Erev Lag B’Oimer 5778

Shabbos Parshas Emoir


Tiere Reb Pinchas, Askonim and family sheyichyu,

Sholom Uvrocho :)


BARUCH HASHEM we are celebrating Lag B’Oimer, the great and holy day when we rejoice in the Simcha of the Holy Tana Reb Shimon Bar Yoicho’i. He told us to join him on the day of his Simcha, of being connected with HASHEM. :) Reb Shimon Bar Yoicho’i gave us the Zoihar, Penimius HaToirah (the inner part of Toirah), which helps us reveal the inner part of our Neshomoh and be totally connected with HASHEM from the depth of our Neshomoh. :)


Every Yid has a Neshomoh which is a “Chelek Eloika Memaal, Mamosh.” Every Yid is a holy and Divine being and is, by definition, above the limitations of Nature! This Neshomoh enables us to change the world from its physical existence to become holy and connected with HASHEM, fulfilling the purpose of creation, which is to make this world a dwelling place for HASHEM.


By serving HASHEM in a way that goes beyond our limitations, such as our limited logic or the limitations of our personal habits, we connect with the limitless holiness of HASHEM and reveal the limitless power of our holy Neshomoh, to experience it and express it in ourselves and the world around us.


Reb Shimon Bar Yoicho’i and his son Reb Elozor were forced to flee and live in a place called a cave for many years and it was specifically there that they reached the highest levels of Kedusha.  This teaches us that even when a person finds himself physically in an extremely inhibiting place, he is still able to rise above the limitations of the physical world around him and become truly free from limitations, growing higher and higher.


A Lesson in Self-Made Limitations   


Before davening, one should go to the Mikveh. Many Mikva’ois now have turnstile systems. Payment is made using a card reader or putting cash into the machine. The machine then makes a loud “Beep” sound, indicating that the turnstile is unlocked, and the person should push on the bars and move through the turnstile.


This week an interesting thing happened. Just as I arrived at the Mikvah, a Yid on his way out informed me that the lock on the turnstile was disengaged and I could just walk through by pushing on the bars.  No sign was posted, but the turnstile was unlocked just as he’d said, and I walked right through.


Later, I noticed a young boy “stuck” at the turnstile. He was had his hand on the bar, waiting for his father to come and pay so he could go through. He didn’t know that turnstile was actually unlocked and all he needed to do to walk through was to give a small push! In his perception, something was standing in his way preventing him from moving forward, so he stood there immobilized! He had become accustomed to waiting for the “Beep” - only his own habit was stopping him from pushing forward. His habit became a false limitation he made for himself! How silly he felt when he was told the door was really open and he should just go through!


The Baal Shem Toiv Says: From everything a Yid sees and hears he needs to learn a lesson in his serving HASHEM :) This is true in a place called prison and is true in a place called freedom :)  


It seems like we are confronted by the world with limitations which limit or prevent us from serving Hashem. This is false. A Yid has a Neshomoh which is higher than nature. When he sees himself as he truly is, he will realize that he and nature have nothing in common! He is really higher than natural limitations, and they do not truly block him from moving forward! Let’s not be stuck with our hand on a turnstile whose only lock is in our mind, immobilized by false limitation when all we need to do is continue going forward into the Mikveh, into purity! :)


10 Monkeys and Their Perceived Limitations


Ten monkeys were once placed in a cage. In the center of the cage was a ten-step ladder with a tempting bunch of bananas at the very top. :) One monkey quickly climbed up the ladder to reach the prize, but when it reached the ninth rung, he was suddenly knocked off the ladder by a strong stream of water from a water cannon.


While the first monkey lay there bewildered, another monkey took advantage and quickly jumped up the ladder to get the bunch of bananas! But again, as it was almost within reach, a powerful stream of water knocked it off the ladder. As it lay there bewildered, a third monkey tried to climb the ladder to reach the prize, but the same thing happened. Each one of the ten monkeys attempted to go up the ladder, and each one learned the limitations they had and was unable to reach the food they wanted.


Next, the water hose was removed. One of the ten original monkeys who experienced the water hose was also removed, and replaced by a monkey who didn’t know of that limitation. When the original nine monkeys saw the newcomer try to go up the ladder, they quickly grabbed it, stopping it from going up, afraid of the limitation they knew about (which was not there anymore)!


