Today (actually, depending on when you are reading this, probably yesterday or the day before) is an auspicious day in the Jewish Calendar, called Lag Baomer. The reason Lag Boamer is such an important, favorable day is that it’s the day the students of the great sage Rabbi Akiva stopped dying.
Two questions to start off: firstly, why did they die, and furthermore, why do we celebrate such a day? Isn’t it a tragedy that we should be commemorating instead of celebrating?
To understand the significance, let’s first go over a brief history of who Rabbi Akiva was. Rabbi Akiva was a man who was illiterate until he was 40 years old, until he saw water penetrate a rock, and said to himself, “If water can penetrate a rock, so to can knowledge penetrate my brain”.
Rabbi Akiva then went on to study, amassing 14,000 students who then perished. With his 4 remaining students, he wrote the entire Talmud.
Back to our question of why the students passed: the reasoning is, they didn’t treat each other resepectfully. My interpretation of this is that they were unkind to one another, which lead to a lack of faith, which lead to jealousy, which lead to anger, which ultimately lead to an untimely death.
Then why do we celebrate?!
My humble belief is that we celebrate because we see the power of persistence–the power of moving forward, no matter what. A teacher once shared with me a relevant quote, “The only thing failure can’t counter is persistence”.
Rabbi Akiva began his journey at 40. At 40, most people wouldn’t have started, believing it to be too late. Next, he amassed 14,000 students, with all but 4 perishing–another great reason to give up, yet he persisted.
We celebrate the fact that no matter what, we can’t give up. We don’t have a choice as to what happens to us, yet we do have a choice in how we respond.
This week, let’s remind ourselves how many times it seemed that life would be impossible, when there was no way it would work out, and yet somehow, some way, it did. Let’s not focus on the times when it didn’t.
Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love
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