Today is Lag B'Omer. One of the multiple factors contributing towards us commemorating this special day is that it is the day Rabbi Akiva's students stopped dying from a terrible "plague".
Rabbi Akiva began studying Torah at an advanced age; he only learned the Hebrew Aleph Beis at 40 years of age and became the leading scholar of his generation with over 24,000 students. Unfortunately, 23,995 of the students died all within 33 days. Imagine living in those times and, G-d forbid, witnessing almost 1000 of the greatest Rabbis dying each day, every day, then suddenly, the dying stops. Imagine how relieved you would feel, imagine how special this day would be for you every year in the future.
One of the greatest lessons from this is from what Rabbi Akiva did next. When his students passed away he was already quite elderly. Most people in his situation, having reached the pinnacle of his field then suffering such a huge loss, would just retire. Who would have the energy to start all over? However, starting over again is exactly what Rabbi Akiva did. He started again with 5 young students. What "big picture" foresight, what resilience, what determination and strength of character, what commitment and dedication.
In hindsight, Rabbi Akiva's dedication paid off in a far greater way than anyone could have ever imagined. These 5 students gave us the Mishna (the basis of the Talmud), the Zohar, a Targum (an interpretive translation of Tanach), Midrashim, and so much more. Essentially, Torah literature as we know it, came from these students and their students.
Without these 5 students being developed as only Rabbi Akiva could, the Torah's teachings would have been lost during our long exile.
From this we learn the importance of helping our children develop emotional and intellectual resilience, the ability to have foresight and to see the big picture, being able to commit to a cause, goal, or relationship, and a strength of character and determination to keep working towards one's goals.
This is part of an MMA education!
Wishing you much nachas & an amazing Shabbos,
Rabbi Yoseph Wernick
The week's Parsha, Emor (“Speak”) begins with the special laws pertaining to the kohanim (“priests”), the kohen gadol (“high priest”), and the service in the Beis HaMikdash: A kohen may not become ritually impure through contact with a dead body, except on the occasion of the death of a close relative. Laws of who a kohen may and may not marry. A kohen with certain physical deformities cannot serve in the Beis HaMikdash. Similarly, a deformed animal cannot be brought as an offering.
A newborn calf, lamb or kid must be left with its mother for seven days before being eligible for an offering; one may not slaughter an animal and its offspring on the same day.
The second part of Emor discusses special days in the Jewish calendar: Shabbos; Pesach, the bringing of the Omer offering from the first barley harvest on the second day of Pesach, and the commencement, on that day, of the 49-day Counting of the Omer, culminating in the festival of Shavuos on the fiftieth day; Rosh Hashana; Yom Kippur; Succos—during which we are to dwell in huts for seven days and take the “Four Kinds”; and the immediately following holiday of the “eighth day” of Sukkot (Shemini Atzeres).
Next, the Torah discusses the lighting of the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash, and the showbread (lechem hapanim) placed weekly on the table there.
Emor concludes with the the penalties for murder and for injuring one’s fellow or destroying his property.
Lag B’omer contains a plethora of vital Jewish teachings that enable us to grow in all areas of our Judaism. One of these teachings stems from the life of the holy Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Due to his verbal opposition to the Roman occupation of Israel, Rabbi Shimon and his son had to flee from the Romans, who wished to execute them. They found shelter in a cave, where they hid and studied Torah together for the next 13 years. It was the learning during this time that inspired Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s contributions to the Zohar. Despite the poor conditions of the cave, HaShem protected them, causing a carob tree to grow near the entrance of the cave, and creating a flowing stream of water for him.
Sometimes in life we are running from the things that seem unbearable to us. We find ourselves wandering, just trying to find safety and shelter. We must remember that wherever we go, HaShem is looking after us. Each and every day, HaShem is protecting us with everything that we need to succeed in our own given realities and predicaments.
To commemorate this episode, this week our students studied caves. They learned about how they are formed, their structure, what lives in caves, and the elements that stem from them. Students were able to construct their own caves as we learned more about their formation and the habitats that they create for various creatures. We also went in-depth into how stalactites and stalagmites are formed. The children were particularly fascinated about how some of them reach towards the sky and the others towards the ground.
Gut Shabbos from your MMA Family!