1. Lag BaOmer commemorates the passing away of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi). Rashbi instructed each and every Jew in his generation and in all succeeding generations to celebrate this day with “great joy,” for on this day Rashbi and the Holy One blessed be He were united in the loftiest fashion. This concept applies to all Jews, as stated: “The Jews should rejoice in their Maker,” and “G-d rejoices in His works (i.e. Jews).” Lag BaOmer gives special strength to this concept of joy of Jews in their unity with G-d. Although we cannot compare ourselves to Rashbi, we can nevertheless be successful in the above service. To illustrate with a parable: A small child cannot see far. But when a “giant” lifts the child on to his shoulders, the child can see a great distance. In our case, the service of Rashbi gives strength to all succeeding generations, comparable to the “giant” who with his strength raises the small child to the heights. When we utilize this strength properly, amidst joy, we will surely be extremely successful.
In addition to the general concept of the joy of Lag BaOmer, there are special lessons to be derived from Rashbi’s service, particularly applicable to Tzivos Hashem. The main task of Tzivos Hashem is to learn G-d’s Torah, such study being for the purpose of fulfilling mitzvos. This idea is expressed in this week’s parshah, which states “If you will walk in My statutes” — “that you shall toil in (the study of) the Torah,” “and my commandments you shall keep” — the fulfillment of mitzvos. This is done in the manner of “I will be your G-d and you shall be My people” — Jews know that G-d is their “Commander-In-Chief,” and therefore each Jew conducts himself according to G-d’s directives. This is particularly true of the “soldiers” of Tzivos Hashem, where conduct is based on doing first and understanding later. In addition to this general task of Tzivos Hashem of obeying the Commander-In-Chief, there is the “order of the day” (daily directive) associated with Lag BaOmer, derived from the special directives of Rashbi.
Rashbi, in the Zohar, emphasizes that one must have love of G-d, love of a fellow Jew, and love of the Torah — and such that all three are united into one: A Jew loves his fellow since he loves the Torah, and the Torah commands ‘You shall love your fellow as yourself;’ and love of the Torah and love of a Jew is because of one’s love of G-d (“You shall love the L-rd your G-d”).
Love of a Jew is emphasized in the teaching of Rashbi on the verse “How good and pleasant it is brothers sitting together.” Moreover, “Rabbi Akiva says: ‘You shall love your fellow as yourself’ is a basic principle of the Torah,” and Rabbi Akiva was Rashbi’s teacher. The special lesson from Lag BaOmer (the “order of the day”) then, is that one must make greater efforts in Ahavas Yisrael, together with love of the Torah and love of G-d.
When we conduct ourselves in this fashion, together with studying Torah and fulfilling mitzvos, we merit the blessings of G-d enumerated in this week’s parshah. This includes the blessing of “I will make you go upright — with erect stature;” even when Jews are in exile, they are still “upright” and “with erect stature.”
This concept is emphasized in the teaching of Rashbi. The Talmud (Megillah 29a) states: “Rashbi says: Come and see and how beloved Jews are before the Holy One blessed be He, for in every place they are exiled, the Divine Presence is with them.” A Jew, knowing G-d is together with him in exile, and goes with him, conducts himself in an “upright” fashion, and with “erect stature.”
Very soon we merit the complete fulfillment of the verse “I shall make you go upright” — in the true and complete redemption, as the above teaching of Rashbi continues: “And also when they will be redeemed in the future the Divine Presence is with them, as it states ‘The L-rd your G-d will return your captivity.’ The word in Hebrew for ‘return’ is first person inclusive, teaching that G-d returns with them from exile.” Simply put, G-d takes every Jew, including every boy and girl, and leads them out from exile, as stated: “And you will be gathered one by one, children of Israel.” Jewish children have great joy knowing that their proper conduct now hastens the redemption for themselves, their parents, all Israel, and the Divine Presence.
