Monday, May 23, 2016


Why is Lag Ba'Omer called Rav Shimon's Hilula? What does Hilula mean? (Source:
Va'amartem Ko LeChai).
The holy Zohar (III 296b) calls the passing of Rashbi a Hilula and tells us:
During the levaya for Rashbi, his bier flew through the air and a pillar of fire
moved before it. This is how he entered the burial cave. Suddenly, all
present at the
funeral heard a heavenly voice proclaim, "Enter, come together, gather
for the Hilula of
Rav Shimon."
What does Hilula mean?
A few possibilities include:
Hallel – praise: we tell stories of praise about Rashbi, his good
deeds, miracles and
Simcha – the simcha of Chosson and Kalla is called by Chazal a
Hilula, alluding to the
yichud, the supernal unification that Rashbi performed above and below;
Ohr – light, as in the pasuk (Yeshaya 14:12): Heilel ben Shachar,
which Rashi explains
as "The planet Venus that shines like the morning star."
Yahrzeit – The Ramak says that every Tzaddik's day of petira or
yahrzeit is known as a
Hillula: "When the soul of the Tzaddik ascends on high on the day of
his passing, his
soul unites with the Holy One and the Shechina. On this day, all the Torah and
mitzvos that he studied and performed and engaged in during his lifetime all
awaken and shine forth their light and a great yichud (spiritual
unification) occurs
on high.
Rav Aharon of Karlin wrote in Beis Aharon that "Just as HaKadosh
Baruch Hu is for everyone, so too is Rashbi for everyone even for the
The Nesivos Shalom explains this to mean that a great tzadik is so
great that he not only loves the righteous Jews but he even finds
something beloved and precious even in the lowliest wicked Jew as
well. This is the level of Moshiach who will be able to love even the
most wicked as much as the greatest tzadik! He uses this to explain
the story of Rashbi in the Gemarra Shabbos when Rashbi exited the
cavern to where he had been exiled, he observed people working in the
fields and he exclaimed in wonder, "How can they leave behind the
eternal reward of Torah study for this world and its temporary
business?!" His eyes burned wherever he gazed and a heavenly voice
proclaimed, "I didn't let you out of the cave to destroy my world!"
They went back in for a year saying, 'The judgment of the wicked in
Gehinom is a 12 month sentence.'" Asks the Slonimer rebbe in Nesivos
Sholom, "why did the judge themselves as wicked and sentence
themselves to twelve months again in the cave?" He answers that their
lack of ability to love those people who were simple, lowly and worked
the fields in this temporal world as opposed to being occupied in
Torah study, that was their lack and this is why the judged themselves
wicked and re-entered the cave to atone for and rectify this failing.
When he emerged Rashbi was the epitome of the tzadik yesod olam – a
righteous foundation of the world and that is why his great awesome
light was revealed and shines on Lag BaOmer which falls out on the
sefirah of Hod she'be'Hod – the sefirah which is the lowest and most
deepest form of harsh din and judgment. For his light and love shines
down below to even the lowest and deepest depths to love every Jew,
even the wicked, and to find within even the lowest place light and
Regarding such a love and such an ability my Rebbe, the Clevelander
rebbe shlita once told me the following tale: There was once an
informant, whose terrible ways constantly plagued the Jews. The
tzadikim and Chassidim gathered to put an end to him once and for all
and to excommunicate him and sentence him to death for he was a rodef!
They approached the talmid of the Baal Shem Tov, Rav Zeev Wolf Kitzes
to complete their quorum, and join their minyan, however to their
astonishment he refused! He explained himself and said, "One day in
the future the righteous Moshiach will finally arrive! He will conquer
the lands and the hearts of many. All the nations shall rush to greet
him and subjugate themselves before his reign and his might, and all
the exiles shall return. As word of his dominion spreads Jews will
flock to him from far and wide all kinds of Jews all . . .except one!
There will be one black hearted, dark obstinate fellow who will remain
in the exile scoffing to the final day. Then the nations shall send
emissaries and dignitaries bearing gifts and offerings. Gold, Silver,
precious stones and treasures, yet Moshiach will scoff at them all.
