Kuntres Lag B’Omer: Open My Eyes

This discourse starts with the words of Tehillim “Open my eyes and I shall gaze at [hidden] wonders from Your Torah” (“גל עיני ואביטה נפלאות מתורתך”).  This should immediately grab our attention, since the Rebbe called this year “I will show wonders” (“אראנו נפלאות”) and over the year would proceed to explain that all we need to do is “open our eyes”.  In this discourse the Rebbe explains to us what this means.

The verse mentioned above has a connection with Lag B’Omer (when the maamor was originally said, and when, 14 years later, it was published in 5751).  Because the word גל (“Gal” — Open [my eyes]”) contains the same letters as “Lag” B’Omer ל”ג בעומר.

Lag B’Omer is not only the day that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai appeared (to fleshly eyes) to pass away, but it was the day of “the main revelation” of the inner dimension of Torah.  As brought in the Zohar that Rashbi revealed “holy words that he had not revealed over the course of his life (because the things he revealed [at the time of his passing] were the highest matters, that even Rashbi had been afraid to reveal then prior to this”.   Who fails to see the bold hint here —  that the Rebbe, in the year before our fleshly eyes perceived 27 Adar and Gimmel Tammuz, is revealing the us (in Dvar Malchus) things which had not been revealed previously.

The Rebbe proceeds to address a simple question: if the inner dimension of Torah is concealed from us, then the request should be “reveal to me” the hidden matters.  But the verse requests instead “open my eyes” — implying that the concealment is due to the eyes and not to the matters being hidden from sight.

The answer is that the Torah was given in order that we will become elevated, becoming vessels in which Elokus can be revealed. And specifically in those matters which apply “down below” (such as eating, drinking, business, etc.).  In terms of “Your Torah” (to quote the posuk) this means perceiving the hidden dimension of Torah within the revealed dimension; the deep intentions (כוונות) which are enclothed in the mitzvos. In fact, the main refinement and purification of the lower beings (the main intent of the giving of the Torah, as mentioned above) takes place via the intentions of the mitzvos.

All of this is related to Rashbi and Lag B’Omer, as the other verse that contains a hint to this day is “this witness-mound of stones” (עד הגל הזה) that Yaakov Avinu built as a mechitza for Lavan that neither of them would cross.  As the Rebbe explains here, this mound of stones was never meant to be permanent (as opposed to a wall, which has permanence).  Rather, this mound of stones (“Tzimtzum” and concealment) was only constructed in order that Yisroel will do the work to remove it, and to reveal the inner dimension of the Tzimtzum itself.  This recognition — that the Tzimtzum is really for the sake of revelation (we could say by way of a moshol: like the father who hides from his son on order that the son will search for and find him) — is the accomplishment Rashbi, who refined this mechitza and brought about that the highest revelations could be perceived also in the lowest worlds.

This means that:

…the seeing of the wonders of Torah should be (not only because the wonders will be revealed, but rather)  because the Holy One, blessed be He, will open up the person’s eyes and the person will see the wonders of Torah in his own matters…that the Tzimtzum [the concealment which allows the dimension of “his own matters” to come into being] is really for the sake of revelation.”

In other words, the message of the year 5751, the year of “I will show wonders”, is that within matters that derive from the Tzimtzum itself, we should perceive the loftiest revelations of Elokus — in the  revealed world, in the revealed dimension of Torah.  And how can we possibly succeed to do that properly?  Through turning to Hashem and asking: “Open my eyes…”!

Lag B’Omer 5751

1. Today is a day of rejoicing and festivity, since Rabbi Shimon bar Yochaiproclaimed that Lag BaOmer is his day of celebration. The power of this celebration is reflected in the renown story of one of the sages during the era of the AriZal who was so strongly affected by sorrow over the destruction of theBeis HaMikdash that he would recite the prayer Nachaim every day — even on Shabbos and festivals. When, however, he recited this prayer on Lag BaOmer, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai protested “How is it possible that one could say Nachaim on this day of celebration?” and for this reason, the sage was punished.

