Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 

The Pri Tzadik on Lag Ba'Omer

By Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff

Lag Ba'Omer will soon be with us. A fair question at this point is: What is Lag Ba'Omer all about? The Pri Tzadik (also known as R'Tzadok HaCohen) addressed this question as follows.

The Zohar tells us that Lag Ba'Omer commemorates the petira (the passing away) of R' Shim'on Bar Yochai. You may wonder: why do we make make the yahrzeit -- i.e., the day in which a great Talmid Chacham is niftar -- into a "hilula" (celebration)? Because, as Chazal tell us, the talmidim truly grasp the teachings of their Rebbe only after his petira. (Perhaps because when their Rebbe was alive, the talmidim felt that they could always rely on him.)

Another question. Why do we make such a big thing out of R'Shim'on Bar Yochai? The answer is straightforward: because R'Sim'on bar Yochai bore the quintessence of R'Akiva's teachings (Gitin, 67,a). And R' Akiva, in turn, was the quintessence of Torah she'be'al peh (the Torah that HaShem taught Moshe Rabeinu at Sinai orally. Moshe Rabeinu then transmitted those teachings to Bnai Yisroel only by the spoken word). Thus, the Medrash tells us that HaShem revealed to R' Akiva (and to his colleagues) teachings that He had not revealed even to Moshe Rabeinu!

What Lag BaOmer is, then, is a celebration of R' Akiva, who exemplified Torah she'be'al peh AND -- I add -- much, much more. Thus, R' Akiva was the living example of an ahm ha'aretz who started learning late, but -- through his mesiras nefesh and the mesiras nefesh of his wife -- became gadol ha'dor. Likewise, by his example, R' Akiva tauight extraordinary courage and emuna. After he lost his many thousands of talmidim, he started teaching Torah all over again -- this time to a mere five talmidim. Also, he carried Bar Kochba's armor. But when events proved him wrong on that issue, he was still able to die -- tortured by the Romans -- in a exemplary demonstration of Kiddush HaShem.

Good, so we know that R' Shimon bar Yochai, R' Akiva's prime talmid, was niftar on Lag Ba'Omer.We also know that Lag BaOmer is the day when we commemorate the petirah of R' Akiva. Apart from his other features of greatness, R' Akiva was the quintessence of Torah shebe'ahl'peh. At this point, a basic question comes to mind. Would it not make much more sense to celebrate Torah she'be'al peh not on the day when R' Akiva's talmid (R'Sh'B'Y') was niftar, but rather on the day on which R'Akiva (himself) was niftar?

The Pri Tzadik answers this question by pointing to a brutal fact. R' Akiva had defied the Romans; and for that, the Romans had killed him. In view of the the Romans' continuing domination of Eretz Yisrael, it was totally out of the question to commemorate R'Akiva's petira; for the Romans would have treated such a celebration as rebellion. Hence, the shift, as a cover, to R'Shim'on Bar Yochai, R' Akiva's prime Talmid!

APPENDIX -- More from the PRI TZADIK

What Lag BaOmer is, then, is a celebration of Torah she'be'al peh. This interpretation fits in neatly with the Sefiras Ha'Omer on which Lag BaOmer occurs. That is, each of the Sefiros is associated with a quality that characterized one of our Tzadikim. Thus, Chessed is associated with Avraham; Gevura, with Yitzchok; ... and Hod (Luster), with Aharon. And not by coincidence, the Sefira that comes on Lag BaOmer is the Sefira of "Hod She'Behod" -- building on Aharon's unique quality of Hod.

Note further connections that link Aharon HaKohein with Torah she'be'al peh. Thus, in his first encounter with HaShem, Moshe declined the leadership role that HaShem offered, claiming that his speech defect disqualified him from the job. To which HaShem answered that Aharon, Moshe's brother, would do the talking: "Ve'hu (i.e., Aharon) yihe'yeh le'cha le'peh".

Likewise, after Moshe received the Torah, Aharon's (spoken) teaching was a prime channel through which the Torah was transmitted to Bnai Yisroel. And Aharon's descendants, the kohanim, continued in this key role of transmitting the Torah she'be'al' peh. Thus, the navi (prophet) Mal'achi (2, 7) generalizes: "Sifsei kohen yish'meru da'as, ve'Torah ye'vak'shu mi'pihu". (That is, "The lips of a kohen will keep knowledge, and people will seek Torah from his mouth".)


Text Copyright 2004 by Rabbi Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff and Torah.org.


 

ARTICLES ON TAZRIA AND METZORAH:

View Complete List

We Are One
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5763

The Real You
Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig - 5763

Lashon HaRah -- More A Problem of the Eye Than Of The Mouth Or Tongue
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5774

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Pay Now, Gain Later
Shlomo Katz - 5773

Those who Think They Know Better, are No Better
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5755

Strange Altar-Fellows
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5757

> The Pain and Pleasure of Being Human
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5758

A Matter Of Life And Death
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5768

Sounds of Solitude
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5760

ArtScroll

Jogging Ancient Memories
Rabbi Label Lam - 5763

Who Is The Man Who Wants To PRESERVE Life?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5772

Battling the Serpent
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5764

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Lessons in Leprosy
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758

Tzaraas: Spot Checks
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5768

Ups and Downs In Today's Market
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5763

Doves and Relationships
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5762



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information