Then the Jews will also wish to bestow upon him a gift, but seeing how
he despises ordinary wealth, they will search far and wide to bring
Moshiach the most precious gift, that of a Yiddishe Neshomo – a Jewish
soul ! They will search and scour the entire exile and find none,
everyone has come, everyone except for. . .one miserable soul. They
will locate him and bind and gag him and carry him kicking and
screaming, flailing all the way to Jerusalem! There they will bring
the king moshiach the most precious gift, a Jewish soul which is
unblemished and untarnished and he will remake and reforge him anew
into a Baal Teshuva. Be it known that it is revealed to me from on
high that that precious soul resides in your informant and moser, now
I ask you. Tell me the truth are you really willing to annihilate this
most precious soul, the gift of the Moshiach of whom it says "VaYovilu
Shay LaMoreh – they shall carry and bring a gift to the master?"
When the Rebbe Reb Baruch of Mezibuz would study the holy Zohar he
would begin with the Shaar Blatt – the title page and he would explain
it as follows:
Ze HaSefer HaZohar SheChiber HaTanna Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai – lit.
this is the Sefer HaZohar authored by the Tanna Rabbi Shimon Bar
Yochai. Rav Baruch explained this:
Ze HaSefer – Dos iz a sapir – this is a brilliant sapphire!, HaZohar –
vos er laycht in alle olomas – whose splendor illuminates all of the
worlds! Asher chiber – vos iz mechaber idishe hertzer tzum Tatten in
Hilim – which attaches and binds Jewish hearts to their Father in
Heaven! Tanna – er lernt iz az se'iz du a bashefer oif der vellt – he
teaches us that there is a Creator in the world! Mihu Zeh? He asked
himself rhetorically, who is this? and answered zehu – this is Rabbi
Shimon Bar Yochai may his merit shield us! (Otzar Yisroel 118)
The holy Rizhiner was plagued by an informant, a rodef and a moser,
who constantly chased after the tzadik. He used to mock him and jest,
why doesn't the holy rebbe just punish me and condemn me to die?! The
holy Rizhiner heard this and turned to his Chassidim and said, "When
Rashbi left the cave to which he was exiled and he saw the informant
Yehuda ben Gerim he said, Is he still around? He gazed upon him and
turned him into a heap of bones!" Isn't it a wonder that Rashbi was so
angry and upset at him that he would do that?! Rather Rashbi said when
he saw him, "Is this man still around?" he was asking himself a
question, perhaps he is still around because I have not yet succeeded
in rectifying all that I need to in myself. So the Talmud says he
gazed upon him – this means Rashbi gazed intently upon himself and
began to reckon through cheshbon henefesh regarding his own spiritual
standing, as he did this Yehuda ben Gerim was transformed into a pile
of bones [proving that Rashbi had now sufficiently rectified himself
and this wicked informant had no longer any reason to be here alive].
Thus, concluded the Rizhiner so long as this wicked informant is still
around it must mean that I have not rectified myself completely yet,
how will it help if I punish him and cause him to leave this world?
Another person will come to take his place, only when I rectify myself
then he will have no place here either! (Be'eros HaMayim Be'er Sheva
p60 )
Once the holy Rizhiner asked a visitor who had been Lag BaOmer in
Meron to describe the event. The chassid described how Lag BaOmer is
observed in Meron at the kever of Rashbi and he explained the way it
felt using the comparison that the great emotions inside where similar
to Yom Kippur whereas outside it felt like Simchas Torah!
This is no contradiction, for the awakening is the same awakening,
both are awakenings from Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai! Except inside it is
felt and experienced one way and outside a different way. The simcha
in Meron is also nisht kayn pashuta simcha - not a simple mundane
happiness or joy, rather it is a supernal holy joy – a hecher simcha!
(Imros Tehoros 49)
Rav Dovid Biderman of Lelov once told how on one of his visits to
Meron on Lag BaOmer he stayed in Tzefas and walked on foot to Meron.
