Sefer Ephesians And Lag B’Omer

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

 


Introduction. 1

Hakham Akiba. 2

Hakham Shimon ben Yochai (Rashbi) 4

Time Frames. 5

Lag B’Omer Customs. 7

Burning Clothes. 7

Ashkenaz Marriages are Permitted. 10

Sephardim permit Marriages on Iyar 19. 10

Bows and Arrows. 11

Bonfires. 12

First haircuts. 14

Rejoicing at Rashbi’s tomb. 14

Granting smikha. 15

Other Events of Iyar Eighteen. 16

The plague (Askera) stopped. 16

The mabul began. 18

The Manna began. 19

Yeshua ascended on Lag B’Omer. 20

Hakham Shimon ben Yochai died. 21

Secrets of the Torah were revealed. 21

Bimodal Aspects. 21

Tov – Good (Beneficial) 23

Torah Readings. 23

Barley. 25

Ephesians Chapter I 26

Ephesians Chapter II 30

Ephesians Chapter III 31

Ephesians Chapter IV.. 33

Ephesians Chapter V.. 37

Ephesians Chapter VI 40

 

Tehillim (Psalms) 119:18 Uncover (גל) my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

 

Introduction

 

In this study I would like to explore the connections between Lag B’Omer[1] and Sefer Ephesians. I will be using the translation of Hakham Dr. Yosef ben Haggai, for sefer Ephesians. This translation was made in an attempt to faithfully translate the Greek in consonance with the teaching of our Sages.

 

Lag B’Omer, on Iyar eighteen, is located at a most significant point in the omer period; it marks the transition that takes place within a person who engages in this counting, from a state of contracting and correcting oneself to one of ascent and elevation towards the spiritual climax, the festival of Matan Torah (on Shabuot – the feast of Weeks), the giving of the Torah! Further, Lag B’Omer is a day of transcendence. All of the events, stories, and customs deal with the interface between this world and the next.

 

Lag B’Omer (the 33rd day of the Omer count) is characterized by the sefirah of Hod sheb’Hod, Glory in Glory. This sefira is intimately associated with Aaron the High Priest and by inference it is associated with Yeshua The High Priest.

 

Lag B’Omer is a happy day on which the sad prayer of tachanun is not recited.[2] In recent history, Lag B’Omer may very well be the single largest annual gathering of observant Jews anywhere.

 

Lag B’Omer, like sefer Ephesians, carries the theme of Ahavat Israel, the imperative to love and respect one’s fellow and is a time to celebrate Jewish unity by gathering with men, women, and children to show our love and passion for one another.

 

Lag B’Omer and sefer Ephesians both deal with the secrets of the future Messianic Age. They both deal with the lessons that are necessary to achieve that glorious age.

 

When I was in my early 20s, I memorized sefer Ephesians. While I can no longer rattle it off as I once could, never the less much still remains of those memories. This memorization enabled me to notice the stunning connections between what is written in sefer Ephesians and what our Hakhamim teach about Lag B’Omer. In this study I would like to spell out some of these connections.

 

Before we jump into sefer Ephesians, I need to provide some background on the personalities, symbols, and customs that dominate this joyous day. Lets start by looking at one of the greatest Hakhamim that the world has ever known, Hakham Akiba.[3]

 

Hakham Akiba

 

Hakham Akiba ben Yosef was a true Torah giant; his halachic rulings were recorded by his students and became the normative mode of conduct for all Jews.

 

The Gemara comments that when a Mishna is recorded without mentioning the name of the sage, that means that it was said by Hakham Meir.

 

When we find a similar nameless passage in the Tosefta, we know that it was said by Hakham Nechemiah.

 

An anonymous Sifra is attributed to Hakham Yehudah.

 

And an unnamed Sifrei to Hakham Shimon.

 

The Gemara concludes, “and they are all according to Hakham Akiba”.[4] Rashi explains, “They all said these words from what they had learned from Hakham Akiba”.[5] This teaches us that Rabbi Akiba and his talmidim were the living embodiment of Torah shebalpeh, oral Torah. They were the masorah, they were The Gospel!

 

Oral Torah (Torah shebaal peh) underwent a fundamental change in the two generations after Hakham Akiba, during a period of relative peace with the Romans. The leader of the Jewish people at that time was Hakham Yehuda the Prince, who had a uniquely positive relationship with the Emperor of Rome, Antoninus Marcus Aurelius.[6] At that time, Hakham Yehuda (Rebbe), wrote down all of the verified opinions of the oral Torah into what we call the Mishna. But this process of preserving the oral tradition in written form began two generations earlier, when Hakham Akiba did not lose faith with the deaths of his students, but rather started over with his students in the South. First he systemized the streams of oral Torah that been handed down since Sinai. It was his student,[7] Meir, who wrote the clear and concise language of the Mishna, which was finally written down in the next generation by Rebbe and his court. These final preparations for the redaction of the oral Torah are perhaps what the Talmud means when it says, “and they stabilized Torah at that time.”


This vital work, the preservation of the mesorah, would not have happened without the incredible optimism of Hakham Akiba, who in his old age was forced to start over, with five new talmidim, after losing his entire academy of twelve thousand pairs of  talmidim. The loss of Hakham Akiba’s students was more than can be measured in sheer numbers.

 

Hakham Akiba’s 12,000 pairs of students died during the sefirah period, with the exception of this day, the eighteenth of Iyar.[8] They died because they did not respect one another.[9] Thus a period of mourning[10] ensued with no haircuts, no marriages, no rejoicing, that is widely observed today. This poses a small problem as we know that many more people died at the destruction of the Temple, fifty years earlier. Why then do we mourn over these twelve thousand pairs? The short answer is that we mourn not for their lives, but for their Torah. They were the hope of Torah shebaal peh (oral Torah) for the next generation. Their deaths represented the death of the oral Torah. For this we mourn. However, I am getting a bit ahead of myself. We shall examine this subject in greater detail a bit later.

 

Getting back to Hakham Akiba, it is important to know that Hakham Akiba and sefer Ephesians both emphasized the importance of Jewish unity. The Midrash records Hakham Akiba’s words:

 

Midrash Rabbah Kohelet 11: ‘I had 24,000 disciples from Geves to Antiperes, all of whom died during my lifetime [between Pesach and Shabuot]. In the end, I had seven disciples,

Hakham Yehuda Ben Ilai,

Hakham Nechemiah,

Hakham Meir,

Hakham Yosi Ben Chalafta,

Hakham Shimon Ben Yochai,

Hakham Eliezer the son of Hakham Yosi HaGalili and

Hakham Yochanan HaSandlar.

The earlier disciples died because they envied the Torah accomplishments of their colleagues. You the later disciples must not repeat their error.’ Immediately, they succeeded in filling all of Eretz Israel with Torah.’

 

Hakham Akiba said some things that are also significant topics in sefer Ephesians. The following quote from the Mishna details one of the sayings:

 

Avoth 3:17 Hakham Akiba said that Jesting and frivolity lead a man to immorality. Tradition (mesorah – gospel) is a fence around the Torah, tithes are a fence to riches; vows are a fence to self-restraint, and a fence to wisdom is silence.

 

The following pesukim from sefer Ephesians reflect this saying:

 

Ephesians 5:4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

 

Ephesians 1:13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

 

Ephesians 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Mashiach by the gospel:

 

Ephesians 6:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

 

Ephesians 6:19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.

 

Ephesians 4:28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

 

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

 

Hakham Akiba was the armor-bearer for Bar Kokhba. Hakham Akiba believed Bar Kokhba to be the Mashiach ben Yosef. He realised that he was wrong when Bar Kokhba was killed by the Romans. The Messianic expectations were related to Lag B’Omer as the Mashiach comes at the interface between this world and the next, which is the principal concern of Lag B’Omer. The messianic age begins two hundred and ten years before the year 2000.[11] The messianic age is the interface between the present age and the Olam HaBa, the World To Come.

 

Hakham Akiba was the quintessence of Torah shebaal peh, the oral Torah, as can be see in what he transmitted to his talmidim.

 

Menachoth 29b Rab Judah said in the name of Rab, When Moses ascended on high he found the Holy One, blessed be He, engaged in affixing coronets to the letters. Said Moses, ‘Lord of the Universe, Who stays Thy hand?’ He answered, ‘There will arise a man, at the end of many generations, Akiba b. Joseph by name, who will expound upon each tittle heaps and heaps of laws’. ‘Lord of the Universe’, said Moses; ‘permit me to see him’. He replied, ‘Turn thee round’. Moses went and sat down behind eight rows [and listened to the discourses upon the law]. Not being able to follow their arguments he was ill at ease, but when they came to a certain subject and the disciples said to the master ‘Whence do you know it?’ and the latter replied ‘It is a law given unto Moses at Sinai’ he was comforted. Thereupon he returned to the Holy One, blessed be He, and said, ‘Lord of the Universe, Thou hast such a man and Thou givest the Torah by me!’ He replied, ‘Be silent, for such is My decree’.

 

Now that we have briefly examined Hakham Akiba, let us examine one of Hakham Akiba’s most outstanding students, Hakham Shimon ben Yochai.

 

Hakham Shimon ben Yochai (Rashbi)

 

Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer Count is the day of the passing of Hakham Shimon ben Yochai, who lived in the 2nd generation after the Temple’s destruction, about 1,900 years ago. Hakham Shimon is the author of the Zohar,[12] Mechilta,[13] and of hundreds of laws and teachings cited in the Talmud. He played a fundamental rule in the history of the Torah’s transmission through the centuries, in both its revealed[14] face as well as its esoteric[15] soul. This esoteric soul is a taste of the next world, it is the essence of Lag B’Omer.

 

If there is one thing that characterizes Hakham Shimon ben Yochai’s life it is that he inhabited a reality that, for most of us, still lies in the future: The reality of Mashiach, the messianic world of redemption, harmony, and perfection. It is said of Hakham Shimon that, for him, the Holy Temple was never destroyed, the people of Israel never entered the state of galut (physical exile and spiritual alienation), and the world had attained the divine perfection of the Age of Mashiach.

 

Rabbi Shimon’s approach to Jewish law is distinct from that of his opponent Rabbi Yehudah and the other sages. Rabbi Shimon places importance on the thought (kavanah) behind the action while Rabbi Yehudah looks at the act itself. This attitude will pervade all of his contributions to Torah Shebaal peh and will enable us to glimpse his important contributions.

 

Hakham Shimon ben Yochai was the talmid par excellence and bore the quintessence of Hakham Akiba’s teachings, as we can see from the Gemara:

 

Gittin 67a So too said R. Simeon to his disciples: My sons, learn my rules, since my rules are the cream of the cream of R. Akiba’s.

 

At this point we have learned that Hakham Akiba WAS THE ORAL TORAH. Why then do we focus Lag B’Omer on Hakham Yochai, the talmid? Why not focus on the teacher?

 

The Pri Tzadik answers this question by pointing to a brutal fact. Hakham Akiba had defied the Romans; and for that, the Romans had killed him. In view of the the Romans’ continuing domination of Eretz Israel, it was totally out of the question to commemorate Hakham Akiba’s passing; for the Romans would have treated such a celebration as rebellion. Hence, the shift, as a cover, to Hakham Shimon ben Yochai, Hakham Akiba’s prime student!

 

This leads us to an even larger understanding: Hakham Akiba is also a stand-in for an even greater personality: Mashiach!

 

Now that we have touched on the personalities associated with Lag B’Omer, let us look at the time frames for these great Hakhamim and the hakhamim of sefer Ephesians.

 

Time Frames

 

To begin to understand the connections between sefer Ephesians and Lag B’Omer it will be necessary to note the time frame when each of the personalities died. This will help us gain some perspective of how they relate to the events associated with Lag B’Omer.

 

Paul of Tarsus lived until about 67 c.e. This great Hakham wrote sefer Ephesians.

 

Simon ben Kochba lived until 136 c.e. Ben Kochba was declared to be Mashiach by Hakham Akiba. This appelation was subsequently withdrawn.

 

Hakham Akiba ben Yosef lived until 135 c.e.

 

Hakham Shimon ben Yochai lived until 160 c.e.

 

From these dates we can understand that sefer Ephesians was written years before the primary events that are ascribed to Lag B’Omer. This suggests that the events associated with Hakham Akiba’s talmidim are a picture of the real events that shape the energies of Lag B’Omer. The same can be said for the Lag B’Omer events in Hakham Shimon ben Yochai life.

 

We need to explain something he touched upon that the Nazareans were pioneers on Zohar understanding, and that the Apostles were the first to bring that understanding down to earth and NOT Ben Yochai! The principle ideas of the Zohar were already well known by the Disiciples of the Master.

 

It is important to understand that Chazal have not identified the Torah roots for the celebration of Lag B’Omer. In fact, we see almost no historical record of this minor festival until fifty years of the destruction of the seconf Beit HaMikdash, the second Temple. This does NOT mean that there is no Torah root. It merely means that Chazal have concealed this root.

 

From the previous paragraph we can understand that sefer Ephesians may have the very real possibility of bringing more information to our understanding of Lag B’Omer. Never the less, the traditions that surround Lag B’Omer should find roots in sefer Ephesians.

 

Consider the following:

 

Shimon Ben Kokhba was thought to be Mashiach by Hakham Akiba ben Yosef in the same way that Yeshua was understood to be Mashiach by His disciples. Is it possible that the people and the stories concerning Lag B’Omer are a series of symbols used to cover-up the understanding that Lag B’Omer was all about Yeshua and His Disciples, and was the primary subject of sefer Ephesians? Consider Hakham Akiba’s twelve thousand pairs of talmidim hint to the twelve Apostles and that Yeshua’s talmidim went out two-by-two[16]? Hakham Akiba began to study at forty, in the same way that Yeshua started a new mission, as Mashiach ben David around 40. As Hakham Akiba bore arms for his Mashiach, so Hakham Tzefet bore arms for Yeshua. As Hakham Akiba’s talmidim brought Torah Shebaal Peh to the world, so Yeshua’s talmidim brought Torah to both the Jewish and the Gentile world.

