Archive for MUSSAR HASKEL/ A Lesson
Is intimidation a way of life? Or perhaps one can say being intimidated is an initiation to life. Does the reader recall being tormented by a classmate, fellow worker, a friend, or I should say an ex-friend? Everybody has had a bully at one point in his life; it’s part of life. If he was spared the bullying throughout childhood years, the tormentor may found him in high school. Perhaps it happened in freshman year of college. How difficult was it, or perhaps still is, to show up to class, or to the office, knowing that this monster will be there, ready to pounce on you, the first opportunity it gets?
This is not the first question that should come to mind in the wake of the hazing story coming out of the Dolphins’ locker room during the past week (hazing is the practice of rituals and other activities involving harassment, abuse
But in a league defined by its violence, where every player aspires to impose his will on opponents, how does bullying become so intense that a massive football player stands up, leaves the team and simply goes home?
Did Incognito, a veteran with a checkered history and a reputation as a dirty player, do this on his own? Or did he have the help and participation of teammates who went along for the ride?
In Miami, it was apparently a combination of the two.
Judging from their reactions, some of Incognito’s teammates enjoyed watching Martin being used as the butt of jokes.
Incognito has been suspended indefinitely by the Dolphins, accused of crossing a long-established line of rookie hazing to torment Martin. Yet Dolphins cornerback, Will Davis, said to reporters earlier this week of Incognito: “He’s a funny guy. Everybody loves him.”
Wide receiver Mike Wallace was more effusive.
“I love Richie,” he said. “I think he’s a great guy. He’s an intense guy. Everybody knows that. I think he was just being Richie.
“I love playing with Richie. I wish he was here right now.”
As if the N.F.L. didn’t have enough headaches on and off the field between concussions, drug testing, and crime, now the commissioner has to deal with bullying in the locker room.
I’ve been in plenty of locker rooms, from grammar school through high school and college, and things can be raunchy. There is a lot of name-calling.
By the time the players reach the N.F.L., a billion-dollar business played by millionaires, one would hope, they have flushed this out of their systems.
Clearly, that is not the case. Though on teams with great leadership, locker-room tensions don’t usually reach the commissioner’s office. Now that these have, Roger Goodell, must deal with Incognito. A lifetime ban would be too harsh. But a suspension, possibly for the rest of the season, even if the Dolphins were inclined to bring Incognito back, which they do not seem to be, seems fair. That, and a stern message to the players that the days of hazing young players, everything from making rookies pay for dinner to carrying veterans’ bags, are over.
My concern for Martin is how this will mark him for the rest of his career. Many are paying lip service to how terribly he has been treated, but in locker rooms and team offices, and not just in Miami, there may always be whispers that Martin is “soft.”
The N.F.L. is not the Boy Scouts. Professional football is not an ordinary workplace. In a world where most fans make their livings, corporations would look at Incognito’s resumé and run the other way. In the N.F.L., personnel directors might look at Incognito, crude, troubled and violent, but also a former Pro Bowler, and say, “He’s our kind of guy.”
As for Martin, at another time and in a different context, he would be lauded for refusing to be provoked. He obeyed the biblical decree to turn the other cheek, that “if someone hits you on the side of your face, let him hit the other side too.”
It’s a wonderful sentiment. But the N.F.L. has its own bible, and that passage isn’t in it.
How many of you remember the famous Coca-Cola commercial of many years ago? “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony)” is a popular song which originated as the jingle “Buy the World a Coke” in the groundbreaking 1971 “Hilltop” television commercial for Coca-Cola. “Buy the World a Coke” portrayed a positive message of hope, unity and love. “Buy the World a Coke” repeated “It’s the real thing” as Coca-Cola’s marketing theme at the time. The commercial touched a lot of hearts…
One meets a variety of characters throughout one’s lifetime. In this week’s parsha, Toldot, the topic of EMET, truth, is presented. Every time we read this portion, I am reminded of one individual I knew in the jewelry business. He is an energetic fellow who knew how to make a buck, however he would always use this sacred word, EMET, very loosely. Some of the typical expressions he would say are:
” I bought the gem stones at a high price, EMET. I cannot sell you at a lower one; I will lose money!” “Those are the merchandise that my customer is looking for however the price is way too high. EMET. It’s not very competitive.” Or, with a chuckle he would sneer and say “How can you have purchased it at that amount? I can get it from others cheaper, EMET. Do you, seriously, want to make the sale?”
