VR Glasses

Thursday, 19 May, 2022 - 4:11 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

My eyes caught a headline on a news site of kids in a Yeshiva getting a guided tour of the ‘Bet Hamkidash’ through wearing VR glasses. I had to stop a think for a moment what VR stood for. I will save you the moment (and possibly a visit to google to search for VR :-)). VR stands for ‘virtual reality’.

Today is Lag Ba’omer. Click here for more information about Lag Ba’omer

Traditionally, on Lag Ba’omer, many Jews flock to the mountain of Meron, (not far from Tzefat) in northern Israel. It is there that the author of the Zohar, the great sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is buried.

Lag Baomer is the day of this great Sage’s passing more than eighteen hundred years ago.

With VR glasses still fresh in my mind, I started to wonder what would happen if you gave those glasses to someone from more than eighteen hundred years ago. When the events of Lag Ba’omer took place?

Obviously, the technology we have now would be unimaginable to those who lived centuries ago. But on the other hand, ‘seeing’ a deeper reality starts from the mind and soul, not necessarily from what things look like from the outside. Is that not the uniqueness of VR glasses? Two people in the same room, each one seeing different things. One seeing ‘real’ reality. One seeing ‘virtual’ reality.

Lag Ba’omer, it dawned on me, is really a day that we celebrate the ‘VR’ spiritual glasses that we can and should all don.

Lag Ba’omer is a day of great rejoicing.

Isn’t it traditional to mark the day of someone’s passing as a day of mourning?

Especially when it comes to great Tzadikim. It is a day that is associated with mourning and fasting. We wanted them to live longer. They wanted to live longer. Moshe Rabeinu wanted to continue to live and take the Jewish people into Israel.

Why the extraordinary celebration for the passing of Rabbi Shimon?

The simple answer is that Rabbi Shimon asked for the day of his passing to be celebrated. Paying respect to his great piety, we fulfil his wishes. This is achieved through rejoicing, not fasting.

R’ Shimon gave the reason behind his request for joy. He described the day of his passing as being the day that his connection to Hashem would be consummate. So long as one’s soul is in its body, there is some level of separation, ever so subtle perhaps, but still not one with G-d. On the day of his passing, Rabbi Shimon recognized that he would be bound up as one with his Creator.

This was non-standard thinking at the time and for many centuries to follow. It was not meant (yet) to be accessible to all. Passing away was meant to signify absence here on this world. And absence is mourned, not celebrated.

But not for Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, as the author of the Zohar, is the main source of Kabbala.  This was a division of Torah teaching that was not taught openly and freely to all, for many centuries. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai expounded the teachings of Kabbala and taught it to his select students

Zohar and Kabalistic teachings were considered off limits to regular Torah studiers. It was taught personally by teacher to select students. Only very highly achieving students were deemed eligible to absorb such esoteric and illuminating ‘soul’ teachings.

Let us study the topic of life and absence of life. Why is life celebrated and passing away mourned?

For most people, life has various facets. Spiritual and material. The most important part of life in objective terms, is the connection we forge with G-d. We develop our connection with G-d by studying Torah and doing Mitzvahs.

But let’s face it, for most of us, there are many other facets to life that take centerstage other than our spiritual growth. Family, career, materialistic interests and pursuits.

When one passes away, the absence that is most strongly felt by those left behind, is the absence of their loved one’s physical presence.

The Torah teaches that it is proper to mourn when a loved one passes away. The relatives mourn the absence. Their loved one no longer lives with them here on earth. For sure, the soul lives on, but for the most part we don’t have the capacity to interact with souls. Thus, it’s appropriate and Torah mandated to mourn the absence.

But not just from the perspective of physical existence is mourning appropriate. Even in the spiritual sense, passing away is a reason for sadness. Sadness because of the loss of opportunity to study Torah and do Mitzvot.

The Ethics of our Fathers (Pirkei Avot 4:17) teaches that performing Torah and Mitzvahs in this world is better and more potent than the entire blissful experience of the ‘next world’. The rationale for that is straightforward. Doing Mitzvahs in this world connects us to the ‘essence of G-d’. Whereas the bliss of the next world is ‘merely’ enjoying a ‘ray’ of G-d’s shine.

Nu, whats better?

A ray of G-d’s light in the next world, or connecting to the Almighty Himself here on earth in this world?

Life here on this earth no doubt offers deeper and holier connection to G-d.

(Delight and pleasure in this world, are nothing though compared to even one moment of blissful enrapturement in the next world. So if something ‘off limits’ is ‘calling out to you’ because of its pleasurable indulgence, recognize that it doesn’t ‘pay’ at all. For the indulgence will be only short lived and nothing compared to the pleasure of listening to G-d. The reward given in the next world for listening to G-d and abstaining, is far greater than any pleasure you can imagine in this world).

Especially if we are talking about a Tzaddik who was constantly involved in learning Torah and doing Mitzvahs.

Thus, when the soul is taken to the ‘next world’ we mourn.

It’s a double mourning.

We mourn the physical absence. And we have anguish when we absorb the fact that the person can no longer fulfil G-d’s Will here on earth.

