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Faith in All

The celebration of the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer revolves around one figure, the Tanna Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the great teacher of mysticism whose soul ascended to heaven on this day. However, there is another revered leader who is likewise associated with Lag B’Omer: Rabbi Akiva. He was a teacher of 24,000 students, who all died in a plague. The Talmud writes that they died since they did not treat each other respectfully. The plague began during the days of the counting of the Omer and ceased on Lag B’Omer. Rabbi Akiva was the teacher of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, one of the few students who were spared the plague.

Rabbi Akiva’s father was a convert, a descendent of Sisera, a Canaanite general. Rabbi Akiva himself was a simple shepherd, and until the age of forty did not know how to read or write. His wife Rachel, the daughter of the wealthy Kalba Savua, convinced him to go and study Torah. He left her for 24 years of diligent learning, and returned home accompanied by 24,000 students.

The message of Lag B’Omer, then, can be directed to the students who, seemingly, are weak and unsuccessful. One can never say, this student will never amount to anything. We must not apply these labels since we can never know someone’s true potential. Every person, child or adult, can surprise us at some stage and reveal outstanding abilities.

This depends a great deal on us. Whether as parents, teachers or friends, sometimes it is enough just to show confidence in the child’s abilities and encourage him to express what is in him. This can be enough to encourage the child to overcome his weaknesses and succeed.

Rachel had faith in her husband and transformed him into Rabbi Akiva, as he himself pronounced to his students: “My (Torah) and yours is hers.” So, too, we can be the ones to uncover the potential in a friend, student or child, simply by our encouragement. Research has shown that even plants can be influenced by their environment; how much more so does this apply to human beings.

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G-d, too, has faith in the Jews who are weak spiritually. As Rabbi Joseph I. Schneerson, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe writes, when Moshiach comes he will judge every Jew, and will prove that in the depths of his heart the Jew did not desire to sin, but fell sway to his evil inclination. With this he will arouse mercy on them all, and they will all merit to be redeemed and to take part in the revelations of the era of Moshiach.

Let us follow in the enlightened path of Rabbi Akiva and his wife Rachel, and show our faith in ourselves and others. With this we will certainly hasten the revelation of Moshiach, with faith that we will immediately be redeemed.

 

 


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