| Voice in the Crowd |

Rabi Shimon’s Promise

Rabi Shimon, you promised it won’t be forgotten and look, heilege rebbe, look how true that is

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hy Rabi Shimon?

Why is Meron, sacred burial place of Rabi Shimon bar Yochai, the destination for the upsherens, chalakahs and haircuts of our nation? Why do our three-year-olds mark the occasion near his resting place?

I once heard a beautiful suggestion from a wise rav. He quoted the gemara in Shabbos (138b).

The Rabbanan maintained that Asida Torah shetishtakach m’Yisrael, Torah is destined to be forgotten from Yisrael… But Rabi Shimon bar Yochai argued and said, “Chas v’shalom, Torah will never be forgotten,” quoting the possuk, “Ki lo sishakach mpi zaro.” (The sofei teivos of which, Reb Nachman of Breslov pointed out, are Yochai, hinting to the fact that his essence lies in this teaching. And in fact, those words are emblazoned over the famed archway in Meron, since Rabi Shimon ensured that Torah will never be forgotten.)

This Rav suggested that as each generation of children comes forth, taking their first steps in to the world of Torah — licking honey, tentatively reading letters — their parents take them to Rabbi Shimon and remind the Tana of his pledge. “Heilege Reb Shimon, you told us that Torah would not be forgotten, that this next generation too will find honey within the letters, sweetness in the toil, joy in the truth…you promised…”

Throughout history, there was reason to believe that the next generation of children would face challenges too daunting — this time, parents were warned, you’re in trouble. So we start the process by connecting to Rabbi Shimon, reliant on his understanding of the passuk. Chas v’shalom. Torah will never be forgotten.

Last year, this was a nice Lag B’omer vort. This year, it’s so much more.

Because without the charter flights and crowded roads and dancing throngs, without the flames rising into the inky blue sky, with what will we connect to Rabbi Shimon?

With this vort!

Rabi Shimon, you promised it won’t be forgotten and look, heilege rebbe, look how true that is.

Look at the rebbeim and moros and teachers, the menahelim and principals and parents, at their resourcefulness and dedication — and look at the kids. The kids! Clutching phones or tablets, cut off from friends and recess and ball games, they’re holding on tight because at a time of such great uncertainty, this is certain. They’ve got to learn.

Look at the bochurim… A woman told me how she went out on to her porch one day looking for a quiet spot to make an important phone call — from both neighboring porches, there was the noise of bochurim learning on the phones with their chavrusos. For a moment, she was irritated, but only for a moment. If there is beauty in hearing birds singing or water rushing, for those are the sounds of creation itself, then the sounds of voices raised in Torah are far more beautiful: not just the sounds of creation, but the reason for creation. Step out and listen.

Every morning during these virus-shadowed days, there is a dance taking place -- where’s the phone, is it charged, which kids need it at the same time, where can we find you a quiet corner, learn well sheifele….This year, that dance is in your honor, Rabi Shimon.

We have not forgotten.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 809)

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