Rabbi Shimon knew that G-d’s Will was for him to pass away from his earthly existence. To him it was clear that there was nothing to mourn about in that context.

(With other Tzadikim this is not necessarily the case. They may have preferred to live longer and do more mitzvahs. Which is why their day of passing is treated with a not very joyous sense of loss. This is a topic that requires more discussion and to be honest while I have seen the Torah sources that discuss it, I don’t fully comprehend them).

As to the physical absence of the great sagely Rabbi Shimon? That is not the cause of mourning in R’ Shimons case.

For a tzaddik of the level of Rabbi Shimon, the entire essence of his being was about his connection to the Almighty.

Passing away meant becoming one with Hashem. R’ Shimon insisted that this was a reason for celebration.

It is this point that he wanted to communicate that to his students and all who would learn from him and about him. He wanted us to know about a different way of looking at life. By telling us to rejoice even when there is an absence, we need to be handed a pair of R’ Shimon’s glasses.

On Lag Ba’omer one gets a chance to put on those glasses. If one puts on those ‘VR’ glasses of Rabbi Shimon, one sees R’ Shimon’s passing as a day of great joy. As he saw it. And as he requested and encouraged us to see it.

With those Kabbalistic glasses, things look very different than they seem from the outside.

And not just on Lag Ba’omer. With all the problems in the world in many ways, we are fortunate to be living during this current era. In the spiritual sense, we are living during a period when the esoteric has been revealed in anticipation of the coming of Mashiach.

As the generations proceed, as we march steadily closer to the ultimate ‘revelation’ and ‘exposé’ of G-d’s true presence here on earth, we get more access to those VR glasses that the Zohar provides.

Kabala teachings become more accessible to us all.

(Click here for an article by Tzvi Freeman entitled   Seven Things People Get Wrong When Learning Kabbala )

And technology is unfolding and leapfrogging at an unprecedented pace. It is not unrelated to the advance of spiritual knowledge.

The Rebbe explained at length a most inspiriting phenomenon that has unfolded over the past few hundred years. There is a fast paced advance in knowledge of all kinds. Together with incredible and dizzying journey of scientific and technological advance, we have a parallel journey of deep insight into G-dly wisdom.

R’ Tzvi Freeman outlines this concept in an article titled ‘Where is Technology Taking Us’ writes:

Long before anyone ever dreamed of a steam engine or a light bulb, the Zohar predicted an era when the world would be flooded with wisdom from below and wisdom from above.

Here’s how the  Zohar  interprets that: “In the six hundredth year of the sixth millennia the gates of wisdom above and the wellsprings of wisdom below will open, and the world will prepare to enter into the seventh millennia, just as a person prepares on the eve of Shabbat to enter Shabbat.”

When was the six hundredth year of the sixth millennia? That’s the year 5,600 on the Hebrew calendar. On the secular calendar, that’s the year 1840….

I am skipping a few paragraphs here Click here for full article .

So what does technology, science and distance communications have to do with “preparing the world to enter into the seventh millennia”?

The seventh millennia is an era when the universe discovers its own oneness, a oneness that expresses exquisitely the oneness of its Creator. So we’re not talking so much about some revelation that pours down from above. We’re talking about the world opening up to its own truths.

For that to happen, yes, an inner wisdom from above must pour down—and that began with the Baal Shem Tov, a hundred years before 1840. But along with that, the wellsprings from below have to burst open. And that happens through science and technology—a new kind of science that discovers oneness wherever it looks, and a new kind of technology that ties us all together as one.

On Lag Baomer, some eighteen hundred years ago, Rabbi Shimon passed away. He requested that we join him in donning the futuristic ‘glasses’ of the Zohar and celebrate his passing as if it were a wedding. For indeed, from the perspective of those ‘glasses’, Rabbi Shimons passing was a new stage in his connection to G-d.

Truly something to celebrate.

My friends, when the great Tzadik offers you those glasses, it’s a great opportunity. It opens myriads of blessings and possibilities.

Today is thus a day of celebration in the Jewish calendar.

It is a day that we celebrate closeness to G-d. It is a day that we highlight and celebrate love between Jews. It is a day that we celebrate total dedication to Torah study and scholarship.

And it is a day that we focus on children, for they truly ‘get’ the deeper reality in an uncomplicated way. They are pristinely able to interact with love and trust toward others. They are able to focus on Torah study unimpeded by worries of ‘making a living’.

The Rebbe used to attend the “Lag Ba’omer parade’ on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn and address the children personally. There is loads of wonderful footage from those parades. The Rebbe encouraged children’s outing and parades wherever possible. In Thailand too we have conducted parades (see below pictures).

The great rabbi’s have taught that rejoicing on this day opens up channels of blessing in all that we require and request. May all your requests and prayers to G-d be fulfilled in a joyous and expeditious manner!

And may we merit the final ‘opening of the curtains’ when G-d’s presence will be visible to all (without ‘glasses’) with Mashiach’s coming.

And in anticipation and preparation for getting those permanent glasses (maybe allegorically like a ‘Lasik’ surgery) take a peek at the esoteric part of the Torah and study some of the esoteric and hidden kabbalistic aspects of the Torah. Click here for more.

Happy Lag Baomer

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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