On the surface, this is most unusual. In general, it is undesirable that a righteous person be punished and furthermore, that the narrative of his being punished become publicized within our Torah tradition. Indeed, we find that the Torah avoids making undesirable statements even in regard to animals. Surely, this principle should be applied when speaking about a person, and indeed a Torah scholar. Nevertheless, to emphasize the magnitude of the celebration of Lag BaOmer, this story is publicized.

Moreover, the celebration of Lag BaOmer has an affect on the entire world, even non-Jews as reflected in Rabbi Shimon’s statement, “I can free the entire world from judgment…”; “the entire world” also includes non-Jews.

Rabbi Shimon was on a level above that of the world at large; he alone was on the rung of Toraso Umanaso, “his Torah was his occupation.” Nevertheless, theZohar speaks of him in connection with “his company,” chevraya in Aramaic. The term chevraya relates to the word chibur, meaning “bond;” i.e., he established a bond of oneness with his students.

Here we see a connection to the Counting of the Omer. The mourning customs associated with this period were instituted because of the death of the students of Rabbi Akiva who died because they did not show honor to each other. It follows that in this period, there must be an emphasis on showing honor to one another and following the guidelines of Rabbi Akiva who taught, “ ’Love your neighbor as yourself’ is a basic principle of the Torah.”

This should be reflected in our declaration before beginning to pray “I accept upon myself the fulfillment of the positive commandment, ‘Love your fellowman as yourself.’ ” It is insufficient to merely think about the matter and make a resolution to that effect, one must make an actual statement. Similarly, the statement itself is insufficient and from this statement, the resolution must be drawn down in actual deed.

The first of the deeds of this nature is gifts to tzedakah, for “tzedakah brings the redemption near.” The redemption also relates to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai for his “freeing the entire world from judgment” also implies freeing them from exile. Thus, Rav Hillel Paritcher would explain that Rav Shimon bar Yochai was above the entire concept of exile.

This is alluded to in the manner in which Rabbi Shimon’s name is written in theZohar. Although the Talmud generally writes the name Yochai without an Alef(יוחי), in the Zohar that name is usually written with an Alef (יוחאי).Alef stands forEchad, “one,” which points to the unique level possessed by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai as reflected in the statement, “I have seen men of ascendancy and they are few…. If there is one, it is I.”

The Alef also has the potential to transform exile (גולה) into redemption (גאולה). When one adds an Alef (which stands for G‑d, Alufo shel olam), the exile ceases.

2. The unique quality expressed by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was elaborated upon by the Rebbe Maharash who explained that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was able to fuse the teachings of Pnimiyus HaTorah (Torah’s mystic dimensions) with the teachings of Nigleh (the revealed dimensions of Torah law). He would study Pnimiyus HaTorah with the clarity with which Nigleh is studied. Conversely, his study of Nigleh was infused with the vitality and energy which stems from Pnimiyus HaTorah.1

There is an intrinsic connection between these two sages, for there is a connection between the Sefirah of Tiferes sheb’Tiferes with which the RebbeMaharash is associated and the Sefirah Hod sheb’Hod which is associated with Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Generally the Counting of the Omer is associated with the Sefiros in the order beginning Chessed sheb’Chesed (which emphasizes revelation from above). There are times, however, when an emphasis is placed on the reverse order (which emphasizes the service of elevation from below). In the latter pattern, the counting begins from Malchussheb’Malchus. In the latter order, the 2nd of Iyar, the day usually associated with Tiferes sheb’Tiferes is associated with Hod sheb’Hod. And conversely, Lag BaOmer which is usually associated with Hod sheb’Hod is associated withTiferes sheb’Tiferes.

The above must be expressed in deed; firstly an emphasis on study, Toraso Umanaso, and particularly, the study of Pnimiyus HaTorah. This study must lead to an increase in ahavas Yisrael and thus, should be expressed in an increase in tzedakah. In this connection, coins will be distributed with the intent that its value be given to tzedakah, together with an additional amount by each recipient.2

May this lead to the redemption.3 And may we proceed together with the entire Jewish people “on the clouds of heaven,” to Eretz Yisrael, to Jerusalem, and to the Beis HaMikdash,4 “the Sanctuary of the L‑rd established by Your hands.”

(After the conclusion of the sichah, the Rebbe Shlita distributed a special coin minted for this occasion.)

Translation: Sichos In English