After the newcomer monkey was convinced of the danger of going up the ladder and no longer tried, another of the original monkeys was taken out and replaced.


Now there were only eight original monkeys who knew of the limitation but when the newcomer monkey tried to go up the ladder all nine other monkeys stopped it from going up, including the first one who had never experienced or personally knew why there was any limitations to begin with!


Another of the original monkeys was taken out of the cage and replaced. Now there were only seven monkeys who knew of the water, but again all nine monkeys stopped the new monkey from going higher! This repeated itself until all ten monkeys were new to the cage and had never experienced the water cannon. Yet none of them went up the ladder and even stopped others from going up as well!


We Need to Know Who We Are   

The world around us is limited by its nature, and having experienced its limitations, adjusts to the confines of those limitations! When the world sees a Yid attempting to live a life of Kedusha, which, because it’s connected to HASHEM YISBORAICH who is infinite, is not confined by the limitations of the world, it tries to discourage or prevent him. Blind to the power and freedom that is inherent in every yid, so they try to stop him by using logical arguments or other ways that are rooted in creation and not in the Divine!


What they ignore (or don’t know) is: Yidden have a Neshomoh! This makes Yidden very different with infinitely greater abilities and capacity! :) Yidden don’t have the limitations that come from nature and are able to reach heights which are higher than anything in creation! The Yid is able to access and express the limitless power of his Neshomoh and serve HASHEM with Mesiras Nefesh! (This doesn’t only mean in extreme cases of danger, but also being totally committed to doing what HASHEM wants us to do without regard for opposition) :)  


Why the Simcha on Lag B’Oimer?


Two reasons are given for the simcha of Lag B’Oimer:

1.      Rabi Akiva’s Talmidim stopped dying.

2.      It’s the Yoim Hiluloh - the Yohrtzait - of Rabi Shimon Bar Yocho’i (a Talmid of Rabi Akivah), who commanded us to be B’Simcha on the day of his Yohrtzait


These reasons seem not only unconnected but contradictory:

The first reason seems to emphasize and celebrate the life of Rabi Shimon Bar Yoicho’i. He was a Talmid of Rabi Akiva that did not have the problem which caused the Gezaira. The second reason seems to celebrate and emphasize the opposite -  his Yohrtzait!


The explanation is given as follows:

The Shlaimus of a Tzaddik’s Avioidah in this world is revealed on the day of his passing. It was the Avoidah of the five later Talmidim, most clearly represented by Rabi Shimon Bar Yoicho’i which was the antidote to the reason the Talmidim were dying, so the day which represents the perfection of that Avoido, his Yohrtzait, is linked to the effect it had. This is also why his Hiluloh - Yohrtzait - was takeh on Lag B’oimer many years later. :)


To understand what was so unique of the Avoidah of Rabi Shimon Bar Yoichoi and how it ended the Gezairah, we need to first understand the reason for the Gezairah, the passing of 24,000 Talmidim of Rabi Akiva.

Chazal tell us that the 24,000 students of Rabi Akiva died because “they did not act with respect to each other.” This reason is very perplexing!


These were the students of Rabi Akiva! His motto was “Veohavtoh L’Raiacho Komoicho, Zeh Klal Godoil Batoirah” - “Love your Fellow Yid As Yourself, this is a great general rule of the whole Toirah!” As his students, why did they not do as their Rebbi taught them??


One of the explanations for this:

Each one of Rabi Akiva’s Talmidim had his own “Derech,” his own way in which he understood his Rebbi’s teachings, which he strived to embody in his service of HASHEM. One student’s Avoidah was focused on Ahavas Hashem, another on Yiras Shomayim, and so on, each derived from the teachings of Rebi Akiva. Each one was immersed in his way of learning and understanding, completely convinced that if anyone who does not follow that same path is missing something in his Avoidas Hashem!


Since each one, as a Talmid of Rabi Akiva, loved their fellow student as themselves, they strived to convince their fellow to understand the teaching in the way that they themselves did. When their fellow student didn’t see it in the same way they did and didn’t accept their way of serving HASHEM, this caused them to feel disrespect toward them, as someone of imperfect Avoidas Hashem. According to the way he understood, his fellow student was missing in perfection!


