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The Splendor of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai

Updated: May 17, 2022


 

​It’s impossible to fully convey the importance of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) to Creation as a whole. His influence is felt to this day as boasting the greatest gathering of over half a million people happen in Meron for his Hilula (death anniversary) in Lag Baomer.




​Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s main contribution to the world is nothing less than the book of Zohar, which forms the basis for all Kabbalistic knowledge and has been accepted by all real Tzaddikim. Therefore, it’s also impossible to understand him without knowing a bit about the Zohar.

The significance of the Zohar cannot be underestimated. It’s interesting that many Sephardic communities kept in their synagogues 2 holy arcs: one for the Torah and one for this holy book by the side. Rashbi’s holiness is imprinted in the words of the Zohar, as well as the many stories which conceal the greatest secrets in it.

 

The Secret of Tikkunim

​The book of Zohar was dictated by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai with his son Rabbi Elazar, written by Rabbi Abba. It contains many of the secrets of Creation, encoded in Aramaic language. We can surmise that the reason for this is the same reason why the Kaddish is in Aramaic: The Arizal explains that it’s because the SitraAchra does not understand Hebrew (but knows all other languages), we want it to understand the Kaddish to become fearful and stop its actions in its tracks. The Kaddish is a tremendously strong weapon against evilbut it’s important that it be understood. Aramaic is also the interface language between Hebrew and the rest of the languages, as explained by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov in Likutey Moharan, and retains some of the holiness of Hebrew.

​Another unique characteristic of the Zohar, as agreed by many Kabbalists, is that a person can read the Zohar without any understanding that he accrues huge benefits, especially cleansing the soul and bringing blessing down. Although, of course, understanding it is much better, merely reading it is a segulah in itself.

​The Zohar is divided into many parts. The main and biggest one brings fascinating commentaries on the Torah. The Idra Rabbah (Great Assembly) found in Parshat Naso (127B – 145A) brings the story of how Rashbi and another 9 sags (each representing a Sephira, Rashbi being Keter), explains some of the Tikkunim (rectifications) of the higher worlds. After that, we find the Idra Zuta (Minor Assembly) found in Parashat Ha’azinu (287B – 296B) in which only 7 sages gather together to hear the final secrets from the mouth of Rashbi as he lays on his deathbed.

​Finally, the Tikkuney HaZohar is a thick book in itself, comprising a series of 70 Tikkunim explaining many secrets on the first word of the Torah, בראשיתonly! There’s a segulah by R’ Meir Paprish to read the entire Tikkuney HaZohar during the month of Elul and 10 days of Tishrei which should take about 45 hours. We can only imagine how much is left hidden for all the other 305.803 words!

 

Saving the world from destruction

In one of the stories, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai encounters a destroying angel with 30 fire balls floating around it. After being asked by the Tzadikwhat he was doing there, the angel explains it’s been decreed that the world is to be destroyed and he’s there to do the job in the earnest. Without flinching, Rashbiretorts that if Hashem doesn’t find 30 Tzaddikim in the world, his friends can certainly atone for everyone, and if that is not enough, his 10 companions could mitigate the judgments. And even if they couldn’t, he and his son R’ Elazar would be enough. And if that would not be acceptable, he himself would deal with it. The angel goes back to Hashem to tell Him Rashbi did not allow him to do his mission (and threatened to send him to Gehinom). The answer he receives is: pay no attention to Rashbi and continue your mission. When the Tzaddik sees the angel again, he asks “What, you are still here?!”, threatens him one more time and sends him back to Hashem. This situation repeats a few times until a Bat Kol comes out of Heaven praising Rashbisaying “Fortunate are you Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, for you decree and Hashem fulfils, Hashem decrees and you annul!”.

In another occasion, there a deadly plague was killing people from a certain town. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was called and, as he arrived there, he rethorically asked “Can a plague and I be found in the same city?”. Immediately the plague ceases, and Rabbi Meir Ba’al HaNes praised Rashbi, citing how he had one advantage over Moshe Rabbenu. The advantage is that, while the latter needed an elaborate procedure (incense, the snake molten image and prayer) to save the Hebrew people in the desert from death, the former only said a sentence and saved everyone.

But this is not to say that Rashbi was above Moshe Rabbenu. The Arizal also stated Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai reached the level of Moshe Rabbenu after the sin of the golden calf, when his level was diminished by a factor of 1.000 (which is still an exalted position), indicated by the small letter alef (א) at the beginning of book of Vaykra, which can also mean “elef” (1.000).

​Rashbi is one of the most revered and cherishedsages in Jewish history and his book of the Zohar has been a guiding light throughout the generations. There’s even a tradition to make a Goral (lottery) of praying and opening a random page in the Zohar to receive a message from Heaven.

​May the merit of Rashbi and his companions be for a blessing and may we merit to draw forth all the salvations we need this Lag Baomer.


This article was written in the zechut of Rivka Bat Dinah, may HaShem help me attain all her hearts desires speedily.


In the merit of the study of this book - the book of the Zohar - the Jewish People will leave the Exile in a merciful manner. (parashat Naso, 124b). Studying Kabbalah is a huge source of merit that can bring all sorts of salvation to a person’s life. If you want to sponsor to have me study in-depth Kabbalah from the Arizal or the Rashash in your merit and receive its blessings, especially for sustenance, children and health.


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