Sefirah, Pesach Sheini and Lag Ba’Omer – Rabbi Pinchos Doppelt


We are currently standing in the uplifting days/weeks of Sefiras Ha’omer, as we count down the days towards קבלת התורה. Additionally, we are quickly approaching two tremendous days—Pesach Sheini and the awesome day of Lag Ba’omer.

Unfortunately, many people these days don’t ascribe too much importance to these days. Perhaps they feel that these days are for Mekubalim and the like, but otherwise it’s business as usual.

Others may partake in celebrations on these days, but they view it with a superficial outlook. They may be singing, dancing, and eating, but they do not truly understand the underlying meaning invested in these days. They simply enjoy a good party, which is okay, but they are still far from utilizing this time.

In my younger years, I would likewise view these days as: Sefira- the time when we don’t take haircuts and we don’t listen to music. Additionally, it’s a time that we count the days. Lag Ba’omer -the day that we make big fires and we have big parties. Pesach Sheini -the day that we eat matza and perhaps some of us have a seuda, as well.

Unfortunately, many people never outgrow their childish views, because they don’t learn about it. If they don’t do proper research about these special times, they can stay with their views forever. The same goes for everything in life involving spirituality.

One of the purposes of this kuntres is to open the door a crack, to get a glimpse into these amazing uplifting days, and what they mean to us. We will try to dig a little bit into these days so we get the proper perspective, so we don’t squander away these days with foolishness.

Furthermore, hopefully we will try to give some insight into what our avoda is during these amazing holy days and weeks so we can utilize this time properly. This is especially important during this time when the world around us is spinning out of control, and Hashem is clearly talking to us, trying to awaken us from our slumber.

My tefilla is that Hashem should illuminate our hearts and minds so we can gain insight and inspiration so that we can grow together at this time. This in turn will influence our preparation for קבלת התורה and to greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu very, very soon. Amen.

Pinchos Doppelt

Part 1

Sefiras Ha’omer

Let’s begin with a question about Sefiras Ha’omer. We are currently in the middle of Sefiras Ha’omer, and it would seem that these are sad days, as the talmidim of Rabbi Akiva were taken from us at this time. In halacha we know that during these days we don’t take haircuts and we don’t listen to music as we are mourning the students of Rabbi Akiva. This seems to indicate that these are days of Aveilus – mourning.

However, interestingly at the same time these days are very special days. These are the days that we counting down toward קבלת התורה. In fact, the Ramban says that the days of Sefira are considered like Chol Hamoed. Just like we have Sukkos that has seven days followed by Shemini Atzeres, similarly we have Pesach with seven weeks followed by עצרת, which is also called Shavuos.

Shavuos is known as the “יום חתונתו”. It’s the day that Hashem took us as His beloved Kallah . It’s on this amazing day we became close to Hashem through the Torah. Therefore, the days and weeks of Sefira are the weeks that the Kallah [Klal Yisroel] is preparing for the great wedding with Hashem, which is rapidly approaching.

The question is: How do we go through these days with mixed feelings? Are we joyful or sad? How do we bridge these two together?

One answer we can give is that the avoda of the Aveilus in essence is to attain the lofty midda of hachna’ah, which is a vital for קבלת התורה. We are told that the talmidim of Rabbi Akiva did not give the due respect their friends deserved. This showed a lack of hachna’ah on their part. Therefore, at this time we observe some laws of Aveilus to be machnia ourselves so that we should be worthy of קבלת התורה.

However, we would like to take it even deeper. The Chinuch famously writes that the reason why we don’t count down forty nine, forty eight etc., is because if we would do that, then we would be disappointed to hear that there are so many days left. Therefore, we count upwards. This concept is fascinating.

Thus, we see clearly that these days of Sefiras Ha’omer are days of yearning. During these days/weeks, we are yearning for the day that we will become close to Hashem, and that’s why we are preparing. We are preparing for the great wedding.

