1. Lag BaOmer is celebrated for two principal reasons: (i) It is the Yahrzeit (anniversary of passing on) of the Tanna, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi), who commanded all Jews, including children, to participate in this day of his joy. (ii) On Lag BaOmer, the disciples of Rabbi Akiva, who were dying in a plague because they did not honor each other and accord respect, ceased to die. They ceased to die because from Lag BaOmer on they treated each other properly.

Just as a Jew must derive a lesson in service to G‑d from everything he hears, so, too, a lesson must be derived from Lag BaOmer. Like all service to G‑d, the directive from Lag BaOmer must be carried out with great joy and satisfaction — knowing that it causes great satisfaction to the Supreme King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He. And, consonant to Rabbi Akiva’s words that, “‘You shall love your fellow as yourself’ is a great principal in Torah,” people must influence others to also carry out this directive. This too should be done with joy, for the fulfillment of the command, “You shall love your fellow as yourself” causes great satisfaction to G‑d Who commanded it, and to Rabbi Akiva who said it is a “great principal in the Torah.”

The first lesson from Lag BaOmer is to be derived from a story concerning Rashbi’s conduct. Of course, we cannot compare ourselves to Rashbi who was on the loftiest of levels, and, indeed, Rabbi Akiva (Rashbi’s teacher) said that only he and G‑d could even recognize Rashbi’s worth. Nevertheless, since Rashbi endeavored to bring merit to the entire world and to work for it, his conduct, related to us by Torah, gives the strength to every Jew, beginning with small children, that when they try to follow in his footsteps, they will be successful.

The Talmud tells us concerning Rashbi that “his Torah was his profession.” Although Rashbi was engaged in other things (for he also had to eat, drink etc.), his principal pursuit was Torah — it was his profession. He also educated his disciples to be likewise, as indeed, the word in Hebrew for “his profession” — “umnasoh,” is cognate with the meaning “education.” Thus, “his Torah was his profession,” also means that he educated his disciples that their principal occupation should also be Torah.

The lesson, then, to all Jews who wish to follow Rashbi’s path is that even when occupied in other things, one must always remember that these are secondary, and the principal thing is Torah.

The idea of, “his Torah was his profession,” is particularly relevant to Jewish children. A grown person, particularly after marriage, must spend part of his time earning a living. Children, because their needs are provided for by their parents, can utilize all their time for Torah study.

The above lesson is especially important now, close to the summer vacation, when children are registered in summer camps. You children should ask your parents to register you in a summer camp, where you can utilize every free moment for Torah study and fulfillment of mitzvos.

To the parents who are here, we turn with a request — in the name of Rashbi — that they should register their children in summer camps where they will receive the best education — utilizing all their free time for Torah study, thereby giving great satisfaction to G‑d.

Consonant to the command, “You shall love your fellow as yourself,” parents should not only register their own children in camp, but also endeavor to see that other children are also registered. Children, too, should influence their friends to spend their summer in a camp permeated with the spirit of “his Torah is his profession.”

Besides the above lesson derived from Rashbi’s Torah study, there is also a lesson to be learned from Rashbi’s conduct. The Talmud (Shabbos 33b) relates that after Rashbi came out of the cave he had been hiding in from the Romans for 13 years, he asked: “Is there something that needs fixing?” When told there was a place that priests could not pass because of a doubt of impurity, and they were put to the trouble of going another, longer way — he fixed it up just to save them this trouble and bother!

We learn from this to what extent a Jew must go to do a favor for another. The command, “Love your fellow as yourself,” must be expressed not just in feelings or words of love to one’s fellow, but also in actual deed. And, as before, since this brings great satisfaction to G‑d, it must be done with joy and a good heart.

2. There is also a lesson to be derived from the second event of Lag BaOmer — that it is the day on which Rabbi Akiva’s disciples ceased to die.

Man’s service is divided into two general categories: 1) “Do good” — to do good deeds; 2) “Keep away from bad” — to guard against undesirable things. The above lessons from Rashbi are in the category of “Do good.” The second event of Lag BaOmer is in the category of “Keep away from bad” — it teaches us how important it is not to behave disrespectfully to others. Thus, in addition to the positive commandment of “Love your fellow as yourself,” we need a special directive to guard against bad behavior. In the words of our Sages: “That which is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow.”

