Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement. Now also a Blogger on the Times of Israel. Look for my column
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Sheltering in Place for 13 years not two months
Sheltering in Place for 13 years not two months
As we celebrated Lag BaOmer two days ago many of us will be a full two months into our corona-induced isolation. Many of us have overcome the illness, some of us are in mourning (heaven forfend), and most of us are (thankfully) simply sheltering in place, wondering when and how this will end.
And it will end.
And when it does, I will look back and…
We are not sure. What will we have accomplished? How will we have changed?
We managed to kosher the kitchen for Passover. We will have kept up a relatively normal work schedule. We will have become an expert at shopping online. We will have gotten most of the kids to bed relatively close to their pre-pandemic bedtimes, most of the nights, most of the time.
We will have … what? What will we have to show for this once-in-a-lifetime experience that G‑d has gifted me? What mark has it left on me and my home, ground zero of my current reality?
This question takes on an added layer of urgency when I think about Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, whose life is the reason we celebrate on Lag BaOmer. He sheltered in place for 13 years, not two months.
Did you know that Rabbi Shimon was a prolific Talmudist and a consummate educator, whose teachings on virtually every area of Jewish life are quoted in more than 90% of the tractates of the Mishnah (the foundational text of the Talmud), and whose Kabbalistic teachings form the underpinnings of Jewish mysticism?
Shimon bar Yochai, Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai), also known by his acronym Rashbi, was a 2nd-century tannatic sage in ancient Judea, active after the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE. He was one of the most eminent disciples of Rabbi Akiva, and attributed with the authorship of the Zohar, the chief work of Kabbalah.
According to popular legend, he and his son, Eleazar B. Simeon, were noted Kabbalists Both figures are held in unique reverence by kabbalistic tradition. By tradition, they were buried in the same tomb in Meron, Israel which is visited by thousands year-round.
The persecution of the Jews under Hadrian inspired Shimon with a different opinion of the Romans than that held by his father. Shimon often demonstrated his anti-Roman feeling. When, at a meeting between Shimon and his former fellow pupils at Usha (city in Israel), probably about a year and a half after Rabbi Akiva's death (c. 126), Judah ben Ilai spoke in praise of the Roman government, Shimon replied that the institutions which seemed so praiseworthy to Judah were for the benefit of the Romans only, to facilitate the carrying out of their wicked designs. Shimon's words were carried by Judah b. Gerim (one of his own pupils) to the Roman governor, who sentenced Shimon to death (according to Grätz, this governor was Varus, who ruled under Antonius Pius, and the event took place about 161). Shimon was compelled to seek refuge in a cavern, where he remained thirteen years, till the emperor, possibly Hadrian, died.
Far from his wife, who had been spiriting them food until then, Rabbi Shimon and his son were forced to live off spring water (not the kind from a bottle) and carobs. To preserve their clothing, they spent most of their days buried in the sand (ouch!).
And there they remained for 13 long years.
He lived and breathed Jewish scholarship, deriving his energy from the lively discussion and inspiring atmosphere of the study hall (beit Midrash).
In fact, it's no accident that when he became a wanted man for speaking ill of the tyrannical Romans, his first (and preferred) hiding place was the study hall, where he felt most at home.
But then the Roman noose tightened and he needed to leave his beloved study hall and hide in a tiny cave, tucked away in the Galilean hills. (When tourism resumes, you can actually go see it above the town of Peki'in—it's tiny.)
Compared to them, my isolation experience, enhanced by online shopping, central heating and cooling, and a laundry room in the basement, is a vacation--and a short one at that.
And their scholarship was on an entirely different level. Before he went into hiding, whenever Rabbi Shimon posed a question, Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair would supply 12 answers. But afterward, for every question from Rabbi Pinchas, Rabbi Shimon would furnish 24 replies.
How did this happen?
Rabbi Shimon touched upon a very important fundamental. You do not need to be in the study hall to study Torah, and you do not need to be in the synagogue to communicate with G‑d.