 

Hakham Shimon ben Yochai wrote the mystical sefer called the Zohar (Shining Light) in the same way that Yochanan wrote the mystical works of ‘John’ and Revelation in the Nazarean Codicil.

 

Sukkah 45b Hezekiah further stated in the name of R. Jeremiah who said it in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai, I am able to exempt the whole world from judgment from the day that I was born until now, and were Eliezer, my son, to be with me [we could exempt it] from the day of the creation of the world to the present time, and were Jotham the son of Uzziah with us, [we could exempt it] from the creation of the world to its final end.

 

Hakham Shimon said, “I have the power to correct the entire world; I can exempt the whole world from judgment.”[17] In the same way, Yeshua can exempt the world from judgment.[18] Note also that he could exempt the whole world. This includes the Gentiles as well! This concords well with sefer Ephesians which focuses on the Gentiles and their place in the body:

 

Ephesians 2:11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

 

Ephesians 3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Yeshua Mashiach for you Gentiles,

 

Ephesians 3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Mashiach by the gospel:

 

Ephesians 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Mashiach;

 

Ephesians 4:17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

 

The giving of the Torah took place with Israel and the erev rav.[19] Yeshua came to the Jewish people and sent His talmidim to the Jews and also to the erev rav (Gentiles in the Exodus).

 

The law is like Hakham Shimon for most issues when it concerns the Shabbat Halakot.[20] Yeshua also is Lord of the Shabbat.[21]

 

Hakham Shimon ben Yochai alone was given permission to reveal the great mysteries contained in the hidden teachings.[22] Ephesians talks quite a bit about mysteries as well:

 

Ephesians 1:9 Having made known to us [Jews] the secret [interpretation] of His [G-d’s] will according to His [G-d’s] good pleasure which He [G-d] purposed in Himself,

 

Ephesians 3:3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,

 

Ephesians 3:4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Mashiach)

 

Ephesians 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Yeshua Mashiach:

 

Ephesians 5:32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Mashiach and the church.

 

Ephesians 6:19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

 

On the 33rd Day of the Omer many, many years ago, Hakham Shimon ben Yochai’s powers to bring help and salvation to all of Am Israel increased manifold.[23] In the same way, Yeshua brought salvation to the whole world.[24]

 

* * *

 

There are two periods to the omer count. The first 32 days and the last seventeen days. Lag B’Omer is a transition point between the first two thirds of the sefirah period and the last third. Lag B’Omer marks a transition where we begin to ascend to Matan Torah.

 

These two time periods represent how we should study and understand the Torah. The Gemara tells us that when studying, “a person should first amass information, and then afterwards he should apply himself to understanding it all”.

 

Shabbath 63a R. Kahana objected to Mar son of R. Huna: But this refers to the words of the Torah? — A verse cannot depart from its plain meaning, he replied. R. Kahana said: By the time I was eighteen years old I had studied the whole Shas, yet I did not know that a verse cannot depart from its plain meaning. until to-day. What does he inform us? — That a man should study and subsequently understand.

 

In other places,[25] these two stages are defined as Chochmah (a broad knowledge base) and Binah or Daat (in-depth analysis). During the first 32 days of the Omer-count, a person is expected to prepare himself to receive the Torah by amassing information, or Chochmah. The subsequent days are for analyzing what one has learned. (It is interesting to note that Chazal describe the thirty-two pathways of Chachmah[26]).

 

Sefer Ephesians sits on the line while admonishing us to get understanding.

 

Ephesians 1:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

 

Ephesians 4:18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

 

Ephesians 5:17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

 

Lag B’Omer Customs

 

We need to collate the customs and correlate them to Ephesians.

 

We have several Lag B’Omer customs. These customs will be used to help us gain some understanding of this mini-holiday and they will also enable us to see connections between these customs and sefer Ephesians.

 

The customs of Lag B’Omer are in green bold type.

 

Burning Clothes

 

Many have the custom to burn expensive clothing at the grave of Hakham Yochai. While there have been some authorities that have forbidden this practice because we are not allowed to purposely destroy things without a valid reason. Never the less some authorities do permit the burning of expensive clothing on Lag B’Omer.

 

The burning of clothes on Lag B’Omer is related to the following Gemara. As we shall see, there is much more that we can learn from this Gemara then just the burning of clothes.

 

Shabbat 33b So they (R. Simeon and R. Eleazar) went and hid in a cave. A miracle occurred and a carob-tree and a water well were created for them. They would strip their garments and sit up to their necks in sand. The whole day they studied; when it was time for prayers they robed, covered themselves, prayed, and then put off their garments again, so that they should not wear out. Thus they dwelt twelve years in the cave. Then Elijah came and stood at the entrance to the cave and exclaimed, Who will inform the son of Yohai that the emperor is dead and his decree annulled? So they emerged. Seeing a man ploughing and sowing, they exclaimed, ‘They forsake life eternal and engage in life temporal!’ Whatever they cast their eyes upon was immediately burnt up. Thereupon a Heavenly Echo came forth and cried out, ‘Have ye emerged to destroy My world: Return to your cave!’ So they returned and dwelt there twelve months, saying, ‘The punishment of the wicked in Gehenna is [limited to] twelve months.’ A Heavenly Echo then came forth and said, ‘Go forth from your cave!’ Thus.’; they issued: wherever R. Eleazar wounded, R. Simeon healed. Said he to him, ‘My son! You and I are sufficient for the world.’On the eve of the Sabbath before sunset they saw an old man holding two bundles of myrtle and running at twilight. What are these for?’ they asked him. ‘They are in honour of the Sabbath,’ he replied. ‘But one should suffice you’?-One is for ‘Remember-’ and one for ‘Observe.’ Said he to his son, ‘See how precious are the commandments to Israel.’ Thereat their minds were tranquilized.

 

This interesting Gemara needs to be unpacked a bit so that we can understand what is going on. Remember that Gemara is remez literature. This means that the various items are hints to something far deeper. Before I begin to unpack this, let me note that there are some who say that Hakham Shimon ben Yochai and his son exited the cave on Lag B’Omer.[27]

 

Okay, lets examine some of the items mentioned in this Gemara.

 

The Gemara indicates that Hakham Yochai and his son were buried up to their necks. The neck is what the Torah uses when it is hinting to the connection between heaven and earth, between the upper world of the head and the lower world of the body. Thus the picture presented is that of two humans who are a part of the earth (buried in the sand as it will be buried in death) and at the same time they are connected to the upper world in their total focus. Additionally, the burial means that there is no more movement. There is no more doing and no more going. This is what happened at Matan Torah when HaShem spoke, there was no movement anywhere on earth.[28] The meaning of this is clear. We move because we have needs. When all of our needs are met, there is no more movement. Being buried up to the neck effectively buried the body and negated it. Hakham Yochai and his son no longer had bodies. This is an allusion to the Olam HaBa, the World To Come.

 

What is the meaning of the carob tree? We know that a carob tree takes seventy years to bear fruit. [29] So, not only was the sprouting of this tree miraculous, but the time to produce fruit was equally miraculous. Chazal teach that the years of a man are seventy years.[30] This teaches us that the carob tree fruit is something which is beyond the lifetime of a man. Further, seventy years is the years of the Babylonian exile.[31] This suggests that this tree is suggesting that we are looking at the age beyond the current exile. As the carob is sweet, so we would expect that the end of the exile will be a time of sweetness. Finally, we can also view the fruiting of the carob tree as a return to the state we had in Gan Eden. In Gan Eden when one planted a tree he ate of it’s fruit the same day! This carob tree suggests that Hakham Yochai and his son had returned to Gan Eden as it was before the sin of Adam HaRishon. This “return to the future” is what is spoken of in Kohelet:

 

Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

 

Just as an aside, the Ben Ish Chai tells us that the carobs tasted like the manna. This makes another connection that we need to note: As the manna was miraculous and helped the people to receive Torah on Shavuot, so also was the carob miraculous and helped Hakham Yochai and his son receive Torah secrets. Thus we learn that the Torah is only given to those who eat manna, to those who become a part of Mashiach.

 

The cave, during second Temple days, was a place where people were buried. A cave also has the connotation of a connection. So, for example, the cave at Machpela was said to be the connection to Gan Eden. Thus a cave is a portal to the next world. In some way we would say that Hakham Shimon ben Yochai was in Olam HaBa even while he was still in this world. Hakham Shimon ben Yochai and his son exited the cave on Lag B’Omer. To suggest that this portal is related to Lag B’Omer.

 

Why does the Gemara tell us that Hakham Yochai was commanded to go back to his cave? As a hiding place, he surely didn’t own it. We can see by what happened that his cave was quite unique. While most go into their cave and never come back out in this world, Hakham Shimon went to his cave and came back out. Because he could come and go, this cave was called his cave. It was as though death had no power over him.

 

The well of water is another interesting symbol. Throughout the Torah we see that whenever we see water we always are speaking of Torah. A well is dug by human effort. It is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. The water on the other hand, is entirely up to HaShem. No amount of human effort will create or produce water. Taken together, these two indicate significant human effort combined with the blessing of HaShem is required to derive the secrets of the Torah.

 

The Midrash relates[32] that three of the greatest men of the Torah encountered their future wives at wells of water. Their names were Yitzchak, Yaaqob, and Moses. This suggests that the well of water in the cave is a place where Hakham Yochai and his son meet Mashiach, their future spouse.

 

This teaches us that Hakham Yochai and his son have Torah at their fingertips, but this did not come except through their great labor.

 

The twelve years, plus one, are a clear allusion to the tribes of Israel which are always listed as twelve, yet there are thirteen if one were to list them all.

 

Hakham Shimon ben Yochai took off his clothes to study Torah in order to show that he had stepped out of his body (which is like a suit of clothes) to a higher level. When he would pray for the physical, he would put on his clothes (he would step back into his body). In the same way, when we burn clothes, on Lag B’Omer, we are connecting with the idea that this body is like a set of clothes which we can shed at will to achieve a higher world. The burning is an allusion to the conversion of the physical (clothes) into the spiritual (fire). Another way to understand their lack of clothes is to view them like Adam HaRishon before the sin. The Torah teaches that Adam and Chava were naked and unashamed.[33] This suggests that Hakham Yochai and his son had returned to Gan Eden as it was before Adam’s sin.

 

The sand effectively negates the needs of the body. Our Gemara has nothing to say about excretion. The lack of excretion was also seen in the wilderness when we came out of Egypt. Thus our closeness with HaShem and our supernatural food (manna in the wilderness and carob in the cave) combine to show that there is no more evil to be separated from the good. There is only the good. The manna fell at ones feet if he were righteous and involved in the study of Torah. It was ready-to-eat without any preparation. In the same way, the carobs were at their fingertips and they required no preparation.

 

The end of this Gemara shows how those in the mundane world still have a taste of the Olam HaBa through their honoring and guarding of Shabbat. They use their labor of the six days to connect to the Shabbat. They picture the six thousand years of labor followed by the Messianic age when all will be Shabbat. This seventh millenium is itself a prelude to the Olam HaBa. In this seventh millenium, we will still have going and doing as pictured by the old man. Never the less, in the messianic age we will be connecting with Shabbat through all of our actions.

 

When Hakham Yochai and his son caused things to burn up, this is the reminder of the bonfires and of the renewal of the earth at the end of the age. HaShem stopped this fire because it was not yet time for this renewal. Thus Hakham Yochai and his son go back to the cave for twelve months. The Gemara indicates that this is analagous to the wicked spending twelve months in Gehenna. So the cave symbolizes death and then the cave symbolizes the dead in Gehenna.

 

When Hakham Yochai encounters the old man on erev Shabbat, we learn another significant thing about time. This time, just before Shabbat starts, is the time when this world ‘kisses’ the next world. This time speaks to the messianic age when we nned to hurry to make last minute preparations for the messianic age and the Olam HaBa. The sweetness of the myrtle (taken by Sephardim for Shabbat evening) is given to remind of the two Shabbat commands to guard and to remember. We recall that the sweet smell of the myrtle is to give pleasure to the additional soul that we receive on Shabbat. The sense of smell is the sense of the soul. At this time we give precedence to the soul rather than to the body. After all, it is how the righteous judge. This time just before Shabbat is the time when Adam HaRishon was created. This teaches us that man was not made for work, but rather he was made for the messianic age and the Olam Haba. This time when man was created is ripe for redemption, it is ripe for the mitzvot of Shabbat and of the messianic age. As we have mentioned before, Hakham Shimon ben Yochai and his son exited the cave on Lag B’Omer. They exited at this time just before Shabbat. They exited when this world kisses the next world. This time of ‘kissing’ is the time of Lag B’Omer.

 

The Gemara tells us that Elija came to announce to Hakham Yochai that he and his son could leave the cave. Why Elijah? When we hear Elijah coming, we hear the echos of the prophet Malachi who is sent before Mashiach to prepare the way for the messianic era.[34] Thus we have a hint to the fact that this Gemara is speaking of the time just before the messianic era, an era where we begin our return to Gan Eden. This is the beginning that starts on Lag B’Omer.

 

Now, why does our Gemara include both Hakham Yochai and Hakham Eleazar, his son? If we go back to our observation that the focus of Lag B’Omer is Hakham Yochai in order to deflect the Romans from focusing on Hakham Akiba who is the teacher and the greater of the two. Remembering this observation suggests that the cave contains the teacher (Hakham Akiba) and his talmid (Hakham Yochai) with Hakham Yochai and his son as stand-ins for Hakham Akiba and Hakham Yochai. This also explains why Hakham Yochai does all the talking. This explanation is reinforced when we understand that the relationship of a teacher and his talmid is a remez to the relationship of a father to his son.

 

Taken together, this Gemara is showing us the nature of the the Olam HaBa. This is a world without movement. A world where Israel can study Torah without the cares of this world interrupting us. It is a world when Mashiach is the head and Israel is in a marriage covenant with HaShem. It is a world without sin, hunger, thirst, or any worry. A carefull reading of Sefer Ephesians shows many of these same symbols with a similar understanding.