This is the difference between the two events of Lag BaOmer in regard to one’s conduct to one’s fellow. Rashbi’s conduct emphasizes the positive — to do good to one’s fellow. The conduct of Rabbi Akiva’s disciples emphasizes not to conduct oneself wrongly.

In simple terms: When a person does a good deed for his fellow, giving tzedakah for example, he may think that he need not be careful now not to hurt or insult him. For example, when a child goes into a store to buy candy or a toy, and sees that another child who was there before him is waiting to buy — the yetzer (evil inclination) tells him: “Since it’s such a nice toy or delicious candy, don’t worry that the other child came before you. You can try to buy it, and even tell the storekeeper that you’re willing to pay an extra penny for it.” Such conduct is worse than behaving disrespectfully, for here he is encroaching upon another’s rights and territory.

This is where the lesson from “Keep away from bad” comes in. “That which is hateful to you do not do to others,” teaches that just as you would not like to be treated in such a manner, it is likewise prohibited to act so to another — even if you have done other favors for him.

This then is the lesson derived from the fact that the disciples of Rabbi Akiva ceased to die on Lag BaOmer. One must be extremely careful not to act disrespectfully to another or to hurt him in any way. This is particularly so when a person realizes that his friend is a disciple of Rabbi Akiva. Our Sages say that all the explanations of the Torah are based on what Rabbi Akiva taught his disciples in his generation — which were handed down from generation to generation until our generation. Thus, when a Jew learns Torah, he becomes Rabbi Akiva’s disciple!

Thus, besides acting properly to another simply because he is a creation of G‑d, special respect and consideration must be shown to one who is Rabbi Akiva’s disciple (and Rashbi’s colleague, since Rashbi was Rabbi Akiva’s disciple).

To behave in such a proper manner, a person, especially a small child, needs special strength not to be influenced by the yetzer. A wonderful lesson in this respect is derived from the words of the Midrash on the verse, (Tehillim 82:1) “G‑d stands in the assembly of G‑d.” The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni Tehillim, 831) states: “When G‑d revealed Himself to Avraham our father (the first Jew), he was sitting, as it says, ‘He was sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day.’ Avraham wanted to rise. G‑d said to him, ‘remain seated’... Avraham said to Him, ‘Is it respectful that I should sit and You stand?’ G‑d answered him: ‘Do not worry ... By your life, just as you are sitting and I am standing, so in the future your descendants, three and four year olds, will sit in the synagogues and study halls, and I will stand over them, as it says ‘G‑d stands in the assembly of G‑d.’”

Because G‑d is found standing with Jewish children, even of the young age of 3 and 4 — and the word for standing in Hebrew, ‘nitzov,’ connotes strength and firmness — it follows that all Jews have the requisite strength not to be affected by the yetzer. For since a Jew goes with the strength of “G‑d Who stands in the assembly of G‑d,” the yetzer is eliminated, and a Jew (even a child) can therefore successfully serve his Master — both in “Do good” and “Keep away from bad.”

Through such conduct, Jews are united together, and thereby merit G‑d’s blessings, as stated: “Bless us our Father, all of us together.” This extends to the principal blessing — that very soon G‑d shall take out from exile every Jewish child, together with their parents and all Israel — “with our youth and our elders, our sons and our daughters,” “a great congregation.”

When the Jews leave exile, the Divine Presence leaves with them, as Rashbi said: “Beloved is Israel before G‑d, for every place they were exiled the Divine Presence was with them ... and also when they will be redeemed, the Divine Presence is with them.”

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3. So that the three pillars on which the world stands — Torah, prayer and deeds of loving kindness (tzedakah) — will be present, we shall, in addition to the twelve verses of Torah already recited, end with the prayer, “May it be ... that the Bais HaMikdash be rebuilt speedily in our days,” and afterwards, give out coins to be given to tzedakah. This will add extra stability to the world, both the “small world which is man,” and the literal world.

May it be G‑d’s will that through these three pillars we speedily merit that from the joy of Rashbi on Lag BaOmer we will go dancing to greet our righteous Mashiach, and hence to our Holy Land, to the holy city of Yerushalayim, to the eternal Bais HaMikdash, now.