As he travelled he passed an older woman who was also on her way to
Meron and she was very old and fragile and accompanied by a Jew
dressed in the manner of the Sefardim. They went very very slowly, as
the path to Meron is uphill and rises higher and higher. When she
finally reached the entrance to the burial cave she sat down and began
to weep, and she cried out in Hebrew with a Sefardic accent, "Rabbi
Shimon, Shechinta BeGaluta! – the Divine Presence the Shechina is in
exile!" Afterwards she asked a petition and requested some prayer in
Arabic that Hashem should have mercy and redeem and gather in all the
exiles she then kissed the Tzion turned any made her way slowly back
to Tzefas! Rav Dovid lelover was so moved by her simple pure faith
that he declared, Epes Mit Aza Temimus Tzigegangen – She came all this
long way with such faith and she prayed her prayer! (Imros Tehoros 49)
Reb Motel Avritsher (a descendant of the Bas Ayin) once told how one
Lag BaOmer in Meron he watched a Sefardic Jew who was present at the
hadlaka – the bonfire lit in honor of the holy Tanna Rabbi Shimon Bar
Yochai. This Jew was so moved and excited that his pure heart was
aflame and he shouted out, Och Yah Rabbi Shimon! And so saying he
tossed his cloak into the flames to be consumed and burn in honor of
the Tanna. This did not calm him and he called out again louder Och
Yah Rabbi Shimon! And proceeded to toss into the bon fire another
article of clothing! He continued to do so, until he was left standing
in his Tallis Kattan and his breeches, at this point he began
ecstatically dancing aflame with delight and awe, moved to emotive
expression he danced and sang with such passion and fire that it
seemed that if he could have he would have thrown himself into the
bonfire in honor of Rashbi! (MiZekenim Esbonan I 102)
One day as Rashbi left his home he observed that the world appeared
dark and menacing like a great cloud had covered the land and blocked
the light of day. Rashbi turned to his son rabbi Elazar and said, this
is no chance occurrence, obviously Hashem wishes to do something, let
us see what He has planned to do in the world?! Rashbi and his son
exited the city limits and before them stood a terrible angel, as tall
as a mountain and from his mouth poured forth thirty tongues of flame!
Rashbi asked the angel, what are you planning to do? "I am about to
destroy the world because there aren't thirty tzadikim to be found, to
safeguard the world," answered the angel. "Go and tell my Creator that
Bar Yochai is here in the world and that he is comparable to thirty
tzadikim!" The angel went before the throne of glory and delivered
Rashbi's message. Hashem answered the angel, "go and destroy the world
and do not pay any attention to Bar Yochai!" The angel returned to
destroy the world again, once more Rashbi saw him and commanded him,
"If you do not return again to deliver a message I will send you to
descend down below to the depths from which you shall not arise to the
place of the fallen ages who were cast down from Hashem!" Rashbi
continued his message and said: "Tell Hashem that if there aren't
thirty tzadikim, twenty are enough as it says in the story of Avraham
and Sodom and Amora, and if twenty are no enough then ten suffice as
it says there and if there aren't ten tzadikim found then two should
be enough as it says, that two witnesses cangive testimony, and if you
cannot find two then there is at least one and I am that one as it
says Tzadik Yesod lam - a tzadik is the foundation of the world!"At
that moment a heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed, "Happy and
Praiseworthy is your portion Rabbi Shimon, for Hashem decrees and you
cancel and abolish it, regarding you it is said, "Ratzon Yerayav
Yaaseh – Hashem fulfills the will of those who fear Him." (Zohar
Bereishis 33a)
Once Rashbi arrived in Lod and there was a plague there, he witnessed
many stricken dying and he remarked, "All this is happening here now
while I am here present in town?! I command this decree be abolished!"