 

Ashkenaz Marriages are Permitted

Sephardim permit Marriages on Iyar 19.[35]

 

Marriage is an allusion to our relationship with Mashiach and with HaShem. Lag B’Omer is the day when we see marriage as the purpose of the Olam HaBa. The intimacy and the connection with HaShem can only be achieved when we are without sin as pure bride without spot or blemish.[36]

 

Bows and Arrows

 

A bow and arrow are the tools of a hunter. Jews are admonished not to hunt. In fact the occupation of wicked men is hunting. That is is why Nimrod and Esau were hunters. They were hunters because they were wicked. So why are Jewish children playing with bows and arrows?

 

Our Hakhamim teach that there are a couple of reasons why children play with bows and arrows on Lag B’Omer. Each of these reasons is connected to the Torah.

 

The bow teaches us about Torah. The closer a bow is pulled towards your heart the more effective it becomes. In the same way, Torah has to be pulled to our heart and the closer it gets, the more effective it becomes. Hakham Shimon ben Yochai taught that Torah is effective only with the proper intention (kavanah). Therefore, we illustrate this for our children by teaching them about how a bow is used.

 

The custom of children playing with bows and arrows on Lag B’omer has been traced by some to the rainbow, that symbolizes destruction, as well as eventual peace. A rainbow (A rainbow is a bow turned towards HaShem and the harmless side is pointed towards His people in peace) did not appear[37] during the lifetime of Hakham Shimon ben Yochai, because of his merit.[38] In sefer Ephesians we see the emphasis on peace as can be found in a bow which is pointed in peace, as we will see shortly in more detail.

 

Another reason offered for the bows and arrows custom is to recall the Roman decree forbidding any Torah study. As such, Hakham Shimon ben Yochai and his students would head to the forests equipped with their bows and arrows in order to study Torah there. When they would be found and questioned by the Roman policeman they would claim that they were hunting and not studying. Similarly, the military nature of bows and arrows are intended to recall the revolt against the Romans in 135 C.E. The revolt was led by Hakham Akiba who was the primary teacher of Hakham Shimon Ben Yochai.

 

The commentaries tell us that the mabul (the great flood) occurred on Lag B’Omer. The posuk records:

 

Bereshit 7:11-12 on the seventeenth day of the second month all the fountains of the great depth were opened and the windows of the heaven were opened. There was rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights.

 

Rashi here notes that the forty days of rain do not include the first day. This is because the rainfall of the first day was incomplete due to the fact that it did not rain the prior evening. Thus, according to Rashi although the windows of the heaven along with the fountains of the great depths were opened on the seventeenth, the mabul did not begin until the eighteenth day of the second month. The seventeenth day of the month was just the warm up period. There is a dispute in the Gemara as to whether the months of the Torah are calculated from Tishre or from Nisan. If we follow the opinion that they are calculated from Nisan, it emerges that the mabul started on the eighteenth day of Iyar, which is the same day as Lag B’Omer.

 

The commentators explain that this is one reason for the custom that children play with bows and arrows on Lag B’Omer. The Hebrew word for bow is keshet. This is the same word used for rainbow. The rainbow[39] was designated by HaShem to serve as a sign, of peace, that He would never again bring a mabul to the world. We remind ourselves of this sign on the anniversary of the mabul (Lag B’Omer). This is the sign of peace that is repeatedly mentioned in sefer Ephesians. Notice the centrality of peace in sefer Ephesians:

 

Ephesians 1:2 Mercy, [Justice,] and Compassion to you from HaShem our Father and [from] the Master Yeshua the Messiah [King of the Jews].”

 

Ephesians 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition;

 

Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, the (manmade) law commandments in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, making peace;

 

Ephesians 2:17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

 

Ephesians 4:3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

 

Ephesians 6:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

 

Ephesians 6:23 Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Yeshua Mashiach.

 

What were the root causes of the flood? Rashi cites sexual immorality and idolatry[40]. Following the Gemara in Sanhedrin, Rashi adds that “Hamas” or theft sealed the generation’s fate. Sefer Ephesians also explicitly condemns these very sins.

 

Ephesians 4:28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

 

Ephesians 5:3-6 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Mashiach and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

 

It is also worth noting that the primary sins that brought on the mabul were the primary requirements of the Noachide laws which are incumbent upon all mankind.

 

Finally, Lag B’Omer commemorates the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. On that day, before he left this world, Rabbi Shimon revealed much of the Torah’s hidden light. The “bow and arrow” symbolizes this revelation. How? White light seems indivisible, inscrutable. No detail can be discerned in its pure whiteness. The bow of the rainbow, however, reveals the secret anatomy of white light. It shows us how white light, when refracted, is really composed of all the colors. Just as the rainbow reveals the hidden colors within the white light, so Rabbi Shimon revealed the hidden light within the Torah.[41]

 

Bonfires

 

A number of reasons are cited for the custom of lighting the bonfires of Lag B’Omer. One is a rememberance of the fire at Mt. Sinai at the giving of the Torah. Another is to remind us of the fire that was always present when Hakham Shimon ben Yochai learned Torah.

 

One of the reasons we light fires on Lag B’Omer. Forgetting Torah is associated with darkness. The Hebrew word for darkness is “choshech,” chet, shin and chaf. This word has the same letters as the word sh’ko’ach, shin, chaf and chet, which is translated as “to forget.” We light fires to removes darkness as a symbolic expression that the due to Rabban Shimon bar Yochai, Torah has not been forgotten by the Jewish people.

 

There is another reason. The fire represents the Jewish Neshama. (soul) It say in Proverbs, “The Soul of Man is HaShem’s candle (light). The bonfire is a symbol of the igniting of the Jewish soul on this day, and its desire to come closer to HaShem.

 

On Lag B’Omer we have a custom to light bonfires,[42] not just in Meron, but all over the world. It is said that the bonfires represent the fire of Torah, as well as other explanations. Sefer Ephesians talks specifically about the Torah, but does not speak directly about fire or bonfires.

 

Ephesians 2:13-17 But now in Mashiach Yeshua ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Mashiach. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, the (manmade) law of commandments in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

 

There is also the concept that fire extracts the physical and converts it into the spiritual. Fire exists is the spiritual plane but it exists at the interface between the spiritual and the physical. Fire is that material which converts
physical matter into energy. So too, Torah shows us how to transform the material world into a
transcendent energy.

 

Now, let us examine the possibility that the bonfires represent the renewal of the earth by fire in the days of Mashiach.

 

The Scriptures speak of two floods. The mabul in the day of Noach and the mabul in the days of Mashiach. Noach’s flood was a flood of water. Mashiach’s flood will be a flood of fire.

 

Malachi 3:1-3 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith HaShem of hosts. 2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: 3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto HaShem an offering in righteousness.

 

Matityahu (Matthew) 3:11-12 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

 

II Tzefet (Peter) 3:10-12 But the day of HaShem will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Then all these things shall be dissolved, what manner ought ye to be in holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of HaShem, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

 

Now these two floods, one of water and one of fire, are both portrayed on Lag B’Omer. Noach’s flood is portrayed with bows and arrows, and Mashiach’s flood is portrayed with bonfires.

 

First haircuts

 

This custom of Chalaka / Upsherin – first haircut, is of recent origin (1500’s) and is not performed exclusively at Rashbi’s kever (grave). Sefer Ephesians does not speak directly about hair or haircuts. However, our Hakhamim teach that the haircut at age three has the purpose of signaling a transition from ‘babyhood’, with it’s utter dependence on the parents, to ‘childhood’, with it’s greater independence. No longer are they called ‘babies’, now they are called ‘children’.

 

There are several ‘cuttings’ that signify transition points. There is the cutting of the umbilical cord, brit mila (circumcision), and at age three we have the ‘cutting’ of the hair.

 

Cutting the umbilical cord separates us from the life of our mother. It is the first act of independence and separation.

 

Cutting the foreskin separates us from the goyim and attaches us to the covenant. We transition from a child of this world to a child of the next world.

 

Cutting the hair is the signal that we are transitioning to the world of Torah learning. We are leaving the selfish world where are the center. We are transitioning to a world where HaShem is the center, which we will learn. One of the first things that we will learn about is our Torah inheritance.[43]

 

Sefer Ephesians is addressed, in many way, to these children. That is why this sefer deals with many elementary things.

 

Ephesians 1:5 Having foreordained us [Jews] to the adopting [of sons] through Yeshua the Messiah to Himself (G-d), according to the good pleasure of His (G-d’s) will.     

 

Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

 

Ephesians 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

 

Ephesians 4:14 That we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

 

Ephesians 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

 

Ephesians 5:6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

 

Ephesians 5:8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

 

Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

 

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

 

Thus we see that sefer Ephesians is very much addressed to these new converts who are making the transition from baby to child.

 

Rejoicing at Rashbi’s tomb

 

Why do we rejoice on the yartzeit of Hakham Shimor ben Yochai? After all, we normally fast and mourn at the death of a loved one. The answer brings us to the essence of the Gemara’s statement that when Hakham Yochai and his son would study Torah, they would take off their clothes and bury themselves in the sand. This is the Gemara’s way of telling us that Hakham Yochai and his son had already learned how to step out of the body like one steps out of a garment. They did not have to go through the painful separation of the soul from the body when they died. They no longer viewed the body as something intrinsic to be grasped. They saw the body like a suit of clothes. As long as the clothes were needed (when they prayed), they were used. But the body had no more meaning than a suit of clothes. Clothes that reveal and conceal the essence of a man. Thus we rejoice on the yartzeit of Hakham Yochai because we do not feel his pain in separating his soul from his body. For Hakham Yochai it was a time of rejoicing, without pain, as he transitioned to a higher level. He left the physical behind, without the normal pain of separation because he was no more attached to his body than he was to a suit of clothes.

 

Sefer Ephesians speaks at length about the unity and the knowledge of Torah that were brought about by Yeshua. It is this unity and Torah knowledge which are the source of the joy at Hakham Shimon ben Yochai’s tomb in Meron.

 

Granting smikha

 

After the death of his twelve thousand pairs of talmidim, Hakham Akiba realized that the institution of smikha was in danger of dying out. So he took five new talmidim and gave them smikha[44] on Lag B’Omer.[45] It is for this reason that many rabbonim have a custom to give their students smikha on Lag B’Omer.

 

Smikha is a physical act which acknowledges the spiritual transformation of a man into a living sefer Torah. Thus smikha lives at the interface between this world and the next, between the physical and the spiritual.

 

Sefer Ephesians also speaks of smikha.

 

Ephesians 1:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

 

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

 

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

 

You see, I am happy he has connected Lag B’Omer with Smikha. But this needs to be much unpacked, such as the gifts i.e. Apostles, Pastors, teachers, etc.

 

By the time we reach the middle of the fourth chapter, we begin to see the actual offices that have received smikha. These are the officers that have been freed from this world to do the deeds of the next world. Theirs is a mission to bring others into the kingdom by teaching and demonstrating Torah to the world.

 

Ephesians 4:10-12 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12  For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Mashiach:

 

Nazareans were called by Yeshua to be Hakhamim. It is not an option! If we are to serve The King, then we need to be trained as top notch judges in order to sit on His Bet Din.

 

Additionally, both the sefira and the Yovel counts teach us that everything belongs to HaShem and that the only way to trully possess something is to give it away. This is the message of Ephesians 4:28, but, it is a message driven home by our Hakhamim who give freely of themselves to the community in order that all may attach themselves to HaShem and complete the body of Mashiach, which is a major theme throughout sefer Ephesians.

 

Other Events of Iyar Eighteen

 

The plague (Askera) stopped.

 

On Lag B’Omer all of Hakham Akiba’s 24,000 talmidim had died. They died during the sefirah period, the time of the counting of the Omer. The Talmud records this great tragedy.

 

Yevamoth 62b It was said that R. Akiba had twelve thousand pairs of disciples, from Gabbatha to Antipatris; and all of them died at the same time because they did not treat each other with respect. The world remained desolate until R. Akiba came to our Masters in the South and taught the Torah to them. These were R. Meir, R. Judah, R. Jose, R. Simeon and R. Eleazar b. Shammua; and it was they who revived the Torah at that time. A Tanna taught: All of them died between Passover and Pentecost. R. Hama b. Abba or, it might be said, R. Hiyya b. Abin said: All of them died a cruel death. What was it?-R. Nahman replied: Croup.

 

This catastrophe happened because Hakham Akiba’s talmidim did not treat each other with respect. How can this be? Where in the Torah does it mandate the death penalty for lack of respect? Because of these questions we must presume that there is much more to this story than meets the eye.

 

Hakham Akiba’s twelve thousand pairs of students stopped dying on Lag B’Omer. At this point ALL of his disciples were dead. Chazal teach that death is the transition of the spiritual essence of a man from this world to the next. It is the separation, the transition, of the spiritual from the physical. We have a custom to tear our clothes when we hear of the death of a loved one. We tear our clothes to acknowledge the understanding that the body, and its life, are just a garment for the spiritual essence of a man. When we die, we just step out of the body as one steps out of his garments.

 

Sephirat HaOmer is a time of mourning. We mourn to acknowledge our empathy with the one who died. The one who died is going through a very difficult transition from the physical to the spiritual. This pain is mirrored in the lives of their loved ones who feel the pain of this transition.

 

Every year on a person’s yartzeit, the soul transitions to a higher level. So on this day we light a candle and mourn as we ‘feel’ this transition. This is why we continue to mourn the death of HakHam Akiba’s talmidim every year during sefirat HaOmer. We fast during this period so that we can begin to feel the transition of our own soul from the spiritual to the physical. We have seen elsewhere that food is that energy which connects the spiritual to the physical. Fasting cause a small separation of our spiritual essence from the physical.

