Lag B'Omer & The Big Picture
Once again, Lag B'Omer is upon us, this year, b"H, on a Motzei Shabbos. And
Lag B'Omer, is all about THE BIG PICTURE.
First of all, it is the celebration of the day on which Rebi Shimon Bar
Yochai revealed the Zohar to his students, just before he ascended to a
holier world. He was one of Rebi Akiva's premier students, and he shared
with the world that which he had received as hidden transmission of Torah.
The time had come to reveal much of it, and he had been Heaven-sent to
fulfill the mission.
It is pointed out that the 33rd day of the Omer-Count comes after 32 days,
which is the gematria of "leiv," or "heart." After Lag B'Omer, there are 16
days left to count, the 17th day being Shavuos itself, when Torah was given.
The number 17 is the gematria of the word "tov," or "good," and when
combined with the word "heart," they become, "good heart."
Hence, it is said, that the goal of Sefiras HaOmer is develop a good heart,
the ultimate positive trait a person can incorporate into their world
(Pirkei Avos 2:13). And, that is exactly what the Jewish people developed by the
50th day of the Omer when God spoke to them on the sixth day of Sivan, 2448
from Creation, as it says:
They traveled from Refidim and came to the Sinai Desert, and they camped
in the desert; they (written: he) camped opposite the mountain.
He camped opposite the mountain: k'ish echad, b'leiv echad-like a single
person with a single heart. (Rashi)
The only question is, what did Lag B'Omer have to do with the process?
True, Lag B'Omer, as we know it, did not come to be until the end of the
Second Temple period. However, according to some, it was a special day
already in the desert back then, for it is the day on which the mann began
to fall for the Jewish people,1 just after the matzah they had baked on the
way out of Egypt ran out.
Why on Lag B'Omer? Just the way it happened to work out? Obviously not,
especially given the sod of mann and of Lag B'Omer, and the fact that the
mann fell in the merit of Moshe Rabbeinu, whose soul, it is said, also went
into Rebi Shimon bar Yochai (Sha'ar HaGilgulim, Ch. 36).
The mann, of course, was extremely Kabbalistic. Even its two letters, Mem-
Nun, are the abbreviation for one of the most Kabbalistic concepts of all,
Nitzotzei Kedushah-Holy Sparks. They stand for "Main Nukvah," literally
"Female Waters," which are the Holy Sparks that have to be elevated up from
the level of the Malchus, which is feminine, to the upper realms in order to
trigger a process that will eventually draw down additional Divine Light to
the lower worlds, rectifying them.
Less deep is the way that the mann was totally absorbed by the body leaving
no waste to be rejected. It also fell based upon the spiritual level of a
person, a Divine sign of approval or of the need to do teshuvah (Yoma 75a).
And, the extra portion of mann for Shabbos was supposed to be the miraculous
result of saying, "To honor the holy Shabbos!" at which point, one omer of
mann miraculously became two (Ze'ev Yitraf).
In other words, the mann was not first and foremost food. Rather, it was a
daily dose of the entire meaning of the Jewish people, and the spiritual
level upon which they were meant to live:
Remember the way God, your God, led you for these 40 years in the desert
in order to test you, to see what you really thought, and whether you would
keep His commandments or not. He afflicted you, and caused you to go hungry,
and gave you mann to eat which you did not recognize, nor did your ancestors
experience it-so that He could teach you that man does not live by bread
alone, but by whatever God says should exist does man live. (Devarim 8:1-3)
In other words, the mann belonged to the reality of THE BIG PICTURE. If a
person bought into its vision, then the mann elevated him and brought him
closer to God. It allowed him to rise above the mundane reality of everyday
life that can make a person petty, and care for things that are not really
worth that much attention. This, the Talmud says, is the essential
difference between a righteous person and an evil one:
In the Time-to-Come, The Holy One, Blessed is He, will bring the yetzer hara
and slaughter him before the righteous and the evil. To the righteous it
will appear like a high mountain, and to the evil it will appear like a
thread of hair. Both will cry; the righteous will cry and say, "How were we
able to overcome this high mountain?" The evil will cry and say, "How were
we not be able to overcome this thread of hair?" (Succah 52a)
Hence, it fell as a omer per person each day. And, though usually "omer" is
spelled: Ayin-Vav-Mem-Raish, this time, in the Torah it is spelled without
its Vav (Shemos 16:36), giving the word a gematria of 310-the numerical
value of the word "yaish," which means "have," and "shai," which is the
amount of worlds the Talmud says righteous people will received in the
(Sanhedrin 100a). In other words, for being satisfied with yaish, that is,
their own personal portion in life, something which can only be done with a
BIG PICTURE vision, they merit their portion in Eternity.
Thus, the mann was not only food for empty stomachs, it was primarily food
for thought, that is, to make the Jewish people think. It was to help them
develop the ultimate the ultimate and most valuable asset in life: a leiv tov.
This is where Lag B'Omer comes into the picture, or at least what happened
on the 33rd day of the omer, Hod Sh'b'Hod-Glory that is in Glory. For, the
Kabbalah that the Rashbi revealed that day is essential for developing a
leiv tov, if not in practice, then at least in theory. Because, though
everyone may not merit to learn Kabbalah, everyone can still benefit from
the principles of Kabbalah.
