Lag Baomer 2020
We are in the Omer, it’s a time of counting. This year from March 11 2020 the official time the WHO announced a global pandemic of never before reaching proportions that have affected either directly or indirectly every single person reading this blog. This is a time that our health is not taken for granted. Every day we check ourselves and our loved ones to see if all is well and if not- what we can do to bring a remedy. The concern for personal health for some time now is eclipsed by that of the community’s needs made sure, close and far away as well. Our old ways of communicating with each other in real visits and time spent together to any part of the world easily has changed dramatically. Israel’s gates are for the most part closed. How has this affected the greater Jewish Community? The unity within our community stands at a critical hour as we seek to help each other in this dire time. However, what is our community- what does it mean? Is it a district, a neighborhood, a nation or more complex brotherhood of togetherness? Lag BaOmer is a time to re- evaluate as we enter a holiday marked for the time of an end to a horrific plague that killed twenty four thousand disciples of Rabbi Akiva, a great Torah sage known for his kindness and benevolence to the sick and needy. It had such a great magnitude upon us that we commemorate it every single year. Hillel Hazaken said, “אם אין אני לי מי לי ואם אני רק לעצמי אז מה אני?””- “If I am not for myself than who am I and if I am only for myself what am I?” Times of plague come to define this quote and have us assessing not only a physical response of wearing a mask and gloves and using Aqua gel. There is a moral response to Corona. Lag BaOmer has an interpersonal focal point. Being “religious” does not just apply to fear and love of God and wearing a uniform of religious adherence but demands love and care for our fellow man who was created in Hashem’s image. It is about relationships; yes, this is tested in times of crisis. Rabbi Akiva who was a renowned Torah Giant famous for national and Torah sovereignty recognized the greatest principle of Judaism in the commandment- “Love they neighbor as thyself”. This year each and every one of us have introspection on our doorstep as we review these sayings and the events of Lag Ba’Omer then and now.
Here in Israel the harsh restrictions implemented by our government as well as mandatory lovingkindness systems that regulated and sought out individuals living alone, the elderly, the disabled and sick, and reaching them in order to care and tend to stands as a model for many world countries. We are coming around in time and fixing the broken standard of ethics and values that even in the Torah Academy of Rabbi Akiva two thousand years ago whose plague sealed the verdict of our expulsion from this Land. In an encouraging perspective of history, we have come full circle. The Romans who forbade Torah learning and destroyed our Temple would have never imagined that the greatest Torah centers in the world today are in Israel. We have a lot to be super mind blown about. We have a lot to be proud of. Today’s Omer counting according to kabala is the “HOD” of “HOD”(splendor of splendor), a day of complete humility. This plague has made us humble. Wearing our mask to the supermarket puts out our arrogance. It has made us more compassionate. Israel did well in the Corona test but now as a community, we need to use sensitivity towards the sub communities in their agony. We are in a reciprocal time. It is time for Israel to give back as we prepare to absorb new immigrants or even just find methods of lending a helping hand in whatever way we can. It’s a time to fix the past and prepare for the next stage of history. We are one.