The happy Yurtzeit:
Relax, only one single parsha this week but it’s a biggie, it’s Parshas EMOR which is chock full of mitzvois, mamish. In fact, just so that you can sit at the shabbis tish and say something intelligent, you should know that Emor has 63 of the 613 mitzvois and that’s mamish over 10%. Were the heylige Toirah a public company (lihavdil), Emor would have to file a 13D. And more good news: it has not a terrible ratio of ah-says (positive commandments) to lois, 24 ah-says and 39 lois (not to do). And one more stat: Emor has more than one mitzvah per two p’sukim, five times the Toirah’s average. And only Ki Saytzei which we’ll get to in late summer has more mitzvois, 74 in total. Shoin for those with severe ADD and for a few others, you’re all set. And for those who want to chap some more hano’oh (satisfaction), in lieu of, or in addition to other hano’oh you’d like to chap this coming shabbis, let’s learn a shtikel more.
How can we cover 63 mitzvois which include serious mention of just about every single Jewish Yom Tov and according to some, even Chanukah, in one short overview? And the answer is we can’t. What to do? Skip kimat all of them and let’s, in honor of the shvigermeister (mother-in-law) who will be in Yerusholayim this shabbis, discuss instead why all of Israel is laining Parshas Behar this coming shabbis while here in America and in other places around the world, the Yiddin will be laining and learning Parshas Emor. What’s taka pshat and how and why does this happen? Is this a regular occurrence or an uncommon phenomenon? Are we behind because we ate too much matzo over Pesach? Believe it or not, there’s mamish an answer and it goes something like this.
Nu, it turns out that the reason for this anomaly is taka related to Pesach and the big one day vs. two day Yom Tov observance that we discuss yearly yet never seem to resolve. Let’s taka see how this played out this year. For those who were anywhere outside of Israel for Pesach, say Las Vegas lemoshol or even at home, chas v’sholom, avada you recall that the last day of Yom Tov was on the heylige Shabbis. Zicher you should, but unfortunately don’t, recall that Yom Tov laining usurps shabbis laining and as a result, on the last day of Pesach which was taka on shabbis, we lained Yom Tov related material. Ober (however), over in EY (Israel) where they correctly observe but one day of each half of Pesach, by shabbis, Yom Tov was over. Many were enjoying challah and yeasty products, if you chap. Though shabbis is avada heylig, it was but a regular shabbis and accordingly they lained the next parsha in rotation which was Shimini. Shoin. Accordingly, since Pesach we have been one week behind and that’s how we remain until next week when we square up. Next shabbis we’ll lain another double header while over in EY they’ll lain Bechukoissi and we’ll all be back on the same page. Gishmak mamish but why didn’t we catch up a few weeks ago and wasn’t all of Israel also laining double headers for the last few weeks? Taka an excellent kasha which zicher has a givaldige answer but we’ll leave that for next year when the Oisvorfer may look into and enlighten his chasiddim with facts and minhogim of every Yom Tov and other occasions.
Still, next week when the shvigermeister returns and gets to shul, she’ll be nice and confused, especially if she arrives on time for laining which mistama she won’t but avada it could happen and will hear the same parsha she heard last week while over in EY. Being the good Eydim (son-in-law) that I am, I have dedicated this week’s Toirah to the shvigermeister so that she doesn’t chap a headache trying to decipher what’s going on.
Avada she’s not the only one that could become confused, in fact these same issues will confront any traveler to and from EY during this post Pesach time period until next shabbis. Seemingly any traveler during this time period is either ahead or behind depending if going to or coming from. What to do? And for those who like to hear laining and for those that review the parsha weekly, what does the traveler do?
Nu, believe it or not, a few shuls in EY have this covered and actually offer makeup laining, during which the traveler can hear, in addition to the parsha being read that week, also the previous week’s parsha, which is the traveler’s current one. Got all that? Givaldig. Ok, pop two Advil and let’s move on.
Raboyseyee, today is Lag Bo’oimer, literally meaning it’s the 33rd day of the Oimer. Chances are better than good that all you know about this day is that we may, after a few weeks of a shtikel mourning period, listen to music, make and attend weddings and get haircuts ober do any of you Oisvorfs recall what happened on this day? Why is this day so special? Nu, as a public service to my readers and because your Rebbe taught you very little about this day other than holding on to your bow and arrow, let’s learn about this day, and here’s some background. Let’s meet Rebbe Akiva.
Says the heylige Gemora (Yevamos 62b): Rebbe Akiva had twelve thousand pairs of students and avada most anyone will tell you that a pair = two and 12,000 pairs = 24,000 talmidim. Shoin. All agreed? Avada not and in the version found in Medrish Rabba, (Bereishis 61:50), the word “pairs” does not appear, suggesting that he had twelve thousand students in total. (efsher the Medrish was worried that people would get the wrong idea).