The Seforim teach us that although Aveilus is usually defined mourning, but the ultimate definition of Aveilus is to be yearning. They say this in regards to the Bais Hamikdash, but perhaps we can apply this to the loss of our Talmidei Chachomim, as well. After all, Chazal do equate the death of Tzaddikim to the Churban Bais Hamikdash.

The truth is that usually we don’t commemorate previous tragedies other than things that are related to the Churban Bais Hamikdash. So why is this different? One can suggest that since it was such a large quantity of twenty four thousand people that’s why an exception was made.

However, this is not so simple, as there were the הרוגי ביתר, and other times that many Yidden were killed in a short span הי״ד. However, there is an approach that the death of the talmidim of Rabbi Akiva represents the Churban of the Torah. This is as Chazal teach us that following the deaths of the talmidim of Rabbi Akiva, the world was void and empty until Rabbi Akiva gathered five Torah luminaries, and they rebuilt Torah together.

Therefore, as we mourn the loss of these great talmidim of Rabbi Akiva, this should awaken within us a yearning to bring back the spirituality that those tzaddikim offered. We are especially yearning for the loss of beauty of Torah which was lost at this time.

This is an amazing chiddush! As we mourn the churban of Torah, we are also yearning for the return of all the Torah that we lost at that time. When will it return to us? With the arrival of Moshiach, when the crown of Torah will once again be restored to all its glory [as the Gemara in Shabbos teaches us].

How can we get it back? Chazal say that those tzaddikim were taken because they didn’t afford the proper respect to each other. Therefore, when we show each other love and respect, we will get back what we lost, which is when Moshiach comes.

With this, we now have partial understanding of our avoda of these weeks and days of sefira—we are to show love and respect for our fellow Yidden. I heard from Rebbe Simcha Bunim Cohen shlita speaking during Sefira. He was urging and pleading with his listeners that during these days we should greet every Yid with a good morning or even better, “Sholom Aleichem”. He stated that if one passes a fellow Yid in the street and doesn’t wish him “Good morning,” this is considered not giving a fellow Yid the proper respect. He added that this includes one’s spouse and children, as well.

However, we can add that we have learned from the Chinuch that the days of Sefira are also days of yearning. What are we yearning for? Two things. We are yearning for קבלת התורה, which is the simple understanding.

However, as we have explained, we are also yearning for the return of the Torah with all its beauty, like in times of the talmidei Rabbi Akiva. In other words, we are yearning for the Geula Shelaima with Moshiach Tzidkeinu. This is how the Rambam [ [סוף הל’ מלכים defines the concept of waiting for Moshiach, צפית לישועה – to be zoche to the highest levels of Torah.

So the idea of yearning for קבלת התורה and the Aveilus for the students of Rabbi Akiva are in essence extremely interconnected, as we are yearning for the Torah with all its beauty and the closeness to Hashem that comes along with it. This day of Shavuos is a יום חתונתו, as we explained.


Part II

Lag Ba’omer

With a little research we find that the simcha of Lag Ba’omer has been celebrated by the great Mekubalim, as brought in the holy Zohar.

Anyone who has ever been in Meron and has experienced the singing, dancing and ecstasy cannot describe it. It’s beyond this world. The only way to get a real appreciation is by going there yourself, and in fact, many people come from all over the world to experience this great event. The question is why? What is so special about this day? Why are we singing and dancing?

It’s brought down that on this day of Lag Ba’omer, the talmidim of Rabbi Akiva stopped dying. The obvious question is why is that cause for celebration? However, we also know that on this day Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai revealed tremendous giluim. Many say that this is actually the day that is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, which is the reason why we received so much of the hidden Torah on this day.

