Guest Posting By Michoel - Shem Mishmuel
Poschin bichvod aksania…
Thanks to A Simple Jew for asking me to write another guest post. I appreciate the opportunity to express a few thoughts in public. I am avoiding blogs and the Web lately, having decided that it is completely treif, asur, full of lashon hara and machlokes, kefira, pritzus etc. etc. But one of the very view websites that might conceivably justify the existence of the Internet is this outstanding blog.
The host asked me to write on a chasidish sefer. The one sefer of Chasidus that I have a bit of familiarity with (literally “a bit”) is the heligeh Shem Mishmuel. Sometimes a person comes across a particular sefer or derech and their reaction is “What was I doing until now?”. That has been my reaction to the Shem Mishmuel, followed by “I have to have rachmanus (mercy) on the rest of Klal Yisrael and help them see the Or Hagadol of this incredible sefer”. If you are like me, you find the Sefas Emes to be fascinating and deep but sometimes hard to understand. The Shem Mismuel is somewhat similar to Sefas Emes but tends to speak out more clearly things that the Sefas Emes leaves as “v’hameivin yavin”. The mechaber (author) quotes often from many of the great Rebbes including the Baal Hatanya, the Alexander Rebbe, the Chidushei HaRim and especially from his father the Avnei Nezer and his zeide the Kotzker. He also quotes very often from the ARI z’l and the Maharal. He says things such as “from the fact that Chazal don’t mention anywhere …, we can conclude…”. He was a person who could make confident statements about the entirety of Chazal about 80 years before the creation of CD-ROMs. In addition to deep discussions of mamaarei Chazal in both talmudim and many midrashim, he discusses piyutim and yotzros, kinos and slichos with great depth. He was a great gaon in halacha, having written the hagaos (notes) to the Eglei Tal. The sefer was written over the course of several years. Some years, he built on what was said previously and some years he said something entirely new. I would like to present here some of the Shem Mishmuel’s thoughts on Lag Baomer and Sefira. They do not appear all in one piece in the sefer but rather are collected and adapted from his maamarim over a few different years. Please keep in mind that this is merely my own understanding and the author’s deep words which need to be seen inside.
It is mentioned in the seforim, that the ikkar (primary) part of Sefira is from the second day of Pesach until Lag Baomer. (Although the actual sefira is 49 days, if we count from the first day of Pesach all the way to Shavuos there are a total of 51 days, or three segments of 17 days each.) Lag Baomer marks the end of the second of these three segments. We know from the Maharal that the number three represents a transition of states. The first of the three is connected to what was previously. The middle is an emtzai (bridge or means) not touching either what came before the beginning of the transition or what is to come afterward. The third segment is already touching on, and connected to that which is being transitioned into. Avraham was born in a house of Avoda Zara, Yitzchak was an emtzai, and Yakov was already able to produce the Shivtei Kah. There are many other examples.
It needs to be explained why the 24,000 talmidei Rebbi Akiva died during this period for not being noheg kavod (treating each other with sufficient respect). We don’t see that a lack of sufficient kavod is normally punished with the death penalty. As is explained in the Shem Mishuel’s perush on the Hagadah, it was upon these 24,000 to be m’saken the cheit of the 24,000 of Bnei Yisrael that died at Shitim, whose cheit stemmed from their viewing themselves as “yesh” in their own eyes. See there for the reason. So too, a failure to be noheg kavod demonstrates the same fault and a failure to correct the cheit of Shitim.
We find that Yisrael camped at Har Sinai “k’ish echad b’lev echad”, with complete achdus. We can say that the reason they achieved such a complete achdus was because they experienced the Kavod Hashem on Har Sinai which affected them so deeply that they were able to come to a true sense of bitul (self-nullification) in there own eyes and this allowed them to achieve full achdus.
Chazal in Brachos teach us that the night has three mishmaros (guards). The last mishmar has particular simanim (indications) that the day is beginning to illuminate. So too, at the end of the last of period of Sefira the light of Matan Torah is beginning to illuminate, and those of great spiritual sensitivity can begin to feel that light from Lag Baomer on. With this we can understand why the Talmidei Rebbi Akiva stopped dying at that point.
The period of Sefira is a time of tikkun hamiddos (correction of character flaws), of transitioning oneself from a state of tumah and avdus (impurity and mental enslavement) to a keli (vessel) which is fit for receiving the Torah. Even if one has not yet made progress during the first two segments of Sefira, on Lag Baomer, they should recommit to grow, with greater drive, as the coming light of Shavuos begins to flicker on the horizon.