Quotes from Rabbi Shimon
Better for that man to make himself fall into a fiery furnace than to embarrass his neighbor publicly.
There are three crowns – the crown of the Law, the crown of the priesthood and the crown of kingship. but the crown of a good name excels them all.
The Holy One, blessed be He, has given three gifts to Israel: Torah, the Land of Israel, and the world to come.
A bird without heaven's consent cannot perish. How much more, then, man himself!
He that causes a man to sin is worse than he that had killed him.
I have seen those destined for the world to come. If they are thirty, my son and I are among them. If they are ten, my son and I are among them. If they are two, my son and I are them.
The Divine Law (Torah) was not given to expound, except unto those who eat manna (i.e. to those who are free from worldly cares and worries).
If you study in a cave, the cave becomes a study hall. And when you pray at home, your house becomes a synagogue. If you find it within yourself to be just a bit more patient with the members of your household, or if you've reached out of your comfort zone to call someone in need of a pick-me-up, you've made your home a place of kindness and peace, where G‑d assures us His presence rests.
We need not wait for our communal institutions to open for us to function as Jews. Our homes are our sanctuaries, the center of Jewish life, and the nexus of our connection with G‑d. They have always been and forever will be. This reality has simply crystallized in a way we may have previously overlooked.
My Lag BaOmer resolution is to grab hold of this truth and allow it to guide me in the days and weeks ahead.
The Jewish home is a miniature temple, in which each and every one of us is High Priest, rabbi, and chazzan.
If G‑d placed us in these circumstances, He believes we can do it. And if He believes in us, surely we should as well.
Ideas, that help explain how the world works
A Lot of Salt
Rabbi Meyerovitz was teaching his Hebrew school class when he came to the story about Lot's wife. The rabbi was describing how Lot's wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt, when little David interrupted.
"My Mommy looked back once while she was DRIVING," he announced triumphantly, "and she turned into a telephone pole!"
Fauci to Orthodox Jews: Phase in Communal Prayer Incrementally as Virus Restrictions are Lifted
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, had a message on Thursday for Orthodox Jews: Phase in communal prayer as local coronavirus restrictions are being lifted.
"The kind of social interactions which is the core of the beauty of your culture has unfortunately led to a higher risk," said Fauci, also the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a webinar conducted by the Orthodox Union.
He advised Orthodox Jews to take incremental steps in re-establishing in-person prayer.
"If you said, for the time being, 'How about once a day and five days a week as opposed to three times a day, seven days a week,' if you could phase that part in," that would ideal, said Fauci. He did quickly add, "I don't want to be presumptuous to know what that would mean to you from a spiritual standpoint."
Fauci warned against letting into synagogue older adults and those with underlying conditions, including hypertension, diabetes and obesity, until those healthy have been at the synagogue for a couple weeks.
"As tough as it sounds, I have family members in the same boat. You've got to make sure that they are really protected," he said.
Fauci predicted that in the fall, "there will almost certainly be [the] virus" around the time of the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
And he did have a request. Considering the exhausting long hours he said he has put into responding to the outbreak, Fauci asked, "As you're doing your praying, make sure you include me in that."
Rabbi Moshe Hauer, the Orthodox Union's executive vice president, assured Fauci that was a given.
Regarding social distancing, in which it's advised to remain 6 feet apart from others, Hauer said that the OU was advising its congregants to be 8 feet apart, just to be safe, since Jewish crowds are know for their traditional need to comfort, enjoy and be near one another.
Fauci laughed and said, "The emotional core of the Jewish people of being warm and close to each other, you can't resist!"
Rare coin from Bar-Kokhba revolt unearthed near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
In honor of Lag B'Omer, the Israel Antiquities Authority on Monday revealed a rare bronze coin from the period of the Bar Kokhba revolt (circa 132 CE), which was discovered in archaeological excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority in the William Davidson Archaeological Park, under the supervision of the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, Ltd. located between the Temple Mount and the City of David.