 

These 12,000 pairs of talmidim were the masorah, the gospel, the oral Torah, for the next generation. Their deaths represented the death of the masorah. There would be no more oral law because the oral law had died with them. This was truly a reason to mourn. Without masorah there would be no more mitzvot because without masorah no one knows how to perform the mitzvot. This was a GREAT tragedy!

 

Demonstrating respect for all of our fellow Jews is no trivial matter. It is an essential prerequisite to receiving the Torah! We will examine this aspect of Lag B’Omer in greater detail when we look at Ephesians 4:9.

 

Another Approach

 

Two hundred years before Rabbi Akiba the Hillel (middot HaRachamim) vs. Shammai (middot HaDin) argument was settled in favor of Hillel. HaShem had determined that sin had so corrupted humanity that they could no longer stand up to the attribute of strict justice. Without the attribute of mercy the world would cease to exist.

 

Rabbi Akiba, therefore, was of the house of Hillel. Unfortunately, his talmidim took the approach of Shammai. Because the world was no longer able to stand up to such an approach, these talmidim died. They were subjected to strict justice so that the world would recognize that even though their Torah was exceedingly great, the great students could not stand up to their own approach.

 

Out of this disaster, Hakham Akiba takes five new talmidim and begins to train them. Hakham Shimon ben Yochai is one of these five. From the accounts in the Gemara we can see that for awhile Hakham Yochai followed the approach of Hakham Shammai. This explains his severe approach towards the works of the Romans and his destruction of the world following his release from the cave. Unfortunately for Hakham Yochai and his son, the world could not stand up to this midda. Therefore, the extra twelve months in the cave was necessary so that Hakham Yochai and his son could master the midda of mercy.

 

In the end, Hakham Yochai and his son learned the lesson and their Torah changed the world. This is the lesson that His Majesty King Yeshua followed and it is the path of His talmidim. Further, it is reflected in sefer Ephesians. This is the inclusiveness of the Gentiles who have joined themselves to Israel. While the Gentiles are generally pushed away by the House of Shammai, they brought close by the House of Hillel. The Gemara is replete with examples of Hakham Hillel’s patience and he included and taught Gentiles.

 

The Number Twelve

 

In this Gemara and in Shabbat 33b we see a repitition of the number twelve. What are we to make of this? To answer this we must first define the meaning or significance of the number twelve.

 

Twelve is the number of maximal differentiation. It is the number of lines that border a cube, and according to Chazal, all of reality. HaShem and His Oneness is manifested via twelve channels to the world we live in. Twelve is the level where the oneness is manifested in the world. It is why we associate government with twelve. There are twelve who govern the many. All of physical reality is constrained and restrained (as in government) by the 12 lines that mark the edges of the physical world.

The fact that the 12 are all connected in the center is the thirteenth. Thirteen is the number that bonds multiplicity into oneness. For example:  There are twelve tribes that are bonded into their father Israel (Yaaqov). Israel is the thirteenth. The number twelve is associated with the concept of rule or government in that a government is the oneness which bonds the multiplicity of parts.

 

Now that we have defined the meaning of the number twelve, lets go back to our two Gemaras and try to understand the twelves that are used.

 

First we have 12,000 pairs of talmidim. From our definition of twelve, we can see that the Gemara is emphasizing the maximal nature of these talmidim. In essence we are being told that these are the only talmidim in the world. On the shoulders of these 12,000 pairs, rests the transmission of the oral Torah. The various ways for the oral Torah to be manifested in the world were described in these talmidim. The mourning for these talmidim is, therefore, the mourning of the loss of oral Torah. Without these talmidim there would be no more oral Torah in all of its various manifestations!

 

Now lets try to understand the twelve years that Hakham Yochai and his son were in the cave in the Shabbat 33b Gemara. Twelve years is the length of time that it takes for a girl to mature and become a woman. This suggests that it took Hakham Yochai and his son twelve years to reach maturity in their Torah studies. It was now time for them to bear fruit. To do this they would have to return to the world. Unfortunately, they failed to find the connection between the mundane world and their lofty Torah level. They wre in danger of destroying the world rather than bearing the fruit of good deeds. Because of this lack, they were sent back to their cave for twelve months. This twelve was used by the Hakham and his son to see the many facets of Torah as manifested in the mundane tasks of this world. They saw the myrtle branches as the connection between the spiritual and the physical. It was physicality imbued with spirituality. It was the lesson that we need to understand this world. In twelve months, one has experienced the shabbatot and festivals in their complete cycle. These appointments are the connection between the physical and the spiritual, and between this world and the next.

 

The first use of “twelve years” in the Torah, is in Bereshit 14:4 where we find several kings serving for twelve years nad rebelling in the thirteenth year. This could suggest that twelve years is the length of time that Hakham Yochai and his son could profitably study Torah without rebelling. Their actions when they emerged from the cave suggests that they did “rebel” in a certain sense. They were anable to achieve the understanding of the proper place of Torah in the mundane world. Therefore they were in danger of destroying the very world that their Torah was meant to save. Once it became clear that this additional lesson needed to be learned, HaShem sent them back for one more set of twelve. This time period would be twelve months, rather than years.

 

Finally, there are two sets of twelve; One of years and one of months. Years are calculated by the sun and months are calculated by the moon. The sun is used to determine the calendar of the Gentiles and the moon is used to determine the calendar of the Jews. This suggests that there were two messages. The first to the Gentiles and the second to the Jews.

 

The mabul began.

 

The Talmud records a dispute between Hakham  Eliezer and Hakham  Yehoshua on the date of the creation.  Hakham  Yehoshua said that creation began in Nisan, while Hakham  Eliezer said that creation began in Tishri.

 

Rosh HaShana 11a It has been taught: R. Eliezer says: In Tishri the world was created; in Tishri the Patriarchs were born; in Tishri the Patriarchs died; on Passover Isaac was born; on New Year Sarah, Rachel and Hannah were visited; on New Year Joseph went forth from prison; on New Year the bondage of our ancestors in Egypt ceased; in Nisan they were redeemed and in Nisan they will be redeemed in the time to come. R. Joshua says: In Nisan the world was created; in Nisan the Patriarchs were born; in Nisan the Patriarchs died; on Passover Isaac was born; on New Year Sarah, Rachel and Hannah were visited; on New Year Joseph went forth from prison; on New Year the bondage of our ancestors ceased in Egypt; and in Nisan they will be redeemed in time to come.

 

Both Rashi and the Chatam Sofer, using the chronology according to Hakham  Yehoshua, teach us that the mabul, the great flood in the days of Noach, began during the day of Iyar 17. This means that the first full day of the flood was on the next day, on Lag B’Omer.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

 

After the mabul, a year later, HaShem made a promise to Noach that He would never again flood the earth. Every time that he would look down and see the wickedness of men, He would put a rainbow in the sky to remember His promise and to warn us that we again deserved to be destroyed by a flood.

 

The Torah records that the mabul covered even the highest mountain.

 

Bereshit (Genesis) 7:19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. 20  Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.

 

Why did the flood waters cover way above the highest mountain? They covered the highest mountain because HaShem was immersing the land in a mikveh. He was baptizing the earth. And we know that one who immerses in the mikveh is required to have every part of their body underwater, including their hair. If the hair floats on top of the water, than the immersion is invalid. Thus the highest mountain had to be covered in order for this mikveh to accomplish HaShem’s purpose.

 

The rain of the mabul fell for forty days. And the waters persisted on the face of the earth for a year. As the flood lasted a year, so also did Hakham Yochai and his son returned to the cave for twelve months. As a result of the mabul, HaShem made a covenant with Noach that was also later given to the Jews at Mt. Sinai. Additionally, HaShem gave the Gentiles the Noachide commandments after the the mabul. Thus like Lag B’Omer the mabul had a portion of the covenant for the Jews and a portion of the covenant for the righteous Gentiles. It is the joining of the Jews and the Gentiles which is the major emphasis of sefer Ephesians.

 

After the flood, HaShem put His rainbow in the clouds as a sign of the covenant that He made with Noach to never again flood the earth. Now, a rainbow is created when light is refracted through water suspended in the sky. Thus a rainbow is “composed” of water and light. Both of these symbols are used to represent Torah. Thus we have another hint to the Torah revealed on Lag B’Omer to Hakham Yochai.

 

The Manna began.

 

The Chatam Sofer quoted a midrash that the manna fell on the eighteenth of Iyar for the first time.[46] This date corresponds to Lag B’Omer. This is based on the idea that the food supply (matza) that we brought out of Egypt lasted until the 14th of Iyar (which marks the 14th of Iyar as the end of the Pesach time frame, hence its choice by HaShem for Pesach Sheni). Then the people went hungry for three days, the 15th,16th, and 17th of Iyar, complained, and received the manna on the 18th.

 

The manna would fall for forty years.

 

One should keep in mind that the manna was not just a source of food for the Jews, and the Gentiles who attached themselves to Israel, in the desert. It provided spiritual sustenance that elevated the Jewish people, and the large mixed multitude of Gentiles, enabling them to later learn Torah.[47] In this respect it has a direct connection to the receiving of Torah and it is appropriate to commemorate this event on Lag B’Omer, before Shavout.

 

This amazing food was so spiritual that those who ate it had no waste[48], they did not need to go to the bathroom. This was the food of the next world. This was a food that did not need to have us separate the good from the evil.[49]

 

Manna is the essence of bitichon, trust in HaShem. One went to bead with no food for breakfast. When one awoke he would find manna for breakfast according to his emunah. If his emunah was great, the manna would be ready to eat, right at his doorstep. If his emunah was very small, then he would travel a distance to collect his omer and then he would need to spend time preparing the manna before it could be eaten.[50]

 

On Lag B’Omer we enter the final third of the period of counting, the third watch of the night. Our focus is now on the reception of Torah on Shavuot. The manna is the food which will enable us to receive (become a vessel for) Torah. We need to prepare the physical body to become a vessel which can contain Torah. With the manna we have no more smelly waste. With the manna we can learn to trully depend on HaShem. With the manna we can have an impartial evaluation of our emunah, our faithfull obedience. This spiritual food could trully help to transform us into something that could trully hold and become Torah!

 

This is what Hakham Shaul meant when he said that we were chosen in Mashiach to be holy and blameless before HaShem in love.[51] Mashiach the Living Torah told us that He was the bread (manna) come down from heaven.[52] This bread from heaven was about to transform us into vessels of Torah. This is the widom that Hakham Shaul spoke about in Ephesians 1:8, 17. HaShem was using the manna to transform us into the body of Mashiach, and Lag B’Omer was the time for this process to begin as it speaks to that period of time when the messianic age is to begin. Lag B’Omer speaks to the time of transformation, the time when we prepare for the Olam HaBa, the World To Come.

 

Before the manna was given, HaShem gave the Bne Israel laws. Because they kept these laws they merited to receive help from above regarding the rest of Torah.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XXV:7 Another explanation of BEHOLD, I WILL CAUSE TO RAIN BREAD FROM HEAVEN FOR YOU. It is written, Come, eat of My bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled (Prov. IX, 5).[53] The Holy One, blessed be He, said: ‘What enabled you to eat of the manna, and drink from the well?-The fact that you accepted the statutes and ordinances,’ for it says, There He made for them a statute and an ordinance (Ex. XV, 25). So, ‘because you have accepted My food have you received the food of the manna, and because “of the wine which I have mingled”, have you drunk of the water of the well,’ as it says, ‘And drink of the wine which I have mingled.’

 

Thus we understand that the manna was given on Lag B’Omer in order to enable us to begin learning and understanding the secrets of the oral and the writtenTorah.

 

We will elaborate more on this when we examine Ephesians chapter III.

 

Yeshua ascended on Lag B’Omer.

 

On Lag B’Omer Yeshua ascended into heaven forty days after his passion. We see this, in the number forty, a hint (remez) to Lag B’Omer. Since II Luqas (Acts) is literature which was meant to be understood at the remez level, and we know that the pshat (literal) is not the intended meaning, then we would understand that numbers are a symbol to teach us a deeper understanding.

 

II Luqas (Acts) 1:3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

 

Since II Luqas is written at the remez level of interpretation, we know that at the remez level all numbers are symbols and are not meant to be understood literally. The number forty (40) carries with it the understanding that a change in mission has occurred, as we have written extensively elsewhere. This change in mission is the essence of the ascension where Yeshua completed the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef and began the role of Mashiach ben David. Lag B’Omer is a transition point between the first two thirds of the sefirah period and the last third. Lag B’Omer marks a transition where we begin to ascend to Matan Torah.

 

Sefer Ephesians also speaks about this ascension. In fact, only in sefer Ephesians is this ascension spoken of as a completed event rather than a future occurrence.

 

Ephesians 4:8-10 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.  (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

 

Hakham Shimon ben Yochai died.[54]

 

On Lag B’Omer Hakham Akiba’s most illustrious talmid, Hakham Shimon Ben Yochai, died. On the day of his death he revealed the secrets of the Torah. These secrets where later written down in a sefer called the Zohar.

 

Normally when a person dies we mourn their death. Thus the Torah tells us that Israel mourned the death of Aaron for thirty days.

 

Bamidbar (Numbers) 20:29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, all the house of Israel.

 

When Hakham Shimon ben Yochai was dying he commanded his talmidim to rejoice after he died, and on the anniversary of this death. The reason we rejoice is because on this day, Lag B’Omer, Hakham Shimon ben Yochai revealed the secrets of the oral Torah. On this day he revealed the secrets of the Zohar.

 

Secrets of the Torah were revealed.

 

On the day of his death Rabbi Shimon revealed the mystical insights of the Zohar and he did not die until he had completed this revelation.[55] To commemorate this momentous transmission, Rabbi Shimon stipulated that Lag B’Omer should be a day of simcha (joy) and promised tremendous reward to those who would rejoice on this day at his graveside . As a result many have the custom to ascend to the tomb of Hakham Shimon and his son Rabbi Eliezer in Meron to celebrate Lag B’Omer.

 

Additionally, Lag B’Omer is when Hakham Akiba started to reveal the light of the oral Torah to new students, including Hakham Shimon ben Yochai.

