Today is the festival of Lag B'Omer (Thursday, May 10th).
Lag B'Omer is connected with 2 Talmudic spiritual giants: the famous Rabbi Akivah and his equally famous disciple Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, also known as "Rashbi."
The Talmud tells us that the land of Israel experienced periods of famine due to the lack of rain; the agriculture of Eretz Yisroel was paralyzed. During those periods, spiritual leaders would decree days of fasting and communal prayers, begging Hashem for rain. Not always did the response come immediately and not always in the needed proportion in order to affect the growth of fruits and vegetables.
This long-lasting shortage of rain also happened in the time of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. His colleagues and disciples visited with him in order to ask for his prayers for the badly needed rain. As soon as they arrived, before they had a chance to express their request, Rashbi asked them to sit and delivered a mystical Torah elucidation, based on a verse in Psalms connecting Heaven and earth. The rain immediately poured down in a responsive manner.
At the conclusion of his D'var Torah, Rashbi said to the group: if you came for the rain, you have it; if you came for Torah, remain here and we shall discuss further.
This passage again illustrates the spiritual greatness of Rashbi. While other sages, including his mentor – Rabbi Akivah, required fasting and intense communal prayer, Rashbi accomplished - through the study of Torah - the immediate descent of rain in the desired measure. The Heavenly Gates were completely open to him.
The Talmud states "Rashbi deserves to be relied upon during difficult times." Rashbi was the great Talmudic sage whose life was, in great part, dedicated to understanding and elucidation of the esoteric and mystical aspect of the Torah. He was the first to unravel publicly those teachings, which gave place to what later became known as Kabbalah and Chassidic philosophy teachings.
Hundreds of thousands, from all walks of life, gravitate to Rashbi's sacred resting place in Miron, Israel on the day of his passing, Lag B'Omer. Before his passing, he asked that this day be celebrated in a very festive manner.
The students at the Rabbinical College of America dedicate several hours per day to study, understand and meditate on the inner aspects of Torah as it relates to daily life, self improvement and responsibility for each of our brethren and neighbors. Chassidic philosophy declares that the soul of each and every one of us descended to this world to be a role model and to make a positive difference in the betterment of the entire society.
For more information on the holiday of Lag B'Omer please visit www.rca.edu/holidays, or to learn about the Rabbinical College of America, visit www.RCA.edu or to find a local event in your neighborhood, visit www.RCA.edu/events.