A Light for the Ages
ויאמר ה' אל משה אמור אל הכהנים בני אהרן ואמרת אליהם לנפש לא נטמא בעמיו.
“And Hashem spoke to Moshe: ‘Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and speak to them: Do not become impure to a [deceased] soul among your people.’”
Rashi comments: “Why does the verse say the word emor/emarta (speak) twice? So that the older ones should admonish the younger ones.”
We know that in previous generations there lived very great men, especially in the times of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai. Rebbe Shimon elevated his entire generation and even the regular people of his times became closer to Hashem. In fact, Rebbe Shimon’s disciples feared what would happen after their master’s passing and declared that there would never again be a generation that would have the greatness of Rebbe Shimon’s times.
What can be said for our generation, so many centuries after Rebbe Shimon’s times? We live in a very difficult era, when the forces of impurity are gathering strength and we do not have the spiritual fortification to defend ourselves. It is a time of Divine concealment, a time when Hashem hides His Face, so to speak. We need tremendous mercy in order to remain pure in the face of the serious threats to our spiritual continuance. How can we fulfill the commandment to “not become impure in the soul?” How can we remain on guard and maintain our purity?
Before Rebbe Shimon’s passing he revealed many mystical secrets of the Torah, and his disciple Rebbe Abba wrote it all down. This is the holy Zohar, the sefer that contains the hidden light of the world. The Zohar was hidden for several generations and was only revealed in later times. Why was this done?
Hashem knew in advance how each generation would develop. The great light that permeated the world in the times of Rebbe Shimon is the light that is being kept hidden for the tzaddikim (righteous men) during the times of Moshiach. In the times of Rebbe Shimon, the generation was on a high spiritual level. The Zohar was put away for later times, when darkness would descend upon the world and the Jewish people would be groping in the dark, searching for meaning and elevation. At that time, the Zohar would be revealed and it would help the people stay connected to the Torah. In fact, it says in the Zohar that in the final era before the coming of Moshiach, even little children will converse in the secrets of the Torah.
This is hinted at in the above-mentioned verse. The word “speak” is used twice, hinting at the Zohar which was given to us two times, once in the times of Rebbe Shimon, and again when it was revealed to us in later generations. Why indeed was this necessary? Rashi explains: so that the older ones should admonish the younger ones. The word l’hazhir (admonish) has the same root as the word zohar – light. We can now read Rashi’s words as follows: “So that the great light [which shone in the times of Rebbe Shimon] should shine upon the small ones.” The great light of Torah that illuminated the world should be shone upon us in the final era before the Redemption, so that we too should benefit from its light. This would enable us to stay connected to Hashem, and thus fulfill the commandment to remain pure “among your people.”
The Torah adds the world b’amov – among your people, which shows that as long as a person is still a member of Klal Yisroel, he has hope of using this light to find his way in the darkness. We know that even a small flame can dispel much darkness; so too, the slightest step that a person takes to be connected to the light of Torah will dispel much of the darkness in his life.
When reciting havdalah (the blessing at the conclusion of Shabbos), we light a candle and benefit from its light. The Gemara tells us that it is preferable to use an avuka (torch), and therefore we use a special havdalah candle with multiple wicks. But when darkness descends upon the world, we need an even greater light. This is why a large fire is being lit on Lag b’Omer at the gravesite of Rebbe Shimon, to show that in our times we need a large fiery blaze to dispel the choking darkness. We need to hold on to the Zohar and all holy teachings of the Torah in order to avoid stumbling in the dark. And since in our times we need this light desperately, more than ever before, we have the practice of lighting a fire on Lag b’Omer even in other communities around the world, not just in Meron. We need to spread the light of Torah in every manner and at every opportunity, for this is our only chance of survival in exile.
May Hashem illuminate the world with His light and infuse every person with the light of Torah. May every person be helped with whatever he needs, and may we all merit greeting Moshiach speedily, in our days, Amein.