Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
What can we learn this year from Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai? Tonight is Lag B’Omer, the day of his passing, but this year we are not going up to Meron, his burial place, and we are not lighting bonfires. This year it’s more internal and more intimate. Notice how the famous piyut (liturgical poem) describes Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai:
“Bar Yochai, you dwelled in a pleasant place
On the day you ran away and escaped.
You stood in the sand of the rocky cave
There you acquired your grandeur and your glory.”
Rabbi Shimon was forced to flee from the Romans to a cave, but what happened there? “There you acquired your grandeur and your glory.” All his grandeur and glory are acquired during his period of isolation and confinement. He has no synagogue, no community, yet he does not become bitter and angry but makes the most of it. It is precisely there that he studies, delves deeply, improves himself, develops to his full potential, and becomes a legendary figure. For years he does not go outside, but takes advantage of this period of isolation to grow. If only we knew how to take advantage of this period in which it has been decreed for us to be in “a cave” so that we could acquire grandeur and glory for the rest of our lives.