“EMET, I will pay you in 30 days ”
Does this guy sound familiar?
Regarding this fellow, we can apply the old expression: It is always good policy to tell the truth, unless, of course, you are an exceptionally good liar, EMET!!
Interestingly enough, we learn many lessons about the truth from our holy Torah. Here are some points that it would be wise to take notice of:
The Sages say, King Shlomo was the smartest man that ever lived and the most famous incident that everybody always points out is the case with the two prostitutes and the baby:
“16) Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17)One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18) The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
19) “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20) So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21) The next morning, I got up to nurse my son-and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”
22) The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”
But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.
23) The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.'”
24) Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25) He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
26) The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”
But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
27) Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”
Perhaps a mother has more mercy for her own child, however……
Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz asks “One does not need to be a rocket scientist to figure out who the mother was in the King Shlomo/prostitute case. What was the clue’s that Shlomo saw that gave it away?”
Shlomo was a master in human nature. There is a concept in the Torah, AVEIRA GORERET AVEIRA, one sin leads to more sins. What typically happens, at times, for the most part, is that one follows the first sins with more severe sins.
This woman did not tell the truth and now she is ready to commit murder. Shlomo foresaw that. Rav Chaim rationalized that perhaps the other woman(not the mother) could have had mercy on the child as well. Or perhaps the woman was a good actress and played the sympathy part very well. The fact that the woman agreed to murder the child implicates her; it brings “not telling the truth” to the surface.
The Gemara asks a question on verse 27. Why did Shlomo say “give the baby to the first mother” as the opening to his verdict? Why didn’t he emphatically proclaim right away that “AHH!! SHE IS HIS MOTHER!” instead?
Why didn’t he commit?
In fact the Sages say the last statement “she is the mother” was not Shlomo’s but a heavenly voice proclaiming that indeed she is the mother.
A valuable lesson is learned about the EMET, truth:
Unless you are 100% sure, one cannot state it as fact. Shlomo, with all his wisdom, was perhaps 99% sure. However, he was not there at the scene. Shlomo was very careful about EMET and all its implications because he knows EMET is a rare commodity. One cannot jump to conclusions. If someone is in a position as a judge, he should answer “I believe it’s like this”, but he cannot state it as fact. King Shlomo was careful with the truth, especially since he was a leader. It’s very different today. If you ever inject the truth into politics, you’ll have no politics.
IN THE BEGINNING…..
I know it’s hard remembering childhood but let’s take kids, for instance. Before they learn the art of deception from “seasoned” adults, children simply do not know how to lie. The reason is because they do not live in a contrast universe. For children, everything is perfectly consistent. What you see is what you get. However, once we accept the “fact” that people lie, we become liars ourselves, and then we never turn back.
WHY DO HUMANS LIE?
The most underlying deception throughout the whole of existence is actually G-d deceiving us humans by hiding His presence from us! The rest, as they say, is history. Once matter is disconnected from spirit, and form from function, once we are disconnected from our inner selves, we are living a “lie.” When we do not perceive the force that gives us life, the very purpose of our being, we have the ability to lie to ourselves and to others. When we don’t feel that we are all part of one unit, we are able to hurt ourselves and others.
However there are those that have a natural instinct to gravitate towards truth; they do feel connected to the source; they are gifted. These individual might be spiritual but are they able to function well in society. But, how are they able to live among the deceivers?
IS IT WISE TO BE SO TRUTHFULL?
Sometimes we see so clearly that G-d has a sense of humor. It’s funny. Many of us are faced with frustrating challenges in life. If one observes in this and last week’s parshiot, one can detect that our forefather Yaakov encounters situations that are totally opposite of his character. One can see clearly that it’s not us but G-d that runs the world!