In addition to being a champion of Ahavas Yisroel, Rabbi Akiva represented a complete dedication to Hashem. Rabbi Akiva said that all his days he was pained because he wanted to serve HASHEM with Mesiras Nefesh and he waited for the opportunity to give his life over to HASHEM!


Mesiras Nefesh is a state which permeates every aspect of the Yid who is going on Mesiras Nefesh. There is no part of him that remains unaffected by the Mesiras Nefesh.


The students learned both values from their Rebbi. The desire for Mesiras Nefesh permeated every aspect of their Avoidas HASHEM with utter devotion. They were totally given over to it and it took over their whole existence! They were so immersed in what they were doing that there was no room for anything or anyone else. As we said before, they also learned Ahavas Yisroel, and wanted to share their approach with their fellow students but their dedication to their approach (until Mesiras Nefesh) affected the way they treated each other.


Hashem Wants Harmony

The feeling of Mesiras Nefesh by itself, utter devotion to Hashem, brings the person to want to leave this world, with all its limitations and distance from Hashem, and cleave to HASHEM in an unlimited way which is the outpouring of our Neshomoh. Embodying this, the students of Rabi Akiva had no consideration for anything other than their path in Avoido - they wanted to go out of themselves and cleave to Hashem, abandoning everything else as having no place, including other ways of serving Hashem!


But that is not what HASHEM wants. The purpose for which HASHEM created this world was for us to experience the dedication of Mesiras Nefesh, but to express in this world and our daily lives, so the limited nature of our lives is imbued the unlimited aspect of Mesiras Nefesh! Our desire to reject our limited existence should not be expressed by abandoning the world. It should be expressed by going out of our limitations in the way we live our lives, even within the limitations of nature, elevating the limited into the realm of unlimited! :)


Hashem wants us to see the place that everything has in Avoidas Hashem and to use each thing in the right way and with full devotion to Hashem - not to ignore or reject. If there are others with another approach they learned from their Rebbi, they also have a place in Avoidas Hashem and together they should serve Hashem.


This was the uniqueness of the five students of Rabi Akiva who are the bedrock of the Toirah in Klal Yisroel! Surely, they also had the desire to serve HASHEM with Mesiras Nefesh, to be totally given over to HASHEM, but they also emulated the other quality of Rabi Akiva. Rabi Akiva was the only one of the five who entered Pardes, the hidden aspects of the Torah, who came out whole, and this is because he went in with the right balance, knowing that as holy as the hidden aspects of the Torah are, Hashem wants them expressed here. He was able to serve HASHEM with his total existence, all the while knowing that HASHEM wants our Avoidah to bring “higher than nature” into the world of nature! He successfully taught this to his second group of Talmidim and they were able to serve HASHEM with total dedication of Mesiras Nefesh and express the unlimited life that brings in the limited world we live in. :)

This is seen in the clearest and revealed way by Rabi Shimon Bar Yocho’i!


Rabi Shimon Bar Yoicho’i was separated from the world for the 13 years which he spent in the cave. During that time he wasn’t able to physically fulfill many Mitzvois which require physical objects and he was only able to do them in a spiritual way.  His Avoido epitomized the dedication of the Neshomo, Mesiras Nefesh - the Yearning of the Soul to cleave to HASHEM!

The Gemoroh tells us that wherever Rabi Elozor’s critical gaze brought destruction, because he could not see the value in the physical, Rabi Shimon Bar Yoicho’i healed! He brought a Refuoh to the world!


Even more! Rabi Shimon Bar Yoicho’i asked the Yidden if there was something that needed fixing, and he will fix it!

Rabi Shimon Bar Yoicho’i was seeking what he could correct in the world, because he had received the greatest measure from his Rebi Rabi Akiva, who Served HASHEM with Mesiras Nefesh, with a total yearning to cleave to HASHEM, but in a way that was expressed in this world, using the infinite power of his Neshomoh to imbue infinite life into his learning and Davening, bringing the infinite light of Kedusha into this world!  


Rabi Shimon Bar Yoichoi’s going into the cave, which is a separation from the world, brought him to be able to return to this world, to correct the world with infinite power from Above and bring it down below :)


This itself led to his, that when he came out of the cave, he should NOT be separated from the world anymore! ADERABAH!














Sholom Mordechai Halevi ben Avrohom Aharoin sheyichye :)