Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s Last Day
The day of Lag B’Omer commemorates [according to most opinions] the last day of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s life, I would like to share [in a personalized way] from his classic work, the Zohar. Based partially on the translation of Daniel Matt in his version of the Zohar, I will share this story in honor of Lag B’Omer this year.
On the day that Rabbi Shimon was to leave this world, he was arranging his affairs. All of his chaverim, his colleagues, assembled at his house. Among them were Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Abba, but the whole house was full.
On this last day of his life, Rabbi Shimon raised his eyes and saw that the house was full. He began to cry, and he said, “The other time I was ill, R. Yitzchak was in my presence. I was already selecting my place in Paradise, next to his, but I didn’t die then. They extended our lives until now. When I returned, fire was whirling in front of me and it’s never gone out. No human has entered without permission. Now I see the fire is out and the house is filled.”
Rabbi Shimon opened his eyes again, and he saw what he saw. There was a fire whirling throughout the house, which is one of the reasons we light bonfires on Lag B’Omer. And with that fire, everybody left, except for his son, Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Abba.
Rabbi Shimon told his son, Rabbi Elazar, “Tell him [R. Abba] to arrange my affairs and sit by my side. Happy is his portion.”
That’s exactly what they did. They sat down and Rabbi Shimon began to reveal to them the secrets-the deepest secrets he’d never revealed. Rabbi Shimon said, “This gathering is different than our previous gatherings. In the previous gatherings, the Blessed Holy One and his chariots, they convened.
But now, he comes with all the Righteous from the Garden of Eden and he wants the Righteous to be honored… Rabbi Shimon quoted a verse from the Song of Songs, verse 7:11, “I am my beloved’s, his desire is upon me.”
He went on to explain, “All the days I have been bound to this world, I am bound in a single bond with the Blessed Holy One. That is why his desire is upon me, he and his Holy company have come to hear and enjoy concealed words of praise for the Holy Ancient One, the Concealed of All Concealed, separated from all, yet not separate.”
And they all noticed the presence of this Supernal Company.
Rabbi Shimon said, “Until now, all the words I am going to declare were concealed, for I was scared to reveal them. Yet, now they have been revealed. And it is known by the Holy Blessed One, blessed be he, that I have not acted on this last day of my life for my own honor, nor for the honor of my family. But rather, that I would not enter his Holy Palace ashamed. Furthermore, I see that the Holy Blessed One and all his Righteous Ones approve. I see all of them rejoicing at this, my wedding celebration.”
He called the last day of his life his “wedding celebration.”
“All of them, in that world, are invited to my wedding celebration. Happy is my portion.”
Rabbi Shimon went on to explain his deepest Kabbalistic Secrets. The Supernal crowd that was there took note of every word. And the description of each word was a description of sparks that are sparkling from the highest spark, from the hidden of all hidden. Levels upon levels of enlightenment, there is revealed upon revealed and these lights were all connected.
The lights of each and every spark were ornaments of the King, the crowns of the King. Every light shines and joins onto the Light within, not separating at all. The Light that is revealed is called the Garment of the King. The Light within is a concealed light. All those sparks and all those Lights sparkle from the Holy Ancient One, the concealed of all concealed, the high spark.
Rabbi Abba said, “Before the Holy Spark finished saying the word, “life,” (which was the last word Rabbi Shimon said in his life) his words subsided.”
Rabbi Abba was still writing. He was the one taking notes. He was the scribe of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. He said, “I was still writing and intending to write more, but then I heard nothing. I did not raise my head because the light was so overwhelming I could not look. Then I started trembling and I heard a heavenly voice calling, “Length of days and years of life.”
All day long, the fire did not go out in the house. No one could reach the house; fire surrounded it, a heavenly fire. All day long I lay on the ground and wailed. After the fire disappeared I saw the Holy Spark, the Holy of Holies leaving the world. And he had a smile on his face on the last day of his life, which he, himself, called his, “wedding celebration,” his passage into the higher world.
Rabbi Chiya rose to his feet and said, “Until now the Holy Spark has looked after us. Now is the time to engage in honoring him.”
They carried his body out, lifted the bed he was lying on, and after the bed emerged from the house it rose and a fire blazed before it. They heard a voice saying, “Come and enter. Assemble for the wedding celebration of Rabbi Shimon. They shall come to peace. They shall rest on their couches.” [Isaiah 57\2]
As they entered the cave for burial, they heard a [Heavenly] voice from inside that said, “This is the man who shook the earth, who made kingdoms tremble. Many open mouths of accusation up in heaven subside today because of you, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Happy is his portion above and below. Many sublime treasures lie in store for him. With him it is said, ‘’As for you , go to the end and take your rest; you will rise for your reward at the end of days.”
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