We learn in Tractate Makot (24:71): “The world stands on eleven important principles” and the Gemara derives this from Psalms (16). One of the principles is “he pursues truth”, referring to Yaakov. He was not accustomed to lie and we see that from the words he uttered to his mother, out of fear, “Maybe father will feel me” and realize “I’m not Eisav”. Yaakov was put in a situation that he had to lie and say “I’m Eisav”. Rivka through divine sensory knew that Yaakov was the one that should receive the blessing. His mother coached him on what to say. “Son, don’t mention G-d when you address you father. Eisav doesn’t do that and we have to be convincing”. Well, guess what? Yaakov uttered G-d’s name when he entered his father’s tent, when asked by his father “How were you able to come here from hunting so fast?” Yaakov replied: “Because G-d arranged it for me”. It seems like he couldn’t stick with the script – too honest! We see later, Yaakov, this wet behind the ears, honest-to-goodness, Yeshiva boy becomes the son-in-law to the biggest liar, cheater and swindler that ever lived, not to mention he was constantly being lied to.
Rav Eliyahu Dessler has a beautiful explanation on what EMET really is. We were always led to believe that truth is describing events accurately, while SHEKER, falsehood, is exaggeration of the event. Mind you, that is just a simplistic definition. However, we know that sometimes truth is better not to be revealed. For instance, saying negative things about a friend, even though it’s true may not be the best way to go about things. It has no constructive purpose. That’s Lashon Hara! At times it’s better to alter the truth then to tell it as it is, otherwise people will get hurt. So we see, if the truth will not help, but, on the contrary, hurt, it’s prohibited.
We also see if one lies to help and progress the world, this falsehood eventually turns to EMET. A good example of this is when G-d altered the words of Sarah when addressing Avraham. G-d stated her words to be that “she is too old to bear children” instead of what Sarah actually said which was “My husband is too old”. This was done in order to preserve Shalom Bayit, peace between the husband and wife. We find that altering the truth which eventually brings good is what G-d wants.
Dr. Robert Goldman, Psycologist at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim says it’s easier to fight a bad characteristic trait then to set limits on a good trait. Two cases in point are our forefather Avraham and King David. Both had the tremendous characteristic of mercy but, nevertheless had difficulty in sufficiently infusing strictness on some of their children. This was particularly true in regards to Avram’s oldest son Yishmael and David’s children Avshalom and Adoniyahu.
Yaakov had to contain his characteristic trait of pursuing truth in order to receive the bracha. This was a very difficult task. The initiation of Yaakov to the world of deception, which was against his nature, apparently helped him later on in life in dealing with his father-in-law, Lavan.
Our daily prayer, EMET, and its significance
In the morning prayers, Shacharit, we say after Shema, Emet V’Yatziv which starts with the word Emet and then 15 consecutive words beginning with the letter Vuv. The word Emet itself is Vuv because G-d’s seal is truth and the letter He seals with is Vuv. As we learned in previous newsletters, the number 15 represents completion. The Pesach Seder has 15 steps and King David’s Psalms has 15 shir hashirim. By having EMET, truth, enwrapped with the 15 words which correspond to completion. One is therefore shalem, complete, once all 15 have been stated. Evidence of this concept of completion can also be found in the word EMET, which has 3 letter; ALEF-the first letter of the alef bet, a TAF-the last letter of the alef bet, and a MEM, in the middle, which is the middle letter of the alef bet. All the letters are symbolic to the whole world which the three letters of EMET come to indicate.
A sinner who was also a robber asked a wise man for advice on how to repent. He felt he could not take on all of the commandments, so he asked the wise man for an easier way. The wise man suggested that he take on one commandment but do it properly. The robber agreed. The wise man said to take upon himself to always tell the truth. After a time, the robber’s resolve weakened, and he set off to rob someone. On the way he met an acquaintance who asked where he was going. Remembering that he took on to always tell the truth, he told him. Then, the same thing happened again. Right away he thought, those two will be witnesses and get me killed! Because of this, he restrained himself and never stole again. (Sanhedrin 92 and the Maharsha)
Truth is complex. We were brought up with a very simplified expression: To tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. However, one has to know when to say it and when to be deceitful for the sake of the truth. When Yaakov met his future wife Rachel, she was puzzled when he drew up a plan to counter attack Lavan, his future father-in-law. He said “when dealing with an untruthful person, one has to be equally deceitful. EMET dictates when to use it.