 

Zohar 3:291b Until now, I have held the secrets close to my heart. But now, before I die, I wish to reveal all. Hakham Abba reports: “I couldn’t even lift my head due to the intense light emanating from Hakham Shimon. The entire day the house was filled with fire, and nobody could get close due to the wall of fire and light. At the end of the day, the fire finally subsided, and I was able to look at the face of Hakham Shimon: He was dead, wrapped in his Talit, lying on his right side, and smiling.”

 

Bimodal Aspects

 

In a previous paper we examined the bimodality of the year as viewed by the festivals and Torah readings. In this study we will examine the Lag B’Omer aspect of this bimodality.

 

Coming between Pesach (a seven day feast) and Shavuot[56] (also called Atzeret), Lag B’Omer has a bimodal aspect when compared with Succoth and Shemini Atzeret. To understand this aspect we need to understand how the symbols of Lag B’Omer are incorporated into the symbols of Succoth and Shemini Atzeret. Why did we choose these two festivals? Since Lag B’Omer occurs after Pesach, but before Shavuot, which is also called Atzeret, then we need to compare this to a comparable time period. This comparable time period is between Succoth (the only other seven day feast) and it’s Atzeret, Shemini Atzeret.

 

Now that we have the correct time period we need to review the Lag B’Omer symbols so that we will recognize their counterparts in Succoth and Shemini Atzeret. There are several customs that are a part of Lag B’Omer: Bows and arrows for the children, bonfires, burning clothes, and joy.

 

The bow (keshet) is a symbol of the rainbow after the mabul (flood).

 

The bonfires are a symbol of the Torah and of the refining of the earth at the end of days.

 

The burning of clothes is a symbol of the conversion of our bodies to a higher level.

 

These Lag B’Omer customs are also the symbols of the feast of Succoth. During the festivities of Succoth, water is poured out on the altar in great joy as part of the Simchat Bait Hashoevah. Another part of Simchat Bait Hashoevah[57] is the lighting of “the light of the world”. At the close of the first festival day they went down to the Court of the Women, and made great preparations there. There were golden candlesticks there with four golden bowls on the top of them. The candlesticks were fifty cubits high. Four ladders led up to each candlestick, and four youths, from the priestly families, went up holding in their hands jars of oil, twenty-four logs in capacity, which they poured into the bowls. They made wicks out of the worn-out garments of the priests, and with them they set the candlesticks alight, and there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that did not reflect the light of the beit hashoevah.[58] This is the only place other than Lag B’Omer, that I am aware of, where clothes are burned by Jews. These are the symbols of Lag B’Omer and Succoth.

 

Now we need to compare the symbols of Shemini Atzeret and Lag B’Omer. On Shemini Atzeret we rejoice with the written Torah. We make circuits around the bima[59] and we sing and dance with the Torah scrolls.

 

Lag B’Omer is a time when we rejoice because of the oral Torah (Torah shebaal peh). It is interesting to note that the Talmud describes the impact of the plague that killed Hakham Akiba’s talmidim as “the world was desolate”.[60] Only when Hakham Akiba managed to locate and teach five outstanding Sages, in the south of Eretz Israel, was the oral Torah restored to the Jewish People. There is an important lesson in this account. Without oral Torah study the world is desolate. Once the oral Torah was taught to these five Sages, on Lag B’Omer, joy returned to the world on this day. Thus on Simchat Torah we rejoice with the written Torah and on Lag B’Omer we rejoice with the oral Torah.

 

It is also worth noting that Lag B’Omer always falls on the same day of the week as the first day of Succoth of the following year. Another interesting connection.

 

The last and greatest day of Succoth is called Hoshana Rabbah. This is the final day of judgment. All verdicts are final on this day. This bimodal aspect accords nicely with what the Talmud tells us about Rashbi.

 

Succah 45b Rashbi said, ‘I can discharge the whole world from judgment.’

 

Now we know that the judgment of the mabul (flood) began on Lag B’Omer. (The entire sefira period is a period of judgment.[61]) Thus we see that Lag B’Omer also carries with it an aspect of judgment. Further, the spiritual influences of Yom HaKippurim, and its judgment, are revealed on Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

 

The opening verses of Ephesians also shows an aspect of judgment.

 

Ephesians 2:1-3 And you, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2  Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3  Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

 

This suggests that Lag B’Omer incorporates the symbols and the joy in the Temple during Succoth and the joy of Torah as found on Sinchat Torah. Thus we see that Lag B’Omer also has a bi-modal aspect which helps us to understand its symbols and how these symbols are found in sefer Ephesians.

 

The water and the light we also see repeatedly in sefer Ephesians.

 

Tov – Good (Beneficial)

 

Our Hakhamim also note that the 33rd word in the Torah is the Hebrew word tov meaning beneficial, but normally translated as good. It refers to the light that was HaShem’s first creation: God saw that the light was good (Genesis 1:4).

 

The 32 previous words of creation, equaling the numerical value of levheart’, serve to generate this beneficial light. Sefer Ephesians also speaks of this ‘good’:

 

Ephesians 1:5 Having foreordained us [Jews] to the adopting [of sons] through Yeshua the Messiah to Himself (G-d), according to the good pleasure of His (G-d’s) will.     

 

Ephesians 1:9 Having made known to us [Jews] the secret [interpretation] of His [G-d’s] will according to His [G-d’s] good pleasure which He [G-d] purposed in Himself,

 

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Mashiach Yeshua unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

 

Ephesians 4:28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

 

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

 

Ephesians 6:7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

 

Ephesians 6:8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

 

Torah Readings

 

The Torah lectionary is prophetic and speaks of things in the week that it is read.

 

In the annual cycle, parasha Behar (Leviticus 25:1-26:2) is read around Lag B’Omer.

 

The septennial cycle has the following readings for Lag B’Omer in each of the seven years of the cycle:

 

Year

Parasha

1

Bereshit (Genesis) 30:22 - 31:2

2

Shemot (Exodus) 34:1-26

3

Bamidbar (Numbers) 16:1 - 17:15

4

Bereshit (Genesis) 6:9 - 7:24

5

Shemot (Exodus) 13:1 - 14:14

6

Vayikra (Leviticus) 24:1 - 25:13

7

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 7:12 - 8:20

 

To try to understand Lag B’Omer a bit better, I have summarised each septennial Torah portion to get a quick overview of the parashiot.

 

  1. Bereshit (Genesis) 30:22 – 31:2Yoseph is born. Yaaqob and Lavan w/speckled sheep. Laban’s contenance changes.

 

  1. Shemot (Exodus) 34:1-26 – The second luchot. The 13 midot of Rachamim. Moshe pleads for HaShem to take Israel as His inheritance. HaShem makes a covenant and commands against idolatry. On covenent to be made with inhabitants of Canaan. Pesach command. Firstborn command. Shalosh regalim. Bikkurim. Moshe spends forty days on mount comes down shining.

 

  1. Bamidbar (Numbers) 16:1 – 17:15Qorach with fire and incense. Earth swallows Qorach and fire from heaven consumes the 250 that offered incense. Plagues breaks out and kill 14,700. Incense stops the plague. Aaron’s rod buds and bears fruit.

 

  1. Bereshit (Genesis) 6:9 – 7:24 – The flood. Noach builds an ark. Unclean animals come 2 by 2. Clean animals come 7 by 7. Noach righteous in his generation. Rains for 40 days. World is immersed in the mikveh. Water prevails for 150 days.

 

  1. Shemot (Exodus) 13:1 – 14:14 – Firstborn sanctified. Nisan is the beginning of months. Pesach commanded. Moshe brings Yoseph’s bones. Pillar of cloud and pillar of fire. Paro pursues Israel. People are afraid at Yam Suf.

 

  1. Vayikra (Leviticus) 24:1 – 25:13 -  Oil and menorah commanded. Showbread with frankincense is an offering made by fire. Man blasphemes and is stoned. Shmita and Yovel command.

 

The Torah commands that we count the days (aka counting the omer) between Pesach and Shavuot.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:15-16 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 16  Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto HaShem.

 

The Torah uses similar words when it commands us to count shmita (sabbatical) and yovel (jubilee) years.

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:8-10 And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. 9  Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. 10  And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.

 

The parallels between the 50 year cycle and the 50 days of Sefirat HaOmer and Shavuot are obvious due to the numeric similarity (7 X 7 + 1). Both the annual and the septennial Torah reading cycles use the jubilee year to remind us of the omer count and the implications for Lag B’Omer. Lag B’Omer is the fifth day of the fifth week. The fifth year of the fifth Sabbatical cycle (shmita)[62] would be the corresponding point in the jubilee count.

 

Our redemption from Egypt begins on Pesach and then we spend the next seven weeks and fifty days working on ourselves to perfect the seven attributes as mentioned in the sefira. In the same way, the seven sabbatical years and the total of fifty years are used for the redemption and the rest of the land of Israel.

 

  1. Devarim (Deuteronomy) 7:12 – 8:20 - Contains a cure for all physical ailments, the destruction of Israel’s enemy, a recounting of the forty years of Exodus, test to see command obedience, feeding with manna, clothes that did not wear out and feet that did not swell for 40 years, details of a good land w/7 species, and a command to remember HaShem.

 

Now that we have summarised the parashiyot we can see that we have a surprising amount of correlations with the traditional customs and understandings of Lag B’Omer. Let me make a few of these connections:

 

Pillar of fire = big bonfire

Flood portion = flood date

Forty years / days = 40 days in II Luqas

Vayikra 24 = Chanukah The eighth day

Yochai’s cave = Qorach’s earth swallowing

Manna portion = manna started

Clothes did not wear out = Clothes burned

The sefira period = the shmita period

Shavuot = Yovel

 

It is very instructive to note that each of these portions hints to the Messianic age and the olam HaBa.

 

Lag B’Omer is day thirty-three of the sefira period. It is day thirty-three of our redemption from Egypt. The parashiyot about Pesach and the redemption of the firstborn come to remind us of this on Lag B’Omer as we finish the final third of the count, as we sprint for the completion of our redemption on Shavuot.

 

Barley

 

Barley plays an important role in Sefirat HaOmer, the counting of the omer. It is an omer of barley that is brought on Nisan 16.

 

Barley is normally associated with animal food.[63]Barley’ represents the endeavor to nourish and develop our animal soul. Gentiles are normally depicted with animal images.[64] In the period between the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah (The period of counting the omer), the Children of Israel elevated themselves from the level of animals to the level of human beings. Therefore, for the commandment of the Omer, barley is harvested, for they were on the level of animals at this stage. Then, after fifty days of refining their character traits, they reached the level of man and the Kohanim offered wheat loaves, food for human beings. On Lag B’Omer we metaphorically transition to wheat from barley.

 

Barley is also associated with atonement:

 

Berachoth 57a If one sees barley in a dream, his iniquities will depart, as it says: Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin expiated.


This suggests that Sefirat HaOmer is a picture of the process of atonement. This is also consistent with the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef as delineated in sefer Ephesians.

 

Ephesians 1:7 In whom we [Jews] have the redemption through his (Messiah’s) life, the remission of the trespasses, according to the riches of His (G-d’s) mercy.

 

Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

 

Ephesians 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Mashiach, (by grace ye are saved;)

 

Ephesians Chapter I

 

Now I would like to look at the various chapters of sefer Ephesians in order to connect the comments of our Hakhamim with the text of sefer Ephesians. Lets start by examining the first section:

 

Ephesians 1:1-6 Shaul, a [religious and political] Emissary of Yeshua [ben David] the Messiah King of the Jews, to the [Jewish] pious/saints faithfully obedient/observant of Torah by/because of Yeshua the Messiah [King of the Jews]. 2. Mercy, [Justice,] and Compassion to you from HaShem our Father and [from] the Master Yeshua the Messiah [King of the Jews].” 3 Blessed be the G-d and Father of our Master Yeshua the Messiah who has blessed us [Jews] with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places with Messiah. 4 According us He (G-d) chose us [Jews] in him (Messiah) before the foundation of the world for our being holy/separate and blameless before Him (G-d) in love. 5 Having foreordained us [Jews] to the adopting [of sons] through Yeshua the Messiah to Himself (G-d), according to the good pleasure of His (G-d’s) will. 6 To the praise of the glory of His (G-d’s) mercy, wherein He (G-d) made us instruments of mercy in the beloved.

 

Sefer Ephesians is an esoteric work which uses conventional language to speak of the next world. In the first six pesukim of Ephesians the righteous Gentiles are chosen and separated for an existence in the next world. This concords with the essential theme of Lag B’Omer as an interface to the next world.

 

Hakham Dr. Yosef ben Haggai made the following observation on this passage: The upper three / four spheres are known as “heavenlies” or “heavenly places” and the lower seven are known as “earthly places.” Notice that there is NO division in the Sephirotic Tree of Life, the lower seven spheres are merely an extension of the four upper spheres! (The diagram in the next page perhaps will illustrate this better.) This follows the important Midrashic and Kabbalistic principle “as above so below” and as explained in the Master’s summary of the Amidah prayer: “Your will be done in earth, as it is heaven.” This is also illustrated in the Book of Revelation where Yeshua our Master, who is seated in the heavenlies, walking “in the midst of the seven Menorahs” (each Menorah (candlestick) has seven branches representing the seven lower Sephirot of the Tree of Life, and each Menorah representing a congregation) – see Revelation 1:12-13.

 

Thus we can see form this passage that the sefirot are going to play an important part in Sefer Ephesians. This mystical concept concords well with Hakham Shimon bar Yochai’s teaching of the Zohar.

