This date marks the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the foremost sages of the Talmud and author of the Zohar, the primary text of the Kabbalah. Rabbi Shimon revealed mystical teachings, enabling his students to perceive the Divine unity within our material world, to understand that physical existence is not the be-all and end-all of existence. Moreover, for Rabbi Shimon and his students, this was perceived as actual fact, not as abstract theory.

In that vein, the Zohar relates that once in a time of drought, the people came to Rabbi Shimon and told him of their plight; they desperately needed rain. Now in other situations, when the people came to Sages with such a request, the Sages would pray. Rabbi Shimon, by contrast, recited a mystic teaching on the verse, “How good and how sweet it is for brothers to sit together,” and rain descended.

For Rabbi Shimon, the spiritual and the physical were not two separate realms, but one interrelated reality. The mystic insight he shared with his students reflected the interplay in the spiritual realms that would cause rain. As he communicated it verbally, it brought about actual rain. The world mirrored the inner spiritual truth. His yahrzeit grants us the potential to harmonize the material and spiritual dimensions of our personalities, erasing the dichotomies that exist between them.

Looking to the Horizon

Following that same line of thought, the Zohar tells us that Rabbi Shimon was told: “With your text, Israel will be redeemed from exile with mercy.” What is the core of the Redemption that Mashiach will bring about? That the material and the spiritual will not be skew lines, but one integrated whole. The inner spiritual core that permeates all existence will be openly perceivable. We will be in touch with our souls and be conscious of the G‑dly truth that permeates all things.

Now Judaism explains that reward is given “measure for measure.” In order to bring about this fusion of the material and the spiritual in the world at large, we must begin by assimilating Rabbi Shimon’s teachings, fusing the material and the spiritual in our own minds. Afterwards, once our thinking processes change, our conduct will also be affected. Our actions will reflect what we will have learnt.

And then, goodness is catchy. When one person genuinely manifests these principles in his life, they will enter the hearts of the people he meets and they will respond in kind. And then the motif will spread, initiating a positive spiral of change, for the microcosm affects the macrocosm. The ripples will be felt in ever-widening circles and the setting will have been created for Mashiach’s arrival.