From the day we lose our innocence, we are desperate to rediscover it. Innocence, childhood, truth, spontaneity, enchantment, seamlessness – these are attributes we adults seek out all our lives. We should continue to seek them, especially truth and innocence, reach for them and work to perfect them so we can complete the EMET of our lives and the world around us.
Choni Ha’magal (the circle-maker) was given this nickname due to another incident in his life, in which he pleaded with God to bring rain. He drew a circle around his feet and exclaimed that he was not going to leave the circle until G-d brought rain. It rained! Clearly, Choni was a great scholar.
His whole life he pondered the verse, (Psalms 126:1)
There are many questions on this Gemara however let’s focus on Choni’s mental well being throughout the whole episode.
Many of these aspects are comparisons about life. Perhaps one should put this also on the list:
One has to be aware of the delicate nature of man. He has to approach situations gradually. Furthermore, man must be aware and use his most powerful tool, that of speech, properly by delivering news, whether good or bad, gradually. This will allow those listening to be able to hear and giving them a chance to adapt and tolerate what they are being told..
also contributing Rafi Sharbat and Rafi Fouzailoff
Rav Ovadia was a former chief Rabbi of Israel and the spiritual leader and founder of the Orthodox Shas party that has an authoritative voice in the Israeli government. What earned him respect, though, was his photogenic memory and was a universally accepted renown Torah scholar. His knowledge was so profound that no one was able to challenge his ruling. Rav Ovadia was not just an encyclopedia of knowledge but he was able to use his creativity and apply halachic rulings where no other Rabbi would dare to go.
A couple of stories to illustrate this point:
1)The Rav had just become the chief Rabbi when Brigadier General, Rabbi Mordechai Piron informed him that there were 1,000 married Jewish soldiers MIA. Rav Ovadia Yosef spearheaded this effort, creating a Beit Din, or religious court, that would meet twice a week. They worked tirelessly to find some basis of proof to free those 1,000 women. Referring to his two-volume book on religious rules, “Responsa: Yabia Omer,” where he dedicated many chapters to the Agunah problem, he treated each case with special importance. Working with the Beit Din of Agunot affairs, he went around seeking testimony and researching evidence on a topic that is heavily complicated within Jewish tradition. By the end of his work, the newswire JTA reported in April of 1976, “there was no longer a single case of Agunah.” Some cases of agunot he worked on did not require so much labor, such as collecting testimony from fellow soldiers. In other cases, Rav Ovadia ruled on evidence which could seem slightly far-reaching; researching dental records, doctor records, even discovered jewelry from the battlefield. In one case, a soldier was found wearing a wedding band with a wedding date inscribed, and his wife had a matching ring. The Beit Din sifted through various marriage registrars and once proving she was married on that date, they concluded the body found was her deceased husband, and permitted her to remarry.
Allowing these women to simply remarry once they assumed their husbands were dead was not so easily determinable. Rabbis feared that those pronounced dead who were actually alive might return home in a few years to heartbreak, if their wives were, indeed, remarried.
Around ten years ago the Rabbi suffered his first heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. Surgery was required immediately however the Rabbi pleaded to postpone the surgery for three hours and be taken home. He later revealed his reasoning. While at home, he was in the middle of writing his responsa for an aguna and, due to the heart attack, he could not finnish it. “I might not come out alive from this surgery and then what will be of this poor woman? She will be stuck for the rest of her life unable to remarry. I had to finish the responsa before the surgery.”
2)In an unprecedented halachic ruling Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has allowed a woman pregnant by artificial insemination to marry a man who is not the father of the developing child. The 44-year old religious woman decided to get pregnant through a sperm bank because she feared she would not be able to conceive if she waited any longer. However, immediately after her insemination, she met a 50-year-old widower and the two quickly decided to wed, after the latter accepted responsibility for the child. The couple immediately ran into trouble. According to the Jewish halacha, a pregnant woman is not allowed to marry any man who is not the father for 24 months after the birth. The ruling preserves the unborn child’s rights. Rabbis explain that if the woman becomes pregnant again within the two years that follow the birth, the mother may stop producing milk for the baby. The couple appealed to the local rabbinate, but was forbidden to marry. They then turned to Rav Ovadia Yosef, who ruled that the mother may use milk substitutes to feed her child if she conceives again in the coming years.
