Archive for Lag B’omer

Emerging Again from the Cave a Second Time

          Growing up in Queens, I felt that many of my friends did not receive a positive and proper Jewish education. If I can pinpoint one incident that effected me the most and sparked my pursuit of teaching, it would be when a relative/friend (I know he’s reading this) raised his hand in the middle of a Chumash (Jewish studies) lecture and asked the Rabbi “how do we know G-d exists”. The question floored me. I had never seen my relative show any interest in theological matters. It was a very sincere question.
          However, the Rabbi was not well prepared and in fact ignored the question, making my cousin feel uncomfortable. My cousin’s interest quickly withered away.
          We are celebrating Lag Ba’Omer this coming week and there are many valuable lessons to learn, but first let’s provide some background with regard to this famous event.
          Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was a student of Rabbi Akiva, the spiritual leader of the Bar Kochva Revolt against Rome in 135 CE. As a student of the spiritual leader of the revolt, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was pursued relentlessly by the Romans. He and his son, Rabbi Elazar, took refuge in a cave, where they remained for thirteen years. During those years, Rabbi Shimon studied Torah with his son, the Revealed Torah as well as the Hidden/Secret Torah, the “Torat HaSod,” also known as Kabbalah. Rabbi Shimon wrote down the latter material for the first time in a book called the “Zohar,” meaning “Splendor” or “Radiance”. The first time Rabbi Shimon came out of the cave, he was completely “out of tune” with the people of his generation. He observed Jews farming the land, and engaged in other normal pursuits, and made known his disapproval. “How can people engage themselves in matters of this world and neglect matters of the next world?”, he wondered. In response, a Heavenly Voice was heard saying “Bar Yochai, go back to the cave! You are no longer fit for the company of other human beings”. Rabbi Shimon went back to the cave, reoriented his perspective to some extent, and emerged again. This time, he was able to interact with the people of his generation and become a great teacher of Torah, the Revealed and the Hidden.
          An educator today has to have the ability to interact with people. The Rabbi could have been the biggest egg head in his class and passed his Rabbinical tests with flying colors, however, if he can’t give over the material, it’s worthless. He has to give over the material in such a way that the student will open up and be receptive. He has to give the children a warm and comfortable feeling about Torah. That feeling will remain with them well into adulthood.
          This week, I’m honored that my son’s former Pre1- A Rabbi, Rabbi Yehuda Frummel, is being presented the Educator of The Year award for his work at Yeshiva Ketana of Queens. It is truly an honor well deserved. I closely observed my son as he warmed up to Rabbi Frummel that year. I think back fondly at some of those Rabbis, just like him, who gave over the Torah the way it should be presented. I’m glad I had those educators and also those who are educating  my son.
I’m saddened that many did not have that positive experience. I only wish those people will give our Torah another chance!!