Friday, May 23, 2008

LAG BA'OMER; LIFTING THE VEIL OF SADNESS

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Tonight is Lag Ba'Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer (sefirat ha'omer). From Pesach to Shavuos we are fixing the spiritual vessels of redemption. Each day of the forty nine days of the counting corresponds to one of the forty nine levels of tumah, or spiritual impurity, which we had collectively contracted in Mitzrayim (Egypt). By distinguishing and counting each day consciously, we are healing and repairing the spiritual damage wrought by our collectively sinking to that level of spiritual impurity of Egypt's hedonistic, idolatrous and morally bereft society.

As the holy Zohar says, we were thrust out of Egypt by the Holy One Blessed Be He (HaKadosh Baruch Hu) before we had passed that point of no return, before we had sunk down to that 50th level. Had we indeed waited for that proverbial bread to rise we would today still be waiting for it in Egypt.

Each of the seven weeks corresponds to one of the lower seven Kabbalistic sefiroth: Hesed, Gevurah, Tifereth, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchut. And each of the seven days within each of the seven weeks is a fixing for that particular sefirah of its own seven-within-seven permutation. So we count "chesed she'be'chesed"the first night, "gevurah she'be'chesed" the second night, etc.

And from after Pesach until the 33rd day of the counting, we observe Days of Sadness, a period of semi-mourning. We traditionally refrain from public entertainment and musical concerts, and we do not cut our hair during this period. Why? Because the Talmud explains that the zugot, the 12,000 pairs of students in the academy of Rabbi Akiva died in a great plague. Can you imagine the profound tragedy of our loss as a people? 24,000 future teachers. 24,000 future leaders who could give over the secrets of living. Of what it means to be Jewish.

We attempt to make sense of and ascribe meaning to life's tragedies. Likewise, the rabbis in the Talmud go on to say that they perhaps died because they didn't give enough kavod, or respect, to each other's opinions. Now who can even begin to speak with any certainty as to why any tragedy happens!

But the tradition wishes to instill within us a very deep message: that as a people we we can only begin to heal when we really start listening to one another. Deeply listening. It is not saying we must necessarily agree with each other, only that we must have the eyes to see how G*d's Light shines from within each one of us. If only our leaders would only inculcate this primary value from the top down, GEVALT what an awesome healing would take place! Until then we must work from the bottom up.

Two wonderful events took place which cause us on this date to lift this Veil of Sadness. The first was the lifting of the plague, as recorded in Sefer HaManhig, which quotes Rabbi Zecharyah HaLevi who said that he found an old manuscript brought from Spain in which it was recorded that the disciples of Rabbi Akiva died in a plague from Pesach until half a month before Shavuoth, i.e., Lag Ba'Omer.

And the second was the yahrzeit, or the hillula- the public celebration of the yahrzeit, of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who was, according to tradition, the author of the holy Zohar. In Jewish tradition, the yahrzeit is actually not a day of sadness, but is actually one of joy and celebration, because the soul is said to ascend up to a higher level on that day. Both events were associated with Lag Ba'Omer!

The Kabbalistic permutation which we count that day is HOD she'be'HOD, meaning "Distinctive Beauty which in enveloped within Distinctive Beauty." That is, we only distinguish and beautify ourselves as a people when we give honor or kavod to one another. And we distinguish and beautify ourselves as people, when we see our primary task in life as growing and ascending, and helping our friends to grow and ascend, to ever higher spiritual levels. And we do that best by modeling it for others to emulate. There are beauty models, and INNER beauty models. Which are you? Won't you join me in lifting off the veil?

© 2000 - 2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of fulsome silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!