Attorney Zuriel Bublil, who helped the couple with their appeal, was pleased with the result. “This is an unprecedented ruling that will help women coming to the end of their fertility,” he said. “Rabbi Yosef dealt with halachic reality with great courage, in a matter that many feared to allow or even discuss. The couple wanted to bring the child into the world after they were already married, and their time was almost up.” This woman and her fiancé were married according to Jewish law.
A number of other breakthrough rulings were declaring recognitions of the Jewishness of Ethiopian Jews and in more recent years , ordering the Shas party to vote in favor of a law recognizing brain death as death for legal purpose.
The ability to retract one’s position and admitting an error in judgement shows a tremendous amount of self-confidence. Such was the case in supporting Prime Minister Rabin’s risky Oslo adventure by issuing a ruling that the sanctity of life overrules the slogan of “not giving up an inch”, a decision he retracted when the accords led to the first intifada.
Rabbi Ovadia had a thirst for Torah that is an example to all of us. One morning he woke up in a blaze and ran towards the sink to wash his hands and reciting the birch at ha’Torah – the blessing of studying Torah.
Interestingly, in this bracha, we use the expression TZE’EHTZA’EH TZEHTZA’EHNU – may our offspring and our offspring’s offspring (study the Torah). However the Sages use an unusual terminology for offspring. Why tze’etza’enu and not the usual term, ZERAH? Rabbi Ovadia rushed after reciting the blessing of the Torah to look at a responsa of the commentary, Rivash. His children, seeing the Rav’s enthusiasm were curious for an explanation as to where the urgency came from to look the up commentary so abruptly. He replied that the night before he was toiling to understand two seemingly contradicting statements by the Rivash that seemed unresolvable. He said that in his sleep, the Rivash appeared to him in a dream and stated that he had indeed misunderstood his intentions. There is no contradiction in the two statements. It is all clarified in another source that the Rivash had written. “Upon waking up, I went to check the source he mentioned and indeed it was there.”
SO WHY WOULD WE, AS POOR AMERICANS, WITH NO SUPERSTAR LEADER, NOT NEED THIS POWERHOUSE OF LEADERSHIP? AREN’T WE CHAS V’SHALOM DOOMED WITHOUT IT?
Let’s go back to our reference from the beginning of our newsletter of the parshiyot. One of the most important events in the Torah occurred in this week’s parsha. G-d tells Abraham to go and slaughter his beloved son Yitzchak. Although he didn’t actually go through with it, his intentions were to do so until the very last moment, when an Angel stopped him. It was an enormous test of trust in G-d, which Avraham passed.
What’s astonishing is the unchallenged acceptance of all this by Yitzchak! His enthusiasm throughout the incident was something to take note of. He didn’t think for even a second “Has my father gone mad?!”. How could Yitzchak have been so compliant?
We also observe the utmost respect, from the dialogue, that father and son had for each other.
It all seems so strange. Here is Avraham passing such an enormous test. However, if one will observe in chapter 15, verses 3 and 4, he seemed like he didn’t believe G-d, when He told him he was going to have children. G-d then reinforced him in a peculiar way saying that his trusted servant Eliezer will not inherit him but his son will, the one that will “come out of your stomach”. The sages bring up the we are all familiar with human physiology and know what gender babies come from. The meticulous Torah seems to be hinting something,
Avraham surely believed in G-d’s ability to give him children. However Avraham was afraid of what influence, what impact, could he possibly have on a son at such an advanced age? He was 90 years old!
G-d answered him stating that he will have his own biological children and it will come from HIS STOMACH.
We learn from a verse in Yishaya (59;21) that there is a strong connection between TZE’EHTZA’EH and the word next to it, MEAYIM (stomach).
The stomach is where feeling comes from. Did you ever here the expressions “I’m sick to my stomach” or “I have butterflies in my stomach “?
G-d was telling Avraham, “Your son will inherit you, MEAYIM, from the stomach. With all your enthusiasm and strong feeling, sincerity and strong spiritual sense, your son will inherit you. You Avraham will be the blueprint where the love and spirituality will come from. Your the model mold.”
Did you ever wonder why, in the most important prayer we have, the Amida, we recite G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Yaacov. Then we say concluding the first blessing MAGEN AVRAHAM-protect Avraham?
