Friday, May 20, 2011

Sephardic traditions of Lag Ba'omer and rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai

Today is the 16th day of Iyar, 5771/ 31 days of Omer (4 weeks, 3 days)

Lag Ba'Omer (for Sephardic Jews is more accurate to say: "Lag la'Omer") is the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. The restrictions of mourning are lifted on this day and weddings, parties, etc. are permitted from this day on.

This year it will fall this coming Saturday night/ Sunday.

There are different opinions among Sephardic Jews regarding the suspension of restrictions of Omer before this specific Shabbat. Rab Obadia Yosef indicates to get a haircut Monday, the 34 of Omer. In the Mashadi community, rabbi Ben Hayim authorized to shave and get a haircut today, likhbod Shabbat Kodesh.

During the time of Rabbi Akiba (approx. 150 of the Common Era) 24,000 of his students died from a plague during these days of the Omer. Five of rabbi Akiva students survived, among them Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who became one of greatest teachers of Torah, and who is mostly known for authored the Sefer haZohar, "The book of splendor" the main book of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism).

According to tradition, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai passed away on the 33rd day of the Omer. Lag laOmer is known among Sepharadic Jews as a 'festive day', the Hillulah (wedding) of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. What does this mean?

Very briefly: During his lifetime -which included 12 years of isolation- Rabbi Shimon achieved the highest level of human attachment to God. The rabbis of the Kabbala called this level metaphorically "engagement" (Irusin). When a man is passionately and exclusively dedicated and engaged to God's service. If during his lifetime --the Rabbis of the Kabbalah explain-- one has achieved this superior level, then his departed soul will be "married" (I insist: metaphorically), in other words, intimately connected to, the Ziv haShekhina (the Almighty's Splendorous Presence) in the afterlife (Olam haBa).

Shabbat Shalom!

Candle lighting in NYC: 7:52

Shabbat ends in NYC 9:01

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Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024

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