June 14, 2006

One of the greatest of the Tannaim, Scholars of the Mishnah, the earliest written form of the Oral Torah. He was the Spiritual Leader of the Bar Kochba Revolt and it was he who initially proclaimed Bar Kochba the Mashiach. He was a Master of Transformation and Growth, as we see from the fact that he began to study Torah at the age of forty, and went on to become one of the greatest Torah Scholars.

The death of 24,000 of his students constitute the traditional reason for the sadness of the Sefira, and the cessation of the plague on Lag BaOmer, the greatest cause for the happy nature of that Day. He could look at utter devastation and see future glory, as the Talmud tells us in Makot, where he and three of his colleagues gazed at the ruin of the Temple, and they wept. As they wept, he laughed! And he explained, “Just as I see the tragedies foretold by the Prophets fully realized before my eyes, so I see in my mind’s eye the future realization of the Prophecies of Redemption foretold by the Prophets. He died a martyr’s death, which he accepted with joy(!?), seeing it as the fulfillment of the command to love G-d with his whole life.