Why not protect the other forefathers?
Because Avraham is where the spiritual feelings come from. He is the source. Therefore we have to protect that precious hunger, the love of G-d. We ask G-d to protect the spiritual enthusiasm.
That is the reason Yitzchak was so compliant. The guarantee by G-d through the verse, stating MI’MEI’ECHA, came to fruition. We see that every Jew HAS IT!!! He therefore doesn’t really need a leader. Although it helps, it’s unnecessary. It’s built in all of us. We just have to find the right channels to make it sprout. Avraham was guaranteed by G-d.
Frequently I would travel to Israel in the 1980’s-90’s and feeling the pulse of the Sepharadim there I can emphatically say that Rabbi Ovadia’s popularity was indescribable. He was their Rabbi. He was their leader. He was their pride and joy. My own cousins were caught up in the Rabbi Ovadia frenzy. The sepharadim, for many years, never had a Torah giant that would compare to the Ashkenazi greats. Rav Ovadia was able to be their equal. He was able to spar with them, head-to-head, and stand his ground. He was convinced that the Sefardi menorah needed not take a back seat to anybody. He kick-started a spiritual and cultural awakening among a significant number of Israelis in his pursuit to “restore the crown of the divine attributes to its ancient completeness”. The Sepharadim in Israel were able to hold their head up high and be proud.
However it was different in the United States. The enthusiasm towards the great Rabbi was no way near the excitement in Israel. It was not even close. Not many American Sefaradim were able to relate to Rav Yosef. It was a different mentality; the Israeli’s told it like it is, which he did on many occasions. The Americans, though, were more reserved in their demeanor and did not appreciate that. There was and is a major difference between the Israeli and American Sefaradim due to the lack of having a leader.
In the early 90’s I was a guest at a friend who happened to be a Lubavitch Chassid. At the Shabbat table, his wife said, with pride, “The world doesn’t understand us because we have, and follow, a leader.” I felt uncomfortable because I couldn’t comprehend the experience, what a leader, or following a group for that matter, was like. I guess one can call my kind a free bird. Having a leader has a tremendous advantage. He can guide you in many aspects of life. With his enthusiasm, a momentum among his followers can be built, and spirituality can be enhanced among the group in entirety.
Baruch Dayan Ha’emet. We lost a great tzaddik. However we have a gaurantee……We’re Avraham’s descendants. If we protect it, pray to Hashem to protect it, inside of ourselves, we can build that spiritual world for ourselves and the world and people around us. LET’S DO IT!!! SHABBAT SHALOM!
Why was the rainbow chosen as a symbol of peace between G-d and mankind?
G-d said, “When I brought the flood, my bow was drawn against man.” The rainbow resembles a reverse bow, signifying that there shall be no more arrows from heaven sent to destroy humanity.
G-d commanded Noach- P’ru u’rivu – be fruitful and multiply. However, Noach was discouraged after leaving the ark and seeing the devastation. The rainbow is a reassurance along with a statement in the Shema that “you and your children will live long on the land that I swore to your fathers.” You will live long without another flood.
In the time of King Chizkiyahu and of the Men Of The Great Assembly (which includes Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai), the Jews reached a very high level of spirituality and righteousness. (In Chizkiyahu’s time, even little children were well-versed in complicated halachic matters.) These two generations did not need the reassurance of the rainbow or the covenant which it represented, since their great merits protected them.
It is a custom in Israel and in some neighborhoods in the New York area that the children carry bows on Lag Ba’omer. The reason is to commemorate Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, in whose generation, no rainbow was seen. (Note that in Hebrew the words “bow” and “rainbow” are the same – KESHET.) The positive message is that we should strive for perfection. In many communities, the Zohar is read on a person’s yartzeit. The portion in the Zohar which we read describes the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. It describes him passing away SHALEM whole. SHALEM and SHALOM – peace are from the same root. We pray that the deceased passed away fulfilled his whole being and peace. It’s the antithesis of the generation of the flood, where there was no peace.
It is forbidden to stare at the rainbow because G-d’s presence is in it. However, it is proper to glance at it and recite the blessing, reminding ourselves of the promise that G-d will not to bring destruction despite our sins.
Why man has such an influence on the world?