Hey! Nobody's Perfect!
Lag BaOmer, the 33rd day of the omer, is a minor holiday celebrated during the 49 day period of counting the omer between Pesach and Shavuot. One of the main people associated with Lag BaOmer is Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, also known as Rashbi. His story is told in the Talmud.
Rashbi lived during the 2nd century in the Land of Israel, under Roman rule. This was a very difficult time for Jews since the Romans did not allow them to practice their religion or study Torah.
Rashbi spoke critically of the Roman government, which was reported to the authorities. The Roman emperor sentenced Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar, to death.
The Talmud picks up the story from there:
אֲזַלוּ טְשׁוֹ בִּמְעָרְתָּא. אִיתְרְחִישׁ נִיסָּא אִיבְּרִי לְהוּ חָרוּבָא וְעֵינָא דְמַיָּא, וַהֲווֹ מַשְׁלְחִי מָנַיְיהוּ וַהֲווֹ יָתְבִי עַד צַוְּארַיְיהוּ בְּחָלָא. כּוּלֵּי יוֹמָא גָּרְסִי. בְּעִידָּן צַלּוֹיֵי לָבְשִׁי מִיכַּסּוּ וּמְצַלּוּ, וַהֲדַר מַשְׁלְחִי מָנַיְיהוּ כִּי הֵיכִי דְּלָא לִיבְלוּ. אִיתִּיבוּ תְּרֵיסַר שְׁנֵי בִּמְעָרְתָּא. אֲתָא אֵלִיָּהוּ וְקָם אַפִּיתְחָא דִמְעָרְתָּא, אֲמַר: מַאן לוֹדְעֵיהּ לְבַר יוֹחַי דְּמִית קֵיסָר וּבְטִיל גְּזֵירְתֵיהּ.
They went and they hid in a cave. A miracle occurred and a carob tree was created for them as well as a spring of water. They would remove their clothes and sit covered in sand up to their necks. They would study Torah all day in that manner. At the time of prayer, they would dress, cover themselves, and pray, and they would again remove their clothes afterward so that they would not become tattered. They sat in the cave for twelve years. Elijah the Prophet came and stood at the entrance to the cave and said: Who will inform bar Yoḥai that the emperor died and his decree has been abrogated?
That's a long time to be apart from the rest of the community!
  • According to the story several miracles took place in the cave. What everyday chores didn't they have to worry about?
  • How did Rashbi and his son spend their time?
After 12 years in the cave, the Roman emperor died which ended their death sentence. It was now safe to leave the cave.
  • How do you think the two rabbis felt about leaving the cave?
  • What do you think they might have wanted to do first after leaving the cave?
  • Do you think re-entering the community would have been a difficult adjustment? Why or why not?
נְפַקוּ, חֲזוֹ אִינָשֵׁי דְּקָא כָּרְבִי וְזָרְעִי, אָמְרִין: מַנִּיחִין חַיֵּי עוֹלָם וְעוֹסְקִין בְּחַיֵּי שָׁעָה. כׇּל מָקוֹם שֶׁנּוֹתְנִין עֵינֵיהֶן מִיָּד נִשְׂרָף. יָצְתָה בַּת קוֹל וְאָמְרָה לָהֶם: לְהַחֲרִיב עוֹלָמִי יְצָאתֶם?! חִיזְרוּ לִמְעָרַתְכֶם! הֲדוּר אֲזוּל אִיתִּיבוּ תְּרֵיסַר יַרְחֵי שַׁתָּא.
They emerged from the cave, and saw people who were plowing and sowing. Rabbi Shimon bar Yoḥai said: These people abandon eternal life of Torah study and engage in temporal life for their own sustenance. The Gemara relates that every place that Rabbi Shimon and his son Rabbi Elazar directed their eyes was immediately burned. A Divine Voice emerged and said to them: Did you emerge from the cave in order to destroy My world? Return to your cave. They again went and sat there for twelve months.
This last section was a little difficult. Let's break it down a little.
  • After they left the cave, what did Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon) and Rabbi Elazar see?
  • Why were they upset that the people were working? What did they think the people should have been doing?
  • What happened when the rabbis looked at the world?
  • What did God think about what the rabbis were doing?
  • What was God's response?
After twelve years of sitting in a cave without having to worry about having food to eat or clothes to wear, Rashbi and his son were able to devote their whole lives to Torah study and prayer, which they thought was the perfect way to live. When they left, they were disappointed to see that other people weren't as "perfect" as them. The people outside of the cave had to work the fields to grow the crops to feed their families. Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Elazar were so angry that their eyes burned everything up!
  • Do you ever feel that people expect too much from you? How does it feel when that happens?
  • Do you expect a lot from other people? Have you ever been disappointed when someone didn't act in a way that you would have wanted them to?
יָצְתָה בַּת קוֹל וְאָמְרָה: צְאוּ מִמְּעָרַתְכֶם! נְפַקוּ. כָּל הֵיכָא דַּהֲוָה מָחֵי רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר, הֲוָה מַסֵּי רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן. אָמַר לוֹ: בְּנִי, דַּי לָעוֹלָם אֲנִי וְאַתָּה.
A Divine Voice emerged and said to them: Emerge from your cave. They emerged. Everywhere that Rabbi Elazar would strike, Rabbi Shimon would heal. Rabbi Shimon said to Rabbi Elazar: My son, you and I suffice for the entire world, as the two of us are engaged in the proper study of Torah.
  • What happened the second time that they left the cave?
  • Who learned the lesson and who didn't?
  • What do you think Rashbi was thinking about during the extra year in the cave?
  • How do you manage to accept people as they are instead of expecting them to be perfect?
  • What do you want people who expect too much from you to know about you?
  • Do you sometimes expect too much from yourself? Do you allow yourself to make mistakes?