As Lag BaOmer the 33rd day of the Omer (counting period between Pesach and Shavous – Matan Torah -the receiving of the Torah) approaches, I find myself once again reflecting back to one year ago.
There have been a few occasions thus far that remind me of the one year mark that begun this “new” journey of ours. This past Sunday evening, I attended a school function. A fundraiser that took place last year, two weeks after Benny was diagnosed. We had to go last year because one of our children was speaking. It was our first public appearance since the diagnosis and I have to say, it was very difficult out get out of the car and face the crowd. Of course, everyone was very supportive, but deep down, I could hardly breathe. This past Sunday, brought up last years feelings, however, this year I could breathe B”H.
This coming Sunday, marks another milestone. It was one year ago that Benny was undergoing chemo. The doctor had told us his hair would fall out. His golden locks with streaks of orange, his extra long curly eyelashes. which could be seen from afar. My husband suggested that maybe we trim it so it wouldn’t shed all over the place. I refused, I didn’t want to put a scissors to his hair until his Upshern (his third birthday). I hoped that maybe Hashem would allow him to hold on to it. Hashem had other plans. And so it was, the morning of Lag Ba’Omer, I woke up with Benny at my side and his hair all over my pillow. Hashem was the barber that day, the day where thousands of Jews celebrate in Meron to cut their three year old boys hair. The significance of the day, and the fact that Hashem took it because I wasn’t going to give it, was comforting in itself. I took it as a sign of getting thru the Refuah (healing) process.
This year, IY”H we are celebrating the renewal of Benny’s hair. The sign of his Refuah Shlema that we are so hopeful for IY”H.
Each milestone, feels like a Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippur. How can we measure our own individual growth year to year? The tape measure shows 1 1/2 ” of hair B”H and counting. We all are faced with personal challenges daily. Some more difficult then others. Many times we are too weak and fall, but at the end of the day or the start of a new one, we make every effort to rise once again. The key and most important thing we can do is work on changing our situation, so that we are not at the same place as a year before. Some changes can actually be physically measured with a tape measure, such as our skirts, shirts, sheitels etc. But then there are those changes such as adding more Tefillah or an hour of learning in our day, refrain from unnecessary chatter, a change in Middos (characteristic).
As Benny’s hair and eyelashes grow (which take longer to grow and haven’t reached the curly stage yet), I want to take the opportunity to grow in a spiritual sense.
Being in the world I am in at the moment, I am unfortunately exposed to a lot of pain among other parents. Not a week goes by that I don’t get an email or phone call to please Daven (pray) for his/her child. We are not talking about parent’s with illness (which is painful to live thru), we are talking about young babies with some life threatening condition.
I am not a righteous person, however, it doesn’t take a holy individual to see what is going on in the world. Just as the world at large, especially the U.S. changed after 9/11 with so many more law enforcement codes in place, and the TSA changes causing long lines and no shoes thru security, no one fought the system. It was put in place to protect us.
Today, my friends, my family, we need to protect ourselves, we need to protect our children, our grandchildren and generations to come. There are more childhood illnesses out there then ever before. We must put in place a TSA system to help in protecting our precious loved ones. I am not an engineer to know what those systems should be, I’ll save that for the experts, but I will be an active participant and supporter of it going into place.
This morning I received a beautiful email written by Rabbi Biggs, titled Emor- Making it Count. He so eloquently wrote:
“this Shabbos we read in Parshas Emor the Mitzvah of Counting the Omer. On the second day of Passover, a special barley offering was brought in the Temple, the Korban Haomer. This was the celebration of the first new grain crop of the year, and none of the new harvest was allowed to be eaten until the Korban Haomer was brought. The word Omer is a measurement of grain.
The Midrash teaches that we received the Mitzvah of counting the Omer as a reward for our anxiousness to receive the Torah. When the Jewish people left Egypt, they were so imbued with anticipation that they counted the days until the Torah was given. In merit of their counting, we were given the Mitzvah of Sefirat Haomer. This teaches us that our feeling of joy towards a Mitzvah should be so great that we should be anxious to fulfill it.
The Mitzvah of Sefirat Haomer has a deep message. The Mitzvah consists of counting days. The Torah teaches us that we must make every day count. Every single day we should reach a level higher and bring the world a step closer to perfection. This is also hinted in the manner in which we count. Rather than counting “this is the thirty-fourth day,” we count “this is thirty four days.” This teaches us that each day we have the accomplishments of the previous days combined with the new heights of today. The word Sefirah has another meaning, which is illumination. By counting the days as we should, we bring illumination into every aspect of the world.
We also count the weeks and their relation to the days. This teaches us that every day stands not only for itself, but as part of a wider scheme. This concept of interconnection teaches us the importance of teamwork and harmony.
When the Torah describes the counting of the Omer, there is an apparent contradiction. The Torah says count seven weeks and also says to count fifty days. In fact, we count forty-nine days and celebrate the fiftieth day as Shavuot. Chassidic teachings explain that there are fifty gates of wisdom, forty-nine of which can be attained through human effort. Through attaining the heights that we can reach through counting forty-nine days, Hashem grants us the fiftieth gate. Since this is connected with our efforts, it is as though we counted and illuminated all fifty gates. The era of Moshiach parallels the fiftieth gate. The revelation will be completely beyond anything we can aspire to through our service of Hashem. Nevertheless, when we do our part, Hashem will do His.
Although the days between Pesach and Shavuot are generally days of mourning, Lag Ba’omer is a day of celebration. The celebration is connected with the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar. This has a connection with the Hebrew Lag, which has the same letters as the word Gal, which means uncover. One of the verses that refer to the teachings of the Zohar is “Uncover (gal) my eyes and allow me to see the wonders of Your Torah.” Although the passing of a great Tzaddik is generally a day of sadness, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai commanded that the day of his passing be a celebration, and referred to it as a Hillula, which means a wedding. The celebration is so great that the Ari Zal, a great Kabbalist in the 15th century, wrote that a student of his used to say special prayers of mourning for the Temple every day, including holidays. When Lag Ba’omer came, Rabbi Shimon came to him in a dream and warned him not to interfere with the joy of Lag Ba’omer with prayers of mourning.
Attending gatherings in honor and in celebration of Lag Ba’omer is a tremendous source of blessings. At his resting place in Meron, Israel there is a massive celebration.
The reason for the joy is because on the day of his passing he reached the pinnacle of his divine knowledge and was granted the ability to transmit his knowledge to his students, thereby eventually allowing the entire Jewish people to have greater depth in the mystical aspect of the Torah. Because the teaching of Kaballah fully permeated his being, he perceived everything through the eyes of Kaballah and only saw the inner meaning. As such, in his passing he saw only the culmination of his life’s work.
In Tanya it is explained that when we seek the good that is hidden in apparent negativity, the negative appearance ceases to exist and only the good remains. This is also a precursor to the times of Moshiach, when the knowledge of Hashem will fill the world as water fills the ocean bed.
The Talmud says that we can rely on Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in troubled times. May the merit Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai protect the Jewish people in these difficult times and may we speedily merit the coming of Moshiach when we will see the good behind all of our tribulations in exile.”
For those of you who were able to read thru it all, hopefully you will feel empowered and feel the joy this coming Sunday when we celebrate Lag Ba’Omer and hopefully the Geulla Shlema.