Everything goes wrong in life when priorities are confused. The essential
difference between righteous people and evil people, explained the Talmud
above, is that righteous people have the same priorities as God. They make
important that which is important to God, and minimize that which God finds
trivial. Evil people, then, do just the opposite.
As the Ramchal, one of the greatest Kabbalists in the last 300 years,
explains in his Introduction to Derech Hashem, the path of the righteous is
the result of an organized context, what is really called the Aitz
HaChaim-the Tree of Life, another name for Kabbalah. He explains that the
necessary insight to put life and its issues into the proper perspective
comes from knowing what we call THE BIG PICTURE, an organized, intellectual
framework into which all of the nitty-gritty details of everyday life can be
accurately placed and recognized in context of everything else.
And, it is not only about being organized. Obviously, the more sophisticated
your mental infrastructure is, the more you can put into it, and the better
organized it will be. It's like the difference between a normal PC, and a
Supercomputer, part of whose tremendous speed at finding and analyzing
information is the method by which it is stored and tagged.
Kabbalah is the supercomputer of life, if you will. It is the structure into
which all other information, holy and secular, fits. It is the intellectual
skeleton meant to be fleshed out by all other information. It is the sum
total of all knowledge, known and hidden, that is relevant for man to know,
and therefore, it is the true organizing factor of life.
If only everyone knew it, the world would be perfect.
In Yemos HaMoshiach, everyone will know it, and the world, then, will be
On that day, God will be one, and His Name, one. (Zechariah 14:9)
What about in the intervening time? Even for those who learn Kabbalah, it is
long and arduous process-a labor of love to be sure-just to accumulate, let
alone assimilate, all that has been gifted to us from Heaven. Are we doomed
to fail in the meantime just because of built-in human and historical
No, not necessarily.
For, there are two ways to know something. The Talmud says that the chacham
is greater than the navi (Bava Basra 12a), and the reason is simple. What
the prophet retains as a gift from God the wise man accumulates as a result
of his own efforts and intellectual struggle. Thus, whatever the chacham
gains is truly his own, as opposed to a direct gift from Heaven, as in the
case of the prophet, which is always better, as it says:
According to the effort is the reward. (Pirkei Avos 5:24)
However, it is wonderful, and important to know that, when one's opportunity
in life limits his ability to be a chacham, gifts from Heaven, when it comes
to Da'as Elokim-Godly knowledge-are still possible. It is extremely helpful
to understand that the will to know, and the desire to be a vessel for
higher levels of spiritual awareness, are enough to prompt Heaven to send
down additional Heavenly light.
This is the leiv tov to which Sefiras HaOmer refers, and builds. Just trying
to be a nice person and having a more generous spirit helps, but it won't
necessarily make a person into a navi, so-to-speak. However, by seriously
desiring to be a conduit for the light of God, to such an extent that one's
life reflects that desire, one can warrant a gift of Divine light, of an
intellectual and emotional appreciation of what may be far beyond the
person's present intellectual ability to understand.
The normal process is to learn an idea, which, at the beginning, may be too
abstract to relate to. However, as the person delves deeper into the concept
and builds a relationship to it, he increasingly becomes one with it, until
it is a part of his way of looking at life. On this level, he may no longer
need to verbalize it, for his very life has become a verbalization of such
Hence, the first 32 days of the Omer-Count is for developing such a leiv,
that is, such a desire to know, but not just any knowledge, but specific
knowledge that reveals God, and helps a person to correctly prioritize the
matters of life.
If after 32 days he accomplishes this, then on the 33rd day of the Omer,
when the Upper Wellsprings of Divine Knowledge open up, and they seek out
appropriate candidates for its light, then they will find him, and gift him
with knowledge far beyond his learning. For, just as the Rashbi, on Lag
B'Omer that year, was the conduit for his students to receive the light at
that time, Lag B'Omer each year also acts as a conduit for Divine light to
those who desire, and are fitting, to receive it.
For the person who merits such a gift from Heaven on the 33rd day of the
Omer-Count, it becomes possible to use the following 17 days to transform
his leiv into a "leiv TOV." As a result of what he has developed on his own
during the first 32 days of the Omer, combined with the influx of Divine
light-THE BIG PICTURE-received on Lag B'Omer, the following 17 days can
become the time to integrate and assimilate that light into his being, until
his leiv reaches the level of "tov," first used in the Torah in reference to
Reb Shimon bar Yochai was a chacham who made himself into the navi. But, his
students, and those after them, have been less so, inasmuch as the knowledge
they have received has been gifted to them from Heaven, via the Zohar.
Nevertheless, on Lag B'Omer, the two realities converge in one spectacular
flow of Divine light, allowing chachamim to become nevi'im, and nevi'im to
1. According to the Chasam Sofer, the Jewish people finished the matzah they
had taken with them when they left Egypt on the 15th of Iyar, after which
they went hungry for three days. At that time, on the 18th day of Iyar, or
the 33rd day of the Omer-Count, God sent down the mann.
Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.