2. This year, Lag BaOmer is on Tuesday, when the words “It was good” were said twice (at creation) — “good for heaven and good for creatures.” This teaches us that each and everyone of you, in the midst of all Jews, must conduct yourselves in the manner of “good” (with love, kindness etc.), both in spiritual matters (“heaven”) and physical matters (“creatures”). This includes the idea of also encouraging others to become members of Tzivos Hashem, and to acquire a letter in the Sefer Torah.
Lag BaOmer being on Tuesday, the third day of the week, lends added emphasis to the preparations for receiving the Torah in the “third month.” Lag BaOmer is a special day in the days of Sefirah, which are a preparation to the “Season of the Giving of our Torah.” Hence, when Lag BaOmer falls on the third day, extra emphasis is laid on the preparations to receiving the Torah with joy and sincerity.
Preparation for the “Season of the Giving of our Torah” is also expressed in the resolution of each one of you to be present in the synagogue at the time of the reading of the “Ten Commandments” on Shavuos. This applies even to the youngest of children, for “You have ordained strength from the mouths of babes and sucklings to thwart the enemy” — through them the last vestiges of the exile are eliminated.
In practical terms: You should conduct yourselves consonant with the above lessons derived from Lag BaOmer, and to continue doing so afterwards. Through this we merit to go out from exile now, “with our youth and our elders, with our sons and our daughters,” with Tzivos Hashem in the forefront. Very speedily we shall come “with heavenly clouds” to our Holy Land in its fullness, together with our people and Torah in their fullness. In the Holy Land itself, we shall go to the holy city of Yerushalayim, to the third Bais HaMikdash. It is already built in heaven, and through Jews increasing in Torah and mitzvos, it will be revealed and come from heaven to its place on the Temple Mount in Yerushalayim, the capital city of the Holy Land. There we will merit to see “the face of the Master the L-rd” — to actually see G-dliness. Then we will also see Rashbi and all the great men of Israel in the Resurrection of the Dead, speedily in our time.
3. The great distinction and merit of Jewish children, in regard to not only themselves, but to all Jews and the redemption, is greatly emphasized in the prologue to the Zohar, the Torah of Rashbi. It states: “In the beginning: R. Shimon opened his discourse with the text ‘The blossoms appeared on the earth.’ The ‘blossoms’ are the forefathers (Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov) ... they ‘appeared on the earth’ and revealed themselves there ... if not for their appearance ... the world would not exist. And who is it that upholds the world and causes the forefathers to appear? It is the voice of tender children studying the Torah; and for their sake the world is saved.” In other words: Notwithstanding the strife in the world, and wars between the nations, the world is upheld and saved by the Torah study and fulfillment of mitzvos of children.
In connection with the above concerning the world being upheld by children, at this gathering of children we shall fulfill the three things upon which the world stands — “Torah, prayer and deeds of loving kindness.” Torah: the 12 verses and sayings of our Sages that were just recited. Prayer: at the end of this gathering, you shall say the prayer-associated with the redemption — “May it be the will before You, our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, that the Bais HaMikdash be built speedily in our days, and give our portion in Your Torah.” Since this prayer is associated with the greatest of joy, the joy of the future redemption, this prayer should be sung with the well-known tune among Jews. Tzedakah: I will give coins to every one of you to be given to Tzedakah on this auspicious day of Lag BaOmer. Also, you should sing the verse “They shall contrive schemes but they will be foiled, they shall make plans but they will not eventuate, for G-d is with us.”
Afterwards, you will go joyfully to the fields (as is customary for Jewish children on Lag BaOmer) to see the wonders G-d created in His world. This is also associated with the prologue of the Zohar quoted previously. “The verse states: ‘The blossoms appeared on the earth.’ The ‘blossoms’ refer to the work of creation. ‘Appeared on the earth’ — when? on the third day, as it is written ‘And the earth brought forth;’ they thus then appeared on the earth.” Hence, when you go now to the fields to see the trees and shrubs etc., you will certainly remember that they were created by G-d’s word on the third day. Through this you will remember that “A man is a tree of the field” — each person is given the strength to be a “tree which produces fruit,” through learning Torah and performing mitzvos.