 



 

 

Keter

(Crown) – Colourless

Ministry: Invisible

Divine Will in the Messiah

 

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HEAVENLIES

 

Or

 

HEAVENLY

 

PLACES

Binah

(Understanding) - Gray

Virtue: Simchah (Joy)

Ministry: 2nd of the bench of three

APOSTLE

 

Chochmah

(Wisdom) - Black

Virtue: Emunah (Faithful Obedience)

Ministry: Chief Hakham 1st of the bench of three

APOSTLE

 

Da’at

(Knowledge) - White

Virtue: Yichud (Unity)

Ministry: 3rd of the bench of three

APOSTLE

 

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==============================================================

Gevurah

(Strength/Might) – Scarlet Red

Virtue: Yir’ah (Fear of G-d)

Ministry: Sheliach [Chazan/Bishop]

 

G’dolah / Chessed

(Greatness/Mercy) – Royal Blue

Virtue: Ahavah (love)

Ministry: Masoret [Catechist/Evangelist]

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Tiferet

(Beauty) - Yellow

Virtue: Rachamim (Compassion)

Ministry: Darshan or Magid [Prophet]

 

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Hod

(Glory) - Orange

Virtue: Temimut (Sincerity)

Ministry: Parnas [Pastor]

 

Netzach

(Victory) – Emerald Green

Virtue: Bitahon (Confidence)

Ministry: Parnas [Pastor]

EARTHLY

 

Or

 

EARTHLY

PLACES

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Yesod

(Foundation) - Violet

Virtue: Emet (Truth/Honesty)

Ministry: Parnas [Pastor]

(Female – hidden)

 

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Shekhinah / Malkhut

(Presence) – Purple

Virtue: Humility

Ministry: Meturgeman/Moreh/Zaqen [Teacher/Elder]

 

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The Talmud[65] relates that the Rashbi once sent his son, Hakham Elazar, to two other sages to receive their blessings. They promptly showered Hakham Elazar with various curses, leaving him deeply shaken. Upon returning home, the Rashbi explained to his son how the apparent curses were actually lofty blessings.

 

The two sages clearly had blessings in mind when addressing Hakham Elazar. Why, then, did they not state these blessings openly, as did the Rashbi? The answer lay in the sages’ inability to reveal spiritual concepts on an earthly level.

 

Only the Rashbi had the ability to reveal the underlying spiritual blessings inherent in their words and bring them down to the physical realm.

 

On Lag B’Omer, this quality of the Rashbi becomes accessible to every Jew. On this day we are all able to understand and internalize the secrets of the Torah. It is truly a time for us to rejoice together with the Rashbi.

 

Ephesians 1:7-14 In whom we [Jews] have the redemption through his (Messiah’s) life, the remission of the trespasses, according to the riches of His (G-d’s) mercy. 8 Which He (G-d) caused to abound towards us [Jews] in all wisdom and intelligence (understanding). 9 Having made known to us [Jews] the secret [interpretation] of His [G-d’s] will according to His [G-d’s] good pleasure which He [G-d] purposed in Himself, 10 for the administration of the fullness of times; to head up all things in the Messiah, both the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth, 11 in whom also we [Jews] did obtain an inheritance, being foreordained [predestined] according to the purpose of Him who is working all the things according to the counsel of His will, 12 for us [Jews] being to the praise of His glory, even those who did first hope in the Messiah, 13 in whom you also, having heard the Word of the truth, the tradition of your salvation, in whom also [you] having faithfully obeyed, you were sealed with the spirit of holiness of the promise. 14 This being a down-payment of our inheritance, to the redemption of the acquired possession, to the praise of His glory.    

 

Hakham Dr. Yosef ben Haggai made the following observation on this passage: In v.8  two spheres of the first triad of the Sefirotic Tree of Life are mentioned: (1) Chokhmah (Wisdom) and (2) Binah (Understanding) also known as the seat of the intellect. Here in verse 9, we start with the Greek word γνωρισας (Gnorisas) [the English word ‘known’] which is a derivation of the word for Knowledge in Greek, and therefore the third sphere of the first Triad of the Sefirotic Tree of Life – i.e. ChaBaD [Chokhmah (Wisdom), Binah (Understanding), and Da’at (Knowledge).

 

Delitzsch has justly and aptly pointed out that the Hebrew translation for the Greek term μυστηριον (Musterion), is none other than סוֹדSod – and therefore an allusion, as is characteristic of the Remez literature, of the fourth level of Rabbinic Hermeneutics by the same name and dealing with the major topics of the Messiah, the Sefirotic Tree of Life, the Festivals, time, prophecy, and hidden meanings of words in Scripture! Any student of Jewish Hermeneutics knows that there are four levels of Rabbinic Hermeneutics which Israelites received from Moses, and Moses in turn from G-d at Mt. Sinai. These four levels are explained in the following diagram:

 


Rules of Jewish Hermeneutics

 

פרדס

פשאת

רמס

דרש

סוד

PaRDeS

P’shat

Remes

Drash

Sod

Definition

Simple

Hint

Explore - Ask

Secret

Literary level

Grammatical

Allegoric

Parabolic

Metaphorical

Mystical

Symbolical

Audience level

Common People

Noble

(Lawyers, Judges, Scientists)

Kingly/Royal

(civil servants, political scientists)

Mystic

(psychologists)

Hermeneutic level

7 Hillel Laws

13 Ishmael Laws

32 Ben Gallil Laws

42 Zohar Laws

Rabbinic level

Mishna

Gemara

Midrash

Zohar

Gospel

Marqos (Mark), Jude

1 & 2 Peter

I and II Luqas (Luke)

Matityahu (Matthew)

Yochanan (John) 1, 2, 3, and Revelation

Presentation

HaShem’s Servant

Son of Man

The King

Messiah

Son of G-D

Principle Concern

What do we have to do?

What is the meaning behind what we have to do?

How do we go about establishing HaShem’s Kingdom on earth?

What metaphysical or symbolic/prophetic meaning is there to what is happening?

World

Asiyah

Yetzirah

Beriyah

Atzilut

Symbol

Man

Ox/Bull

Lion

Eagle

Mazzaroth

Deli

Shaur

Aryeh

Aqurav

Tribe

Reuben

Ephraim

Judah

Dan

Temple

Outside Chatzer

Chatzer

Kodesh

Kodesh Kodashim

 

 


The sod was the realm of the Zohar given to us by Hakham Shimon Bar Yochai. Thus this section of Sefer Ephesians is setting the tone for the rest of this sefer. As all scrolls contain an ‘executive summary’ at the beginning, so also is this section an ‘executive summary’. The important point that we need to see is that unity is a major focus of the first fourteen verses of this book. Further, Israel can not be redeemed until he fulfills the purpose for which he was created. He is to be a light to the Gentiles. This is why Hakham Shaul changes from ‘we’ and ‘us’ to ‘you’, ‘us’ and ‘your’. We have switched from Jews to righteous Gentiles (Noachides).

 

In this next section, we see the righteous Gentiles are being gathered together and given a connection to the Olam HaBa through Mashiach.

 

Ephesians 1:15-23 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Yeshua, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Yeshua Mashiach, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us–ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Mashiach, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.

 

Hod Sheb’Hod (the Sefirah connected with Lag BaOmer) is associated with the Messianic redemption, as mentioned in the ma’amar from the Chabad Siddur concerning Lag BaOmer.

 

Hakham Shimon ben Yochai is also associated with the Messianic redemption as the Zohar[66] states: “With this composition of yours (the Zohar), Israel will be redeemed from exile with mercy.” Though Hakham Shimon himself was on a spiritual level above the destruction of the Temple, being able to experience this level despite the fact that he and his son were forced to hide from the Romans for thirteen years, nevertheless, he provided the key to the redemption of the entire people.

 

In the Zohar (3:144b) we also find that Hakham Shimon ben Yochai is also considered to be the reincarnation of Moshe Rabbenu, (Moses our teacher). Now since Moses was the first redeemer and Mashiach was the second redeemer, so we find that that which is attributed to Hakham Yochai is also attributed to Mashiach. Thus we see that sefer Ephesians is concerned about redemption.

 

Ephesians 1:7 In whom we [Jews] have the redemption through his (Messiah’s) life, the remission of the trespasses, according to the riches of His (G-d’s) mercy.

 

Ephesians 1:14 This being a down-payment of our inheritance, to the redemption of the acquired possession, to the praise of His glory.

 

Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

 

* * *

 

In this next section, the connection of the righteous Gentiles to the Olam HaBa through Mashiach and His portion in the Olam HaBa.

 

Ephesians Chapter II

 

Ephesians 2:1-10 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Mashiach, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Mashiach Yeshua: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Mashiach Yeshua. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Mashiach Yeshua unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

 

The Sifsei Tzaddik, zt”l, cites the following Gemara: “Rashbi said, ‘I can discharge the whole world from judgment.’”[67] This is actually true for all generations. Each year on Lag B’Omer, when we make a resolution to change our ways, Hakham Shimon effects an atonement of all our sins and all our prayers are answered. Yeshua also was able to provide atonement for sin as we read: Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Mashiach.

 

Y Y Y

 

In this portion we see that the righteous will sit in the heavenly in Mashiach. What does it mean to ‘sit’? We have learned from the Tanakh that siting always indicates the act of judging. This ‘sitting’, this judging is ‘in Mashiach’. This teaches us that the righteous are engaged in Torah study; for we have learned elsewhere that Torah = Mashiach. On Lag B’Omer, as we have seen, the light of the Torah begins to shine. The manna given on Lag B’Omer will begin to open our eyes to allow us to study (judge) Torah. This is what it means to be seated in the heavenly in Mashiach.

 

The mitzvot, the ‘good works’, which are the result of our salvation are the deeds of faithful obedience to the Torah’s commands. Without Torah there are no mitzvot (good works). The mention of our salvation and its connection to the mitzvot is only trully appreciated when we eat manna and begin to experience the Torah. This is the experience of Lag B’Omer.

 

Ephesians 2:11-22 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Mashiach, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Mashiach Yeshua ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Mashiach. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having nullified in his flesh the enmity the (manmade) law of commandments in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Yeshua Mashiach himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

 

Ben Kochba’s army achieved many victories and the rebellion raged for six years. Many non-Jews joined Ben Kochba’s army. It is reported that it grew to 400,000 men, larger than the Roman Army. Ben Kochba was so successful that Hadrian called in all of his best troops from England and Gaul. Rome felt threatened as never before. On Lag B’Omer, it is believed by some, Ben Kochba’s army re-conquered Jerusalem, and we celebrate that great event today. Jewish independence was restored for four years. Many believe that Ben Kochba actually began to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple. One writer[68] believes that he completed the building of the Third Temple.

 

 

Ephesians Chapter III

 

Ephesians 3:1-13 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Yeshua Mashiach for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you–ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Mashiach) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Mashiach by the gospel: 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Mashiach; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Yeshua Mashiach: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church (congregation) the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Mashiach Yeshua our Lord: 12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. 13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

 

We have previously mentioned that the mabul, the flood, took place on Lag B’Omer. This was a revelation from heaven that took forty days. At the end of the forty days, all the wicked were destroyed.

 

The Chatam Sofer notes that Lag B’Omer was also the day that the manna began to fall from heaven. The Torah records that the Jewish people came to rest in the Desert of Sin on the fifteenth day of the second month. On the sixteenth day of the month the Jewish people complained to Moshe that they had nothing to eat. The next day on the seventeenth of the month, HaShem told Moshe that on the following day, the eighteenth, the manna would begin to fall.[69] As mentioned above, the eighteenth day of the second month is Lag B’Omer.

 

Both of the above events share the characteristic that the heavens miraculously opened. However there is a major difference between the two. The first event was the beginning of forty days of complete destruction (which was for the benefit of the whole earth and for Noach and his family) whereas the second event was the beginning of forty years of great blessing. The Midrash also mentions that the manna and the mabul were related.

 

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XXV:7 BEHOLD, I WILL CAUSE TO RAIN BREAD FROM HEAVEN FOR YOU. It is written, Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies (Ps. XXIII, 5). When did Israel say this?-When they left Egypt and the nations declared ‘These will surely perish in the wilderness’, saying, Can God prepare a table in the wilderness (ib. LXXVIII, 9), What did God do?-He made them recline beneath the clouds of glory, as it says, But God made the people recline (Ex. XIII, 18); He gave them manna to eat, as it says, Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna (Deut. VIII, 16). The manna was higher than the waters of the flood, for it says, And He commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven (Ps. LXXVIII, 23), whereas in the case of the flood it says, And the windows of heaven were opened (Gen. VII, 11). The nations beheld Israel sitting and eating and praising God, as it says, ‘ Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou hast anointed my head with oil’ (Ps. XXIII, 5)-this refers to the quails. My cup runneth over-this is the well. Similarly in the Messianic age, He will establish peace for them, and they will sit at ease and eat in Paradise, and the idolaters will behold their customs and laws, as it says, Behold, My servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry  (Isa. LXV, 13).

 

We may derive that the eighteenth day of Iyar (Lag B’Omer) is an auspicious time for HaShem’s revelation. Sefer Ephesians mentions this special revelation once in the above pasuk, and again in Ephesians 1:1. This revelation is one of the key points of this sefer.

 

Who ate the manna? We know that all of the Jews in the entire world ate the manna, but what about Gentiles? Did they have manna? The Torah records that they, too, were in the wilderness and ate the heavenly bread.[70]

 

This manna would, therefore, transform both the Jew and the Gentiles, who had attached themselves to Israel, into Torah vessels. Both groups would be brought together to receive the Torah. Remember that Shabuot was the time of the giving of the Torah. On Lag B’Omer, Shavuot was anly seventeen days away. We are on the final approach of our redemption. We, Jews and attached Gentiles, must renew our strength to change who we are through the counting of the Omer. On Lag B’Omer we receive assistance from Heaven when HaShem sent us The Bread from Heaven. This manna enabled them to receive the Torah (Mashiach) on Shabuot. This manna was a catalyst to bring both Jew and Gentile to Mashiach and His Torah. This is the message of sefer Ephesians. This is the message that Hakham Shaul is teaching the Gentiles of Ephesus. Torah is what brings the righteous together, and it is only in the body of Mashiach that this connection is made clear.