The excavations are conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Ir David Foundation (Elad), which operates the site.
The obverse of the coin is decorated with a cluster of grapes and the inscription "Year Two of the Freedom of Israel" and the reverse side features a palm tree and the inscription "Jerusalem."
Coins from the period of the Bar Kokhba revolt, which declared the rebels' purpose - to liberate Jerusalem from Roman occupation after the destruction of the city - are well-known in archeology. Discovering such coins helps researchers map out the revolt, which took place approximately 1,900 years ago.
It is interesting to note that the rebels minted these revolt coins on Roman regime coins with stripped or damaged faces, possibly out of defiance of the Roman occupation.
The revolt coins featured the Temple facade, trumpets, a harp/violin, as well as the inscriptions: "Redemption of Israel" and "Freedom of Israel."
Dr. Donald Tzvi Ariel, Head of the Coin Department at the Israel Antiquities Authority, examined over 22,000 coins discovered in archaeological excavations in the area of the Old City in Jerusalem.
This examination revealed that only four of the coins are dated to the period of the Bar Kokhba revolt. This is a very small number, even more so when compared to the large number of Bar Kokhba coins that have been found outside of Jerusalem.
The recently discovered coin is the only Bar Kokhba coin found in the area on which the word "Jerusalem" appears.
Despite their desire to do so, the Bar Kokhba rebels failed to breach the boundaries of ancient Jerusalem. This fact gives rise to the question of how four coins from the revolt period still managed to make their way into the city.
The excavators, archaeologists Moran Hagbi and Dr. Joe Uziel of the Israel Antiquities Authority, raise the possibility that the coins were brought to Jerusalem (where the Legion camp was seemingly posted), by Roman legionnaires of the Tenth Legion, who participated in suppressing the revolt and saved the coins they found on the battlefields as souvenirs.
In the archaeological and historical research based on the testimony of the Roman historian Cassius Dio, it is accepted that the Bar Kokhba revolt broke out in 132 CE, after Emperor Hadrian declared the establishment of a Roman colony called "Aelia Capitolina."
This colony was built on the ruins of Jewish Jerusalem and began with the construction of a temple dedicated to the god Jupiter on the Temple Mount. The establishment of the Roman city and the construction of an idolatrous temple in place of the Jewish Temple, in addition to restrictive religious decrees, distressed the Jewish population that had remained in Judea. This launched a widespread revolt against the Roman government under the leadership of Shimon Ben-Kosiba, known as "Bar Kokhba."
The revolt itself lasted about five years, causing heavy casualties among the Roman legions - so much so that they had to deploy large military units from around the Roman Empire to complete their ranks. The revolt ended with the destruction of hundreds of Jewish communities and villages that took part in the revolt. However, Bar Kokhba remains etched into the memory of the Jewish nation as a historical hero.
Benjamin Netanyahu Prime Minister of Israel
Benjamin Netanyahu Prime Minister of Israel, Defense Minister Prime Minister of Israel 1996-1999; 2009- Foreign Minister of Israel Nov 2002 - Feb 2003; Dec 2012 - Nov 2013; May 2015 - February 2019 Defense Minister Nov 2018 - I am certain that I speak on behalf of my entire nation when I say: September 11th we are all Americans - in grief, as in defiance. Benjamin Netanyahu I always lose the election in the polls, and I always win it on election day. Benjamin Netanyahu Our policy is very simple. The Jewish state was set up to defend Jewish lives, and we always reserve the right to defend ourselves. Benjamin Netanyahu There's no one in Israel who appreciates more than me the importance of American support for Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu I think that peace will require two states, a Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. Benjamin Netanyahu Peace is something very dear. If you've been through wars and operations and battles, you want peace. Benjamin Netanyahu Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American. Benjamin Netanyahu