Thursday, April 29, 2010

Yes, but why death?

One of the reasons we are so happy on Lag B'Omer is that this is when Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students stopped dying. The gemara gives the reason for their death: They were disrespecting each other. Not enough r-e-s-p-e-c-t.
What?? Rabbi Akiva's students not according each other with respect? But his whole 'thing' was Ahavas Yisroel!
Their misguided behavior was in fact a form of Ahavas Yisroel. They each felt the other was not understanding their teacher's Torah in the correct manner, and out of Ahavas Yisroel they were determined to not let this continue.
But that still doesn't explain why they were deserving to be killed.
The Rebbe answers this by pointing out that all the students died during a very small period of time. Did all of a sudden everyone start disrespecting each other? There is a similar story in the Yerushalmi Gemara that many students of the house of Rebbi died, simply because they were a large number, gathered together, and there was an Ayin Hara.
So, too, when R' Akiva finally amassed 24,000 students, and possibly they were all together (hey! For a Lag B'Omer parade!), there was an Ayin Hara on them, as well. When a person is in a dangerous situation, chas v'shalom, even the smallest transgressions can weigh him down. Hence, the act of disrespect during this time was able to warrant them such a harsh punishment.

The second reason we celebrate on Lag B'Omer is for the death of R' Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the five star pupils R' Akiva taught after the tragic demise of his yeshiva. R' Shimon Bar Yochai was able to encapsulate and carry out the truest form of Ahavas Yisroel that his teacher believed in so much. We see this in the story the gemara tells us after the Rashbi finally left the cave.
After 13 years of being cramped up in a cave, the very first thing he did (after doing those airplane foot stretches they show you in the manuals) was ask for something to fix. He was told that there was a large tract of land that Kohanim had to circumvent, since there was a body buried somewhere inside. He did some Kabbala/Ruach HaKodesh stuff, and was able to tell them exactly where the man was buried, so they could fence it off and allow the Kohanim to walk right through the land.
He did that just so some Kohanim wouldn't have the discomfort of walking farther.

Also, Rashbi said famously that he could exempt the entire world from judgment. His Ahavas Yisroel went so far, even to those that were in a predicament of being judged for their crimes.

The gemara says about an argument regarding the latest time possible to say Shema at night, that although the halacha is not like Rabbi Shimon, it is proper to rely upon him 'Bsha'as Ha'Dchak', in a pressing time.

So, too, now we are in a pressing and hard golus, the Rebbe says. We are able to rely therefore on the Rashbi to exempt us all from judgment, and we can speedily herald in the coming of Moshiach!