 

Ephesians 3:14-21 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Yeshua Mashiach, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Mashiach may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Mashiach, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Mashiach Yeshua throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

 

Ephesians Chapter IV

 

Ephesians 4:1-6 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

 

The love of one’s neighbor comes from the same root as your respect for your neighbor. Thus when the talmidim of Hakham Akiba died due to lack of respect, it also indicates a lack of love. To avoid the disaster of Hakham Akiba’s talmidim it is necessary that we learn to have the utmost love and respect for our neighbor. Sefer Ephesians implores the Nazarean to go to great length to love and to respect our neighbor. This love is a natural outgrowth of our closeness to The King. Those who serve in the King’s court should be above reproach in this arena.

 

The greatest distancing is when talmidei chakhamim are not connected with one another. The Netziv comments at length[71] on Chazal’s statement that on account of baseless hate the Temple was destroyed. He explains that this was not plain baseless hatred, but in that generation there was lack of connection between talmidei chakhamim because of the difference in their opinions, and there did not dwell between them love about their very greatness of Torah. When those talmidei chakhamim negate each other on account of their opinions and do not give importance to the very greatness of Torah, because of this the Temple was destroyed. The generation of Hakham Shaul and the subsequent generation of Hakham Akiba and his talmidim were not immune to this same problem. The death of the 24,000 spring from this same cause. We would be wise to heed the words of sefer Ephesians and learn how to love each other despite our differences.

 

Hakham Shaul Yosef Leiter wrote the following: Lag B’Omer commemorates the cessation of the plague that wiped out Hakham Akiba’s students, who were punished for their lack of respect for their colleagues. Rebbe Shmuel Shmelke of Nicholsberg explained how to love a person who has done you harm. All of us are one integrated entity, because we are all small parts of the original soul of Adam, the first man. We can be compared to parts of a body. Sometimes a person may unintentionally hurt himself, by dropping something on his foot or by walking into a pole. If we would then take a stick and vengefully hit the offending part of the body, we would really be in pain. So it is with when someone else harms you. It is only because of a lack of understanding of how we are all connected. If we would pay him in kind, we are only doing ourselves more damage. Rather, we should remind ourselves that we deserved what we got, and the Almighty has many messengers. If this thought does not suffice, we should try meditating on the other person’s soul, which is literally a portion of HaShem from Above, which has fallen so low, and we should have compassion for His holy spark.

 

Ephesians 4:7-8 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Mashiach. 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

 

Tehillim (Psalms) 68:19 You ascended on high, you captured captives you took gifts for man.

 

What gift did Moshe take for man?[72]

 

When Moshe went up to heaven to take the Torah, the angels opposed him.[73] After he succeeded in proving that the Torah is meant for man and not for angels, they still insisted that the esoteric teachings of the Torah (penimiut haTorah) remain with them. The one who revealed the esoteric teachings of Torah was Hakham Shimon ben Yochai. He authored the Zohar, which is the basis of the Kabbalah.

 

The word shevi, captive, is an acronym for his name (Shimon ben Yochai). In speaking of Moshe, King David says, “You ascended on high” and “shavita — you captured — shevi — the captive” — that is, he seized from the angels the neshamah of Shimon ben Yochai, which they wanted to keep in captivity for themselves, and brought it as a gift for man on earth. In the next portion of Ephesians we will see that Mashiach performed a similar function on behalf of the righteous.

 

Ephesians 4:9-16 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Mashiach: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Mashiach: 14 That we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, Mashiach: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

 

In this passage we see that the purpose of the ascension is the unity of the body with Mashiach as the head. These are the themes of Lag BaOmer. Further, Chazal teach that all “descent is for the sake of ascent”.

 

 On Shabuot the Torah was given at Sinai at a moment when there was total Jewish unity. The Torah states, va’yichan Yisrael neged hahar, “the Israelites encamped opposite Mount Sinai”. Va’yichan is stated in the singular, which the foremost commentator, Rashi, defines as meaning that Israel encamped opposite the mountain “as one man with one heart,” i.e. in a state of total and perfect unity. From this, we derive the lesson that Torah can only prosper and accomplish its goals when the Jewish people are united.

 

The period of Sefirah serves as a preparation for Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah) in that the seven sefirot are interwoven and refined. In this, the final third of the omer count, the attribute of “Glory in Glory” is attained, the major portion of the Sefirah “body” has been built. And then Lag B’Omer is directly connected to the state of “as one man with one mind,” of Matan Torah. As the third watch of the night is associated with the morning, so the final third of the omer count is associated with the glow of Shabuot.

 

Lag B’Omer foreshadows this unity, seventeen days before Shabuot, the final third of the omer count.

 

Among Jews the story of the great revolt against Roman power was encoded as the story of those who died because of their lack of respect for one another, a not too subtle point on the lack of unity and the betrayals that doomed the uprising.

 

Hakham Akiba’s 12,000 pairs of talmidim were lacking the quality that was essential for acquiring Torah, they were found to be totally unprepared to receive the Torah, at their level.[74] As the time period between Pesach and Shabuot is the time during the year when we must be prepared to receive the Torah and the talmidim, through their own correctable flaw, were not prepared, this was the time that was deemed appropriate for them to suffer the consequences. The Gemara chose its words carefully. It is true the students stopped dying on Lag B’Omer. However, they died when they did because it was “between Pesach and Shabuot”, the time dedicated to preparation for the receipt of the Torah.

 

The real lesson of Lag B’Omer is not about bonfires and bows, it was about the lack of unity, the willingness, of some, to serve the Romans, to betray their own people, to agitate and undermine, to inform on and spy against their own. It is a lesson we desperately need to learn today. The way forward is in Meron but not because of what is buried there but because of what lives there, the unity of hundreds of thousands of Israelis and Jews from all walks of life

 

The Meron festivities bring together hundreds of thousands of Jews annually; both religious and secular, Ashkenazim, and Sephardim. The Jewish unity achieved at the Meron festival should be hailed as a model of what we should be striving to achieve the entire year round.

 

Y Y Y

 

The Gemara comments that when a Mishna is recorded without mentioning the name of the sage, that means that it was said by Hakham Meir.

 

When we find a similar nameless passage in the Tosefta, we know that it was said by Hakham Nechemiah.

 

An anonymous Sifra is attributed to Hakham Yehudah, and

 

An unnamed Sifrei is attributed to Hakham Shimon. The Gemara concludes, “and they are all according to Hakham Akiba”.[75]

 

Ephesians 4:11 speaks about five special officers.

 

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

 

These four men are a pars-pro-toto for the ten men of the synagogue. Read the study on the synagogue to learn about these four special men.

 

And He gave some as Apostles… These five offices were filled by men who had received smikha from Yeshua. In the same way, the five talmidim of Hakham Yochai were great men of the oral Torah. Each of them played a major part in providing decisions for the various components of the oral Torah.

 

Y Y Y

 

Imagine that you have a bonfire burning brightly in front of you. What are you doing? If you are like most folks, you are mesmerized by the flames and you find your eyes following the flames up into the sky. You follow the burning embers as they fly ever further up. This is the effect of a bonfire. Curiously, this is the same thing that the disciples did at Yeshua’s ascension: 

 

II Luqas (Acts) 1:9-11 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Yeshua, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. 

 

Judaism teaches that the souls of righteous men ascend to heaven upon liberation from their bodies. Thus Hakham Shimon Ben Yochai and Yeshua both ascended on Lag BaOmer. The difference is that Yeshua ascended bodily. This is the message of sefer Ephesians 4:9.

 

 

Ephesians 4:17-32 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But ye have not so learned Mashiach; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Yeshua: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Mashiach’s sake hath forgiven you.

 

Pesach flows into Sefirat Ha’Omer (the counting of the Omer), with the counting of 49 days from the second day of Passover to the holiday of Shabuot, the conclusion of Pesach. On Pesach we begin our physical freedom and on Shabuot we complete out spiritual freedom. Lag B’Omer is the day when our spiritual freedom begins. The counting of the omer is based on the commandment in:

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:15-16 And from the day on which you bring the offering…you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete.

 

The seder is the beginning point for an amazing transformation that will take 600,000 slaves and transform them into Am Israel, a new nation. A nation of free men who serve HaShem. To accomplish this transformation, these men will need to shed the mentality of slaves. A mentality that has existed for a couple of generations. These are men who have never known what is is like to be free men.

 

The seder is the beginning of a renewal process which will take Am Israel from the forty-ninth level of impurity and make them like angels at Mt. Sinai. This will be accomplished by the counting of the Omer. This count will allow Israel one week for each midot, each character trait. During this week they will focus on a different aspect of this midot. This process will renew their mind and transform them from a people of impurity to a people who will stand before HaShem at Sinai as a single man with a single heart, the heart of HaShem.

 

Finally, the seder is the beginning of a process which will take 600,000 men and transform them into a nation. They will learn laws and behaviors that will change them from slave-like followers and build them into a nation of Priests capable of teaching Torah to the world.

 

Sefer Ephesians, in 4:23, speaks of this amazing process of renewal which transform the minds of a nation. Their minds will return to follow the Torah as Avraham did.

 

The mabul (flood), another Lag B’Omer motif, also carries this idea of renewal. After the flood, not only was the earth renewed and cleansed, but HaShem also expected Noach and his family to build a new world according to the Torah. Noach and his sons were expected to change their mind set that “all things continue as they have from the beginning”.[76] HaShem sent the mabul with the expectation of a new world populated by men of renewed minds; minds that were focused on HaShem. The whole point of the rainbow was to warn men that they were not renewing their minds, instead they were deserving of the same punishment as the generation of the mabul. The rainbow was not only a symbol of HaShem’s promise not to flood the world, but it was also put in the sky whenever men deserved the punishment of the flood. The rainbow, then, is a warning to mankind that they need to renew their minds and change their way of thinking and acting.

 

Another Lag B’Omer custom, the burning of bonfires, is also a lesson in the renewal of our minds. As fire converts the physical wood into the non-physical fire, so are we commanded to renew our mind and move it from a total concentration of the needs and desires of the body (physical), to a a concentration on HaShem and the true reality of the spiritual world which will render this world as a dream.[77]

 

The custom of giving a child his first haircut on Lag B’Omer is another way to manifest the renewal of the mind. An amazing thing happens when a child receives his first haircut. He feels like a new person, like one who is about to change the world. From this point on, we begin renewing the childs mind by teaching him Torah and mitzvot. This first haircut, in the place of the mind, serves to focus everyone involved in the tremendous renewal that is taking place in the childs life.

 

Lag B’Omer represents a change of pace as we approach Shabuot. On Shabuot we will agin encounter the shofar calling us to awaken from our slumber. Lag B’Omer serves, therefore, as a preliminary wake-up call. We must change the way we are thinking! We much change our actions!

 

Pesach is mandated by the Torah to occur in the springtime. This is the very season when the earth is beginning to be renewed. By the time we reach Lag B’omer, the renewal is in full view for everyone to see. Thus we see that the earth itself is teaching us to begin a process of renewal, for this is the time of renewal.

 

Sephirat HaOmer is meant to remind us that the redemption from slavery was not complete until the Torah was received and accepted by Am  Israel on Shabuot. This required a total renewal of the mind as sefer Ephesians teaches.

 

Ephesians Chapter V

 

Ephesians 5:1-20 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Mashiach also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. 3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; 4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Mashiach and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. 13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. 14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Mashiach shall give thee light. 15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Yeshua Mashiach;

 

Hakham Meir was one of Hakham Akiba’s seven new students. Their names are also hints to the Lag B’Omer story. In the Talmud,[78] it says that all anonymous Mishnayot are attributed to Hakham Meir. This rule was required because, following an unsuccessful attempt to force the resignation of the head of the Sanhedrin, Hakham Meir’s opinions were noted, but only as “Others say...”

 

Meir is actually a sobriquet, his real name is thought to have been Nahori or Misha. The name Meir, meaning “Illuminator”, was given to him because he enlightened the eyes of scholars and students in Torah study.[79] Notice that in Ephesians 5:13, that the emphasis is on all becoming like Hakham Meir. We are all to become ‘illuminators’. Thus we have another hint to Lag B’Omer.

 

In Ephesians 5:8 we see that light is critical for our walk with HaShem.

 

Even in places other than Meron, Hasidic Jews make a practice of lighting bonfires on Lag B’Omer. Some also light candles in the synagogue in honor of Hakham Shimon ben Yochai’s Hillula. The bonfires and candles, with their light, symbolize Torah and mitzvot, as it says: 

 

Mishlei (Proverbs) 6:23 For the commandment is a candle, and the Torah, light. 

 

This connection between the bonfires and the light of Torah also provides an additional connection to Mashiach who is called the “Light of the World”: 

 

Yochanan (John) 8:12 Then spake Yeshua again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. 

 

Light is also a critical theme of the end of sefer Ephesians:

 

Ephesians 5:8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

 

Ephesians 5:13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.

 

Ephesians 5:14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Mashiach shall give thee light.

 

The light of the bonfire provides us with a hint to the real light, the light of the Living Torah.

 

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On Shabuot, at the giving of the Torah, those who received it heard the first two words from HaShem. When they heard, they were blown back ten mil and died. They were then resurrected and brought back to the foot of the mountain. When they heard the second word the process was repeated a second time.[80]

 

Shabbath 88b R. Joshua b. Levi also said: At every word which went forth from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, the souls of Israel departed, for it is said, My soul went forth when he spake.[81] But since their souls departed at the first word, how could they receive the second word? — He brought down the dew with which He will resurrect the dead and revived them, as it is said, Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, Thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary.[82]

 

From this Chazal understand that resurrection was one aspect of this feast. To put it another way, the dead were awakened. On Lag B’Omer we begin this process of waking up. Sefer Ephesians, in 5:14, calls us to awake from our sleep, and arise from the dead. The call goes out on Lag B’Omer and is completed on Shabuot. Bear in mind, as we have said before, that Shabuot is the Atzeret, the completion of Pesach.