And who was Rebbe Akiva and how did he build such a big yeshiva? Was it tuition free? Other incentives? Rabbi Akiva came from a family of converts. Until about 40ish, he was a complete Am ho’oretz (ignorant Jew), like many of you, nebech. Later in life, he admitted that earlier in life, he abhorred the scholars of his time. Ober he fell in love with a girl named Rochel and wanted to marry her. Her father, quite a wealthy man, wasn’t very pleased with the idea that his tuchtur (daughter) would marry a lowly Shepard (which he was) and an am ho’oretz nuch der tzi (to boot) and disowned them both. The fact that Yankif Oveenu and that Moishe Rabaynu were both in the same profession didn’t at all impress him. Ober love conquers all and Rochel loved Akiva and Akiva loved Rochel, mamish. Maybe she also had a pair? She inspired him to learn Toirah and become educated, and what wouldn’t a nice fellow do for a girl, especially one from money? Some say that Rochel’s father Kalba Savua, was the wealthiest Jew of his time.
Akiva enrolled at the Yeshiva of Rebbe Eliezer where, while pondering the world’s problems, he observed a stone that had been worn away by the drops of water that were constantly falling on it. From this episode he figured out that were he to apply himself, even at age 40, very slowly, each drop of heylige Toirah would eventually enter his farshtupta kup (stuffed head). And it did. Roll forward some years: Rebbe Akiva, with a reputation as the greatest scholar of his time and with tens of thousands of students under his tutelage, returned to his eishes chayil and guess what? The shver, previously obstinate about the shidduch, now embraced his daughter and son-in-law and mistama left them a large yirusha (inheritance). Eventually most in-laws come around. Moreover and ever since, parents, teachers and others tell those late bloomers and converts that it’s never too late to start learning and absorbing the heylige Toirah. And they all lived happily ever after; inspirational mamish. Nu, nice a guy as he was and learned as he was, his 12 or 24,000 talmidim were seemingly not as nice, the RBSO got angry with them and they all died in the days and weeks between Pesach and Shavuois. How did they die? Said Rebbe Nachman: they died by suffocation, from a croup-like illness. Is that what happened? Ver veyst. The Gemora then cites a source from the tanna’im that the students perished during the sefira period, in between Pesach and Shavuois. Interestingly, later the Gemora writes that they died from illness, but from the Yerushalmi it appears that they fell in the Bar-Kochba revolt. Which is it? Ver veyst!! Interestingly enough there is mamish no mention about Lag Ba-omer in this context, implying that the deaths occurred throughout the entirety of the sefira period. Secondly, this passage makes no indication of any practices of mourning to be observed to mark this tragedy. Ober, the tradition as we know it somehow took hold and what was once possible fable is avada now fact.
We are taught that they stopped dying on the 33rd day of the Omer or what we call lag b’omer. That day is today and therefore on this day we celebrate in some pretty weird ways. And on the days leading up to today, we remember the students who all perished by observing some of the customs more typically associated with mourning. Sadly the dying resumed on day 34, nebech.
After all his students died, Rebbe Akiva started over and began teaching other students. One of his foremost students was Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai, the author of the Zoihar, which deals with the mystical teachings of the Toirah and is the basis for Kabbolo, whose secrets, some say, will one day bring about the coming of Moshiach. Why not? He too died on Lag Ba’omer and to remember him on this day, some people light bonfires and sing songs in his honor.
Although the death of a great sage is usually not marked with rejoicing, rather with sadness, we treat Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai differently. The Zoihar in Parshas Ha’azinu tells us that on the day Rabbi Shimon passed away, a great light of endless joy filled the day, because of the secret wisdom he revealed to his students. That secret wisdom was written down and recorded in the holy Zoihar. The happiness on that day was to him and his students like that of a groom while standing under the canopy at his wedding, or later that night, when he chaps. On that day, the sun did not set until Rebbe Shimon had revealed all that he was permitted to. As soon as he was done, the sun set, and his soul returned to its Maker. Because of the happiness back then, we celebrate with happiness now as well.
In Israel, people flock to his grave in the city of Meron. There is dancing, singing, rejoicing, free parking, drinks, and bonfires are lit. In fact, everything goes down in Meron on Lag Baomer except for taking a shower; seemingly this is verboten. Many people wait until their son is three before cutting his hair, and on Lag B’omer of his third year, they cut the boy’s hair. There is also a custom that children play with bows (“keshes” in Hebrew) on Lag B’omer. A reason given for this is that in all the days of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai’s life, a rainbow was never seen. A rainbow is a sign that the world was due for a flood of the proportion of that in Noiach’s time. However, because the RBSO promised Noiach that such a flood would never be brought again, the RBSO lets us know when we are deserving of such punishment by placing a rainbow in the sky.
Some say that we mark this as a happy day because on this day, the students of Rebbe Akiva did not die. Is this a good enough reason to make bonfires, have outings and be joyous? In my mind, if people were dying by the thousands daily since Pesach and didn’t for one day but resumed the next day and did so until Shovuois, would I be out celebrating? Mistama I’d be busy burying the dead and making shiva calls. What’s pshat here? What happened?
Hey, isn’t this the same Rebbe Akiva who made a guest appearance and was quoted by Rashi in last week’s parsha? Wasn’t it just last week that Rashi and many others pontificated on the great mitzvah of Viohavto lerayachco komocho (thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself)? Indeed it is, and said Rashi azoy: zeh klall godol batoirah (Rebbe Akiva says that loving your neighbor (unless she’s married) as yourself, is a klall godol batoriah (an important Toirah principle). Seemingly for his students, the klall godol was Batoirah – only in the Toirah, though not in real life. And therein lies the lesson.
A gitten shabbis-