This week's Torah reading1 contains a beautiful image of wholesome life in which each individual and the Jewish people as a whole are dedicated to G‑d, to His Torah and its teachings. In response, G‑d supplies all their needs in abundance.

"If you walk in My statutes and guard My Commandments and keep them, I will give you rain at the right time. The earth will give its produce and the trees of the field will give their fruit… I will grant peace in the Land, and you will sleep without fear…"

The problem is that for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel this idyllic state did not last. The high point of Jewish history was the time of Solomon, three millennia ago, when there was peace in the Land, and the First Temple stood in Jerusalem. But after Solomon passed away, a period of terrible strife and widespread idolatry began, culminating in a long period of exile and suffering, also forecasted in this week's reading in a section read in a low voice by the reader in the Synagogue. Yet the reading also carries the promise that eventually the harmony will be restored with the coming of the Redemption.2

We are presented with an image of harmony and peace which is the inner reality and destiny of the Jewish peopleWe are presented with an image of harmony and peace which is the inner reality and destiny of the Jewish people. Yet that beautiful inner reality is often hidden by horrific events and dark periods of history.

The effect of Jewish teaching in the life of each person is the power to reveal to him or her the inner, beautiful reality, and to bring this hidden reality into the here and now. By observing Shabbat and other aspects of Jewish law, through prayer and Torah study, we access that inner vision and make it visible in the daily world.

This power to reveal the inner vision of Jewish teaching is also expressed by the great sage, author of the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (2nd century CE). The anniversary of his passing, the 33rd day of the Omer – which always falls in proximity to this week's Torah reading, is celebrated by children and youth round the world with parades, bonfires and outings.

The word Zohar means "radiance," and the sacred teachings of the Zohar indeed reveal the radiance in the Torah. The Zohar, arranged according to the weekly Torah readings, teaches the central concepts of kabbalah which are later transmitted in more directly accessible form by books such as the Tanya by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was distinguished for his power to reveal. Chassidic teachings tell us that for him personally, exile and destruction had no reality: he could clearly see the visionary truth within. Yet he also had the power to reveal this to others. The Midrash describes an incident in which he revealed to his students the reward they would have in the World to Come.3 For us too, the legacy of his teachings reveals the radiant vision at the heart of Judaism and the heart of life.

Enjoy!4