A heavenly voice rang out and proclaimed, "Mazikim – evil forces and
damage depart from this city immediately because Rabbi Shimon Bar
Yochai is in town, even though Hashem has decreed Rashbi has abolished
it." Immediately the plague ceased. Rabbi Chanina was impressed at the
greatness and stature of Rashbi and he went and told Rabbi Meir of
this. Rabbi Meir replied "Who can praise and compare to Rashbi? Even
Moshe Rabbeinu who sent Aharon with the incense to stop the plague
during Korach's rebellion, still Moshe had to have Aharon act, yet
Rashbi abolished the decree and stopped the plague by the power of
speech alone!" (Zohar Chadash Rus 103a)
In Tzidon there was a couple who lived together for over ten years,
they loved one another dearly but they had no children. They came
before Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and asked him to help them divorce
through a Get. I have just one request please do not refuse me, said
the tzadik, just as when you were united in marriage there was a
feast, please eat, drink and make a banquet now that you wish to go
your separate ways. The couple fulfilled the tzadik's request and they
held a large festive banquet and invited friends and scholars. As the
tables lay laden with food and drink and in the midst of the
merriment, when the husband's heart was glad with wine he turned to
his wife and remarked, "see all my goodness and wealth is here before
you, please choose any precious object here and take it with you back
to your father's house!" She was greatly moved by his words, and when
she observed that he had been plied with much wine and had grown
drowsy and fallen asleep she asked the servants to carry him and place
him in a bed at her father's home. When the husband awoke from his
deep slumber he gazed about and discovered that he was in a strange
bed and not at home. He turned and saw his wife sitting beside him and
asked her where he was. When she replied that he was in her father's
home he asked why she had done this? I was told that I could take any
precious object home with me, and so I found nothing more precious
than you and so I took you home! The couple came back and stood before
Rashbi and told him the entire tale. When he heard this and saw their
love for one another he stood up and prayed on their behalf for mercy
and they were blessed with children. (Midrash Shir HaShirim Rabba)
BonFires and Bows and Arrows
We will discuss two more customs for Lag BaOmer, Bonfires and Archery
with Bows and Arrows.

Rav Avraham Yaakov of Sadigura once said regarding the hadlaka of the
Lag BaOmer bonfire that "tens of thousands of souls are rectified and
receive their tikkun through the hadlaka of the bonfire lit for the
honor and glory of Rashbi!"

The custom to light bonfires in honor of Hillula DeRashbi on Lag
BaOmer is very old. The great light and splendor of the secrets of
Torah were revealed on this day and so a great fiery light is kindled.
The bonfires were sold often to the highest bidder and the honor to
light them given to the holiest rabbis and tzadikim. At one point the
holy Rav Yisroel of Ruzhin purchased this honor and right for himself
and his descendants for all generations till the coming of Moshiach
and till this day his descendant, the current Boyaner Rebbe Shilta
lights the bonfire.

The custom to perform archery with a bow and arrow on Lag baOmer is
found amongst the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and they brought it
with them to Eretz Yisroel. Some reasons for this custom include the
Yerushalmi Berachos 65a where rav Chizkiya declared in the name of Rav
Yirmiyah that during Rashbi's lifetime, the rainbow, was not seen at
all. (In Parashas Noach Hashem says that the rainbow is a symbol that
Hashem refrains from destroying the world again as He did with the
floodwaters of Noach because of the bris He made.) The generation of
Rashbi as cited by Rashi in Noach, was righteous enough to not need
the rainbow as a reminder or sign of this bris.

The Bnei Yissaschar cites Rav Menachem Mendel of Rymanov to explain
the connection between the rainbow and the bow and arrow (Bnei
Yissaschar lag ba'omer 3:4) "The custom of the yeshiva students and
disciples of the rabbis is to shoot a bow and arrow on this day
because in Rashbi's generation the rainbow as never seen, and
therefore on the day he asceneded on high we remind ourselves of this
fact in this manner."

Rav Moshe Yechiel Elimelech of Levertov notes that the gematria value
of HaKeshes = Raban Shimon Ben Yochai.
The Magen Avraham of Trisk notes that "Lag baOmer = gematria of Moshe
and baOmer = 312 which is Shin Yud Beis, the acronym of Shimon bar
Yochai. This teaches us the two forms of Torah, Moshe's Torah, the
simple meaning of the text and the hidden esoteric secrets of rashbi's
Torah are both needed. Each one is a feature of LAG baOmer, and LAG is
the same letters as GAL, GALGAL means a wheel, half of a wheel is the
cresecent shape of the bow. When the bows are joined and both the
hidden and revealed Torahs are merged their union is like the archer's
bow, the primary weapon of war which we need to use to combat the
Yetzer Hara and wage war against him. The only way to truly due
teshuva is win the war against the yezter and so we take the weapon of
war the bow and arrow which symbolize the hidden and revealed Torah to
fight the evil one as our sages said, Hashem says "I created the evil
inclination and I created the Torah as the antidote and cure against