Therefore, perhaps we can say the following: On Lag Ba’omer we are celebrating that despite the great loss of Torah we experienced with the passing of the talmidim of Rabbi Akiva, Hashem showed us that He has not forsaken us. On this day, after all the talmidim passed away, Hashem opened up Shomayim and shone upon us the light of Torah, the פנימיות of Torah which came through Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

It was at this time that Hashem revealed the hidden part of Torah to Klal Yisroel like never before. This demonstrated Hashem’s love for Klal Yisroel and that לא ימושו מפיך ומפי זרעך. The Toras Hanister gives a whole new dimension to our understanding and our view of the Torah. It also brings out the fire of the Torah.

The Zohar emphasizes the fire of Torah, as Torah is compared to fire – הלא כל דברי כאש נאם ה’. In truth, when we learn the Torah, there is a tremendous fire that surrounds us, and especially when we learn the Toras Hanister.

There are many stories that attest to this concept. There is a famous story with the Chofetz Chaim who was hiding in shul in order to see what his Rebbe Rav Nachum Haradno does when he secludes himself.

Rav Nachum started learning kabbala and the Chofetz Chaim saw a tremendous fire surround him when he was learning. The Chafetz Chaim had to control himself from screaming that there is fire burning in Shul as it was so real.

Perhaps we can suggest that when Rav Nachum learned any Torah there was a fire burning around him similar to קבלת התורה, as is mentioned in the holy Zohar. However, when he learned Toras Hanister he couldn’t control the fire, as it was too intense, and therefore he had to go into seclusion.

הדלקותBase on what we are saying we can understand why we light the bonfires on Lag Ba’omer, because this is what the Toras Hanister reveals to us. Firstly, as we explained the essence of Toras Hanister is “The Fire of the Torah”. Secondly, as is brought out in the Zohar, Torah is indeed a fire, as it says in the Passuk הלא כה דברי כאש נאם ה’.

Now we can start understanding the ecstasy, the singing and dancing on Lag Baomer as if it’s Simchas Torah, because that is precisely what it is. It’s the joy of bringing out the הוד שבהוד of the Torah. The Zohar brings out the splendor of the Torah, the פנימיות of the Torah.

However, let us take this even deeper. There is a maamar quoted from the Sefer Tzvi L’tzaddik that the final Geula will take place on Lag Ba’omer. We cannot explain this definitively since there are many conflicting maamarim when the final Geula will actually come.

Moreover, we say every day (hopefully) אחכה לו בכל יום שיבוא so we are not limiting it to any day. However, we will say this. Based on what we saying we can understand why Lag Ba’omer is a tremendous עת רצון for the final Geula. Let us explain.

When Moshiach will come the Navi tells us ומלאה הארץ דעה את ה’ כמים לים מכסים’. The Rambam (סוף הל’ מלכים) elaborates how we will all become great in Torah and in השגות התורה that we will be like נביאים [it’s worthwhile to look at those beautiful words inside].

We explained earlier that the jubilation of Lag Ba’omer is because Hashem opens up His wellsprings and shines upon us the light of Torah so that we can plumb the depths of the Torah. We can also experience the fire of Torah as well.

However, we can take this one step further and say that this ecstasy and jubilation draws from the days that are coming speedily–known as ימות המשיח. On Lag Ba’omer, the light of Moshiach is burning brightly. That’s because on this day the hidden parts of Torah were revealed to the world, similar to the days of ימות המשיח.

Tragedy in Meron

Three years ago on Lag Ba’omer, Klal Yisroel received a tremendous blow. Forty five Kedoshim כזוהרי הרקיע were taken from us, but at the kever of the Tanna Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Many people were stunned and shocked to the core. How could it be that on such a day like Lag Ba’omer, such an unprecedented tragedy could occur? Moreover, at the very gravesite of none other than the holy Tanna Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai himself. Everyone must ask themselves this question, as there is no coincidences, chas veshalom.

