Love your neighbor as yourself.

For when we truly love each other — even going so far as to act as one — we reveal the inherent love and unity between us and our Creator.

These are no simple words. Since Israel and the Holy One, Blessed be He, are One, our actions will elicit a similar response from Above.

A secret is something that we treasure. Imagine what the world would be like if we would all express love and unity! May we be blessed to do so, and may the Holy One, Blessed be He, shower all of us with everything we need, materially and spiritually.

Shabbat Shalom & Happy Lag BaOmer,

P.S. Unique Mitzvah Opportunity Update: Thank you to Queens College Journalism Professor Gerry Solomon for making a donation in loving memory of his mother, Eleanor Solomon, to ensure that Kaddish will be said at all the appropriate times for Rose Karp. As you may recall from previous emails, Rose passed away on the eve of Passover, and did not have any children.