 

Ephesians 5:21-33 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Mashiach is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Mashiach, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Mashiach also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious congregation, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Mashiach and the congregation (of Israel). 33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

 

As we have already seen, the bow and arrows are a reminder of the rainbow which was given after the mabul (flood). What was the mabul? Why didn’t HaShem just send a plague and kill everyone except Noach and his family? The answer is that the earth had become impure. How do we make vessels (pots and pans) pure? We immerse them in boiling water. The mabul was sent explicitly as boiling water in order to cleanse the world of impurity. As the mikveh is forty seahs, so this mabul lasted forty days. It is also interesting to note that the other way to kasher a vessel is to use a blow-torch on it. The bonfire speaks to the blow-torch which will be used in the end of days to purify the world. Ephesians 5:26 speaks to the mikveh of water that is used to kasher (cleanse) the bride.

 

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In sefer Ephesians, Hakham Shaul emphasized the importance and the difficulty of marriage, so too, did Hakham Yosi ben Chalafta, a talmid of Hakham Akiba, emphasize the importance and the difficulty of marriage.

 

Since marriages have been on hold during the sefira period, now on Lag B’Omer they are permitted, as we learned earlier. This concords well with a picture of the messianic age and the Olam HaBa. It also concords with Hakham Yochai’s well which pictures the wells where the patriarchs met their wives.

 

Midrash Rabbah, Bereshit 68 A matron asked Hakham Yosi ben Chalafta: “In how many days did HaShem create the world?” Said he to her: “In six days.” Asked she: “And from then until now, what does He do?”

Said he: “He sits and matches up couples.”

Said she: “And this is His artistry? I, too, can do that! How many servants and maids do I have! In a fleeting moment I can pair them.”

Said he to her: “For you it may be easy. For HaShem it is as difficult as the splitting of the sea.” Hakham Yosi ben Chalafta left her and went.

What did she do? She took a thousand slaves and a thousand slave-girls, lined them up in two rows, and announced: “You marry him, and you marry her.” On the next morning they came before her -- this one with a wound in his head, that one with a drooping eye, this one’s arm dismantled and that one’s leg broken. Said she to them: “What happened to you?” The one said, “I don’t want him,” and the other said, “I don’t want her...”

Immediately she sent for Hakham Yosi ben Chalafta and said to him: “Hakham, your Torah is true, beautiful and praiseworthy. Everything that you said was well said.”

 

Ephesians Chapter VI

 

Ephesians 6:1-9 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. 4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. 5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Mashiach; 6 Not with eye service, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Mashiach, doing the will of God from the heart; 7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. 9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.

 

In v.6 we see that Hakham Shaul is commanding the Gentiles to do the ‘will of HaShem’. What is the will of HaShem? How is the will of HaShem’ discerned? Surely you must say that the will of HaShem can only be discerned from the Torah! The reveal will of HaShem is found to the oral Torah and written Torah. The revelation of Torah was begun on Lag B’Omer. It began with the giving of the manna and its secrets were given to Hakham Shimon ben Yochai on Lag B’Omer. Further, these Torah secrets were given to Hakham Yochai’s talmidim on Lag B’Omer. The mitzvot, the ‘good things’ are found in the oral and the written Torah, the gift that began on Lag B’Omer.

 

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The Yovel cycle is a time of freedom for all Israel. It is a time when free men return to their inheritance and begin anew. In the same way, the period when we count the omer is a period where we obtain freedom from Egypt and learn how to be free from our own lusts through the Torah. Both Yovel and the sefira are given to teach us that everything, including our very lives, belongs to HaShem. His Torah alone teaches this to us and shows us how to curp our acquisitive nature in favor of obedience to HaShem. On Lag B’Omer we enter the final third of the days of counting. From this point on we have divine assistance as reach for the freedom that comes with receiving the Torah. This is the theme of Ephesians 6:5-9, which we will see shortly.

 

Y Y Y

 

In the sefer Ephesians, we see the word ‘tob’ (the Greek equivalent) seven times. The preceding pasuk highlights the emphasis on ‘tob’, good.

 

“The students of Hakham Akiba did not behave with respect towards each other, since they did not grasp the secret of unity, they only grasped the external level. The hint to this is that between Pesach and Shabuot there are 49 days (32 + 17) numerically equal to the words Lev Tob (32 + 17) (a good heart). They were just Lev (32) (heart), but not Tob (17) (good), since the beginning of the Torah, from (the word) ‘Bereshit (In the beginning)’ until (the words) ‘that the light was good,’ there are 33 words, and Tov represents the inner light which is the understanding of the unity, which starts to shine from the 33rd day of the Omer until Shabuot, which is this light, the light of Shabuot, which is the light of Yechida (singularity). When Israel camped at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah), it says there, ‘And he camped,’using the singular ‘he’, showing there total unity even though it referred to all of Israel and should have said ‘they camped’. This is the Torah of Hakham Shimon Ben Yochai, which is the light of the inner level, which he revealed on the day of his withdrawal from this world, that from henceforth, the ‘light which was good’ shines. Likewise, the Holy Ari revealed his Inner Torah, which is the repair for the destruction (of the Temple), which is the light of chachmah (wisdom), which brings to unity.”[83]

 

Ephesians 6:10-17 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

 

In halacha (Jewish law) the solemn “Tachanun” prayer is not recited on Lag B’Omer; until this day, we are also accustomed to follow mourning practices in memory of Hakham Akiba’s students who died during this period of time some two thousand years ago. According to tradition, the deaths ceased occurring on Lag B’Omer. Hakham Shimon ben Yochai was the talmid of Hakham Akiba. Hakham Akiba was the armor bearer for Ben Kochba (a messianic figure), a hint to the full armor of HaShem.

 

In this Epistle we can see the “armor bearer” (Akiba) in chapter 6. We can see that the focus is on one body with many members and Mashiach as the head. The recurring theme of unity is hammered home repeatedly with many examples.

 

Ephesians 6:19-24 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. 21 But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things: 22 Whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts. 23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Yeshua Mashiach. 24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Yeshua Mashiach in sincerity. Amen. To the Ephesians written from Rome, by Tychicus.

 

Y Y Y

 

The above theme of cleaving and bonding to HaShem is also connected to the section of Rambam studied on Lag B’Omer. Rambam writes[84] that although the blessings in the Amidah prayer originally numbered eighteen, another blessing was later added by the Sages. For “In Rabban Gamliel’s days, the number of heretics in Israel increased, and they were wont to harass the Jews and seduce them to turn away from HaShem. When he [Rabban Gamliel] saw that this [the necessity to remove this evil] was the most urgent of needs, he and his Rabbinical court composed a blessing.

 

In other words, the Sages saw that the “smell of the tannery” — the environment in which Jews lived — was influencing Jews to “turn away from HaShem. What did they do about it? They composed a prayer to HaShem to eliminate this evil, for prayer, Rambam writes (Laws of Prayer 1:2), is the duty “to ask [for HaShem] all that he needs.” Since the greatest need a Jew has is to cleave to HaShem, the elimination of this evil (“seducing them to turn away from HaShem”) was “the most urgent need.”

 

Cleaving to HaShem, then, is of the utmost importance and need to a Jew; and on Lag B’Omer, Rashbi achieved the ultimate union with HaShem — “I am one with Him, I have a passion for Him, I cleave to Him.” This is also the goal of prayer: To be “as a servant before his master,” negating one’s ego and self and being one with HaShem.

 

 

Y Y Y

 

Torah was give by threes.

 

The world stands on three things.

 

The 33 curses in Vayikra 26:14-33 (Bechuqotai).

 

Y Y Y

 

Leah is mentioned 33 times in the Tanach. Leah means ‘weary’.

 

Our obligation towards the stranger appears a total of 33 times in the Torah.

 

Be’er Sheva occurs 33 times in Tanach.

 

 

Y Y Y

 

Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:10 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.

 

Ephesians 3:14-19 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Yeshua Mashiach, 15  Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16  That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17  That Mashiach may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18  May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19  And to know the love of Mashiach, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

 

Lag B’Omer is a celebration of the Oral Torah (gospel – mesorah). The oral Torah teaches us how to perform the mitzvot. It is applicable to the Noachide and to the Jew. Its transmittal requires a teacher and a talmid. This teaches us that Noachides must have a teacher and they must accept the oral Torah in addition to the seven laws of Noach. This mesorah is the focus of sefer Ephesians.

 

As Aharon was the “mouth” for Moshe and the oral Torah, so also is Yeshua our “mouth” (head) and the oral Torah.

 

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This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address: gkilli@aol.com

Web page: http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

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Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address: gkilli@aol.com

 



[1] Moshe Isserlis recorded that this day is a mini-festival.

[2] See Rema on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, 493:2

[3] Ashkenazim call him Rabbi Akiva.

[4] Sanhedrin 86a

[5] Rashi ad loc.

[6] Avodah Zarah 10b

[7] Avodah Zarah 10b

[8] The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 493:1) records the tradition, based on Yevamot 62b, that the students of Hakham Akiba all died during the period between Pesach and Lag B’Omer.

[9] These were extremely great talmidim and we must understand that they were judged at their level.

[10] Hakham Ovadia Yosef tells us that the custom of mourning was instituted during the Talmudic period. See:  Hakham Ovadia Yosef, Yabia Omer volume 5 O.H. section 38. See also Otzar HaGeonim on Yevamot 62b (page 141) and sources cited.

[11] According to the Holy Zohar (Midrash Ne’elam, Toldot 140a).

[12] The most basic book of Kabbalah

[13] A central midrashic work

[14] Talmudical-halachic

[15] Mystical-kabbalistic

[16] Marqos (Mark) 6:7

[17] Succah 45b

[18] Romans 5:18, Bereans (Hebrews) 5:9

[19] The erev rav were the large mixed multitude of Gentiles who left Egypt with Moshe and the Jewish people.

[20] Shabbat 157a; Beitzah 2a-b.

[21] Luqas (Luke) 6:5

[22] Zohar III:124b

[23] Likutey Halahkot, Hekhsher Keilim 4

[24] II Luqas (Acts) 4:12, Romans 1:16, Ephesians 1:13.

[25] for example, Rashi Shemot 30:3

[26] Sefer Yetzirah

[27] Shir Rappaport, the well-known historian of the 19th Century. Orah Haim 493,7

[28] Midrash Rabbah - Shemot 29:9

[29] Ta’anith 23a

[30] HaTikkun HaKlali

[31] Yeremiyahu (Jeremiah) 25:11-12

[32] Midrash Rabbah Shemot 1:32

[33] Bereshit (Genesis) 2:25

[34] Malachi 2:25

[35] Mishnah Berurah 493:1

[36] Ephesians 5:27

[37] HaShem puts a rainbow in the sky whenever we deserve to be flooded from the earth. Thus we did not deserve to be flooded during H. Yochai’s life because of his merit.

[38] Bereshit Rabbah 35:2

[39] There is a Kabbalistic tradition that on Lag B’Omer a rainbow will appear in a different color, which will symbolize the arrival of the Messianic age (Bnei Yissaschar).

[40] Bereshit 6:11-12

[41] From B’nei Yissaschar

[42] This custom of lighting bonfires on Lag B’Omer dates back to antiquity, particularly at the grave of the great tanna and his son. This practice is recorded in the ancient journal Ahavat Ssiyon.

[43] Devarim (Deuteronomy) 33:4

[44] Ordination

[45] Chida, Tov Ayin 18

[46] Responsa: Yoreh Deiah 233

[47] Meam Loez, Shemot 16:12

[48] Midrash Rabbah - Numbers XVI:24

[49] Yoma 75b

[50] Yoma 75a

[51] Ephesians 1:4

[52] Yochanan (John) 3:32-34

[53] Referring to the Torah, the heveanly food and drink which HaShem has prepared for Israel.

[54] Kaf HaChaim 493,27; Aruch HaShulchan 493,7; Chaye Adam 131,11 and others.

[55] Bnei Yissaschar, Iyar 3,3

[56] The Ramban in his commentary to Parshat Emor considers sefira to be a chol hamoed of sorts sandwiched between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot.

[57] Water Drawing and puring ceremony.

[58] Succah 5:2-3

[59] The raised platform, in the sysnagogue, where the Torah is read.

[60] Yevamoth 62b

[61] Rav Yichiel Michel Epstein, Aruch HaShulchan 493:1. He also sites the Chok Ya’akov (493:3) and mentions the opinion of Rav Yochanan ben Nuri, that the maximum hell to which a soul may be sentenced is the length of the period between Pesach and Shavuot, (Mishna Edyot 2:9) which further points to the judgment aspect of this period.

[62] During the fifth month of the fifth year we are reading: Ex.23:20 – 28:43, which is about setting up the Mishkan and the priests.

[63] cf., Psalms 104:15 and I Kings 5:8. See also Talmud, Sotah 14a

[64] Marqos 7:24-30

[65] Moed Katan 9b

[66] Raya Mehemna

[67] Succah 45b

[68] Hakham Leibel Resnick in “The Mystery of Ben Kokhba” (Jason Aaronson, 1996)

[69] Shemot (Exodus) 16

[70] Shemot (Exodus) 12:37-38, Devarim (Deuteronomy 29:10-13.

[71] In the introduction to Sefer Bereshit and Responsa Meishiv Davar 44

[72] Hakham Moshe Bogomilsky

[73] Gemara Shabbat 88b

[74] The spiritual level of these 12,000 pairs was so great that even the most insignificant of flaws would be unacceptable. Consider that we would have been ‘fried’ by their spirituality if we had stood in their presence.

[75] Sanhedrin 86a

[76] II Tzefet (Peter) 3:3-7

[77] Tehillim (Psalm) 126:1-6

[78] Gittin 4a

[79] Eruvin 13

[80] See also Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 41 (Eshkol ed., Jerusalem, p. 158)

[81] Shoftim (Judges) 5:31.

[82] Tehillim (Psalms) 68:10.

[83] Hakham Avraham Brandwein of Yerushalayim.

[84] Mishneh Torah, Laws of Prayer 2:1