Rabbi Moshe Sorotzkin shlita brings a Medrash to shed light on this: Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said that the real cause of the מגפה during the time of Dovid Hamelech was because they weren’t beg for the building of the Bais Hamikdash. The Midrash continues that if this happened even before there was a Bais Hamikdash, how much more serious is it after the Churban.

This Midrash is frightening. We see how serious it can be if we don’t beg Hashem for the return of the Bais Hamikdash. In fact, Rav Dessler says that all the terrible tragedies that befell Klal Yisroel over the past two thousand years were because they didn’t beg Hashem for the Bais Hamikdash.

He explains that when Hashem sends down a great light for Geula and we don’t grab the opportunity, it is fraught with danger. He goes as far and says that this was a cause for the Churban in Europe as well. This is frightening, and is obviously a great responsibility for each one of us.

Since Lag Ba’omer is a tremendous עת רצון for the rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdash, then this is what we should be davening this day, especially when a large crowd gets together. Furthermore, that Lag Ba’omer followed a lengthy year plus of non-stop messages from Hashem with COVID and many other occurrences going on in the world.

Now we are hearing that the Israeli government [also known as the ערב רב] are telling us that this year Lag Ba’omer they will not allowing the holy Yidden to get together and celebrate. What’s the message now? Although we don’t know for sure, but there definitely is a strong message here and we need to reflect and make a חשבון הנפש this coming Lag Ba’omer.

Perhaps this year when we light our fires, we should be yearning with fire for the Bais Hamikdash to descend with fire (as is brought down in Chazal).


Part 3

Pesach Sheini

The Torah relates that there were those who were טמא and weren’t able to bring the Korban Pesach. They approached Moshe Rabbeinu and complained with the famous words “למה נגרע”. “Why should we lose out by the fact that we are impure?” As a result, they received the mitzva of Pesach Sheini.

There is a dispute regarding what actually happened. Some hold that ultimately this mitzva was going to be given either way, but it was given through them because מגלגלים זכות ע״י זכאי. Others hold that it was because of their great yearning and desire that Hashem gave them the mitzva of Pesach Sheini.

That’s interesting! Why is it that was the Pesach that was given to them because they were yearning for it? There are many other things that someone who is טמא may not partake of. For example, a Kohen who is טמא may not eat קדשים. Had a Kohen complained למה נגרע, would he have received another alternative?

So perhaps we can say that the Torah is teaching us that yes, if one truly yearns for something spiritual then he will get it one way or another. However, perhaps we can say even more than that.

We know that the Pesach represents our Geula. The יציאת מצרים happened through the Korban Pesach and this is why this korban was so dear to these people who were טמא. Therefore, they yearned greatly to bring this korban and they complained “למה נגרע”.

Hashem responded that if one is yearning for their Geula and they cry out “למה נגרע”, then Hashem will fulfill their wishes. That is even if one is טמא or if one is בדרך רחוקה [far away from Hashem, chas v’shalom]. If we cry out from the depth of our hearts, like in Mitzrayim, as it says ‘ונצעק אל ה, then Hashem will take us out no matter how far we have fallen.

The Chofetz Chaim would tell over the following story [which we need to review constantly]. The Bais Halevi left Rabbanus due to a machlokes that occurred in Volozhin. The Bais Halevi had made up his mind that he was not going back to Rabbanus.

The word went out that the Bais Halevi had left his position and was seemingly available. Quite a few delegations arrived to invite him to become their Rav. However, the Bais Halevi adamantly turned them down.

That was until the delegation from Brisk came. At first he refused them just like the previous delegations. Then someone spoke up and told him that “the entire city, which consists of thousands of people, are anxiously waiting for you to become their Rav”. When the Bais Halevi heard that, he put on his hat and immediately consented.

Some say that the Chofetz Chaim was present at that meeting. The Chofetz Chaim would cry and say: “If the Bais Halevi, who was not interested at that time in Rabbanus, but once he heard that they were waiting for him, felt he had no choice but to go with them, how much more so, Hashem who wants to bring the Geula, if we would be waiting properly, He would send Moshiach right away.”

The Chofetz Chaim concluded that this is as we say each Shabbos [which we should say slowly with lots of feeling]. ממקמך מלכינו תופיע ותמלך עלינו מהרה כי מחכים אנחנו לך. The fact that we are yearning for Hashem’s מלכות is in itself the reason for Hashem to reveal His מלכות on this world once again. This is part of our avoda every Shabbos.

The Midrash states this clearly יש דור שמחכים למלכותי מיד הם נגאלים שנאמר יש תקוה לאחריתך ושבו בנים לגאולם. Why it’s like that is a whole discussion, but we see clearly that this is a given. If we are yearning with fire for Hashem’s מלכות and we cry out למה נגרע then we will be redeemed immediately בנים ושבו לגאולם.

This year, תשפ״ד, let us show Hashem that we are yearning to bring the Korban Pesach Sheini and let us cry outלמה נגרע . However, to demonstrate that we are really yearning for it, let us first learn the Halachos of Pesach Sheini. [There is a hotline that has some Shiurim, call 848-777-4769 and there are Seforim as well. One can also receive a recording by emailing Shabbosilluminated@gmail]. Get involved.

If we have this attitude of למה נגרע, who knows, perhaps this year we can still eat the Korban Pesach Sheini in the Bais Hamikdash. [Although it’s not that simple but there is a great possibility, and either way getting the Bais Hamikdash back is a huge accomplishment.]

שבתפרשתאמרWhile we are on the topic, let us demonstrate that this Shabbos is a tremendous Shabbos like no other. Firstly, let’s not forget that Shabbos in itself is a tremendous day like no other. Secondly, this Shabbos we will be reading the פרשת המועדים which brings down the אורות of all the Yomim tovim including Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

As the בעל קורא leins about the Yom Tov of Pesach, we can tap in to the Pesach אורות which are coming down and mentally daven to Hashem that He should bring us to the final זמן חרותנו. When we lein about Shavuos, we can have in mind that we should soon be zoche to והוא ישמיענו ברחמיו שנית לעיני כל חי. When we lein about Yom Kippur, we should beg Hashem that He cleanse us once and for all, וזרקתי עליכם מים טהורים. When we lein about Sukkos, we should ask Hashem that He bring us the true זמן שמחתנו – אז ימלא שחוק פינו

On top of all of this, Shabbos contains the אורות of the Pesach Sheini, as well, because Shabbos contains the following week, as the Seforim explain. Let us utilize this Shabbos and daven for the Geula throughout the davening and zemiros as Chazal have already instituted. The zemiros of Melave Malka are packed with yearning for Eliyahu Hanavi and Moshiach.

As mentioned, Klal Yisroel are the kallah and we are preparing for our chuppa. When Moshiach comes, we will once again have a chuppa with Hashem, as the Navi tells us. ישיש עליך אלוקיך כמשוש חתן על כלה.

The truth is that if you want to experience a tiny fraction of the joy that we will hopefully experience very soon, go to a wedding. After a somber Chuppa, the Chassan breaks the glass and we break out with tremendous joy “״עוד ישמע בערי יהודה. This will give us a small taste of the joy we will experience.

Recently, I went to the chuppa of a close friend of mine. It was a long awaited chuppa, and the joy was beyond this world. The ecstasy, the endless singing and dancing that followed the chuppa was out of this world.

However, I was thinking to myself at that time that there is an even longer awaited Chuppa which has been for almost two thousand years. Can we imagine how much joy there will be after that Chuppa?

I would like to give a ברכת הדיוט to all our readers and all of Klal Yisroel to be present at the great Chuppa with Hashem and His beloved kallah as we will sing the song that is so familiar to us. “״עוד ישמע בערי יהודה and then will move on to “ישיש עליך אלוקיך כמשוש חתן על כלה”, very, very soon Amen.


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