Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Former Rosh Kollel in Detroit
Each year, Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav publishes an annual calendar for the students of the Yeshiva. Rav Kook, would add an idea for each month of the year that expressed the essence of that particular month. For the month of Iyar 5672, the quote read as follows:
The great courage of the students of Rabbi Akiva and the hidden courage of the martyrs of the communities connect in the secret treasures of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.
This idea, like all of the ideas of Rav Kook, is very deep. We will try to understand in it in a simple manner and thereby shed light on the essence of Lag BaOmer, which falls this coming week.
Rav Kook is pointing to two types of courage. The great courage displayed by the students of Rabbi Akiva and the inner courage displayed by the martyrs of the Ashkenazic communities who were murdered in sanctification of the name of Hashem in the month of Iyar.
The students of Rabbi Akiva were the soldiers of Bar-Kochva and battled along side him. The Rambam in Hilchot Melachim 11:3 teaches that Rabbi Akiva was the military aid of the king Bar-Kuziba (Bar-Kochva). The students of Rabbi Akiva exhibited courage in its physical manifestation. This form of courage is essential for the existence of Am Yisrael. At this stage in history, before the complete Redemption, Am Yisrael is surrounded and attacked by many enemies. This physical courage is necessary to defeat our enemies and to raise the status of Am Yisrael. None other than King David, along with his great spiritual achievements, was a great military leader of Am Yisrael. We do not desire to act in this courageous manner and it is not the ideal to which we strive, but when called upon to do so, we act with the knowledge that the success of Am Yisrael is the success of Hashem.
We find another form of courage, inner/spiritual courage, in the Jews of the Ashkenazic communities of Speyer, Worms and Mainz during the period of the Christian Crusades, who were murdered sanctifying the name of Hashem, and in whose memory we recite the Av HaRachamin prayer. We do not desire to die in the name of Hashem, but we do so when necessary.
These two forms of courage, the physical and spiritual, come together according to Rav Kook, in the mystical teachings of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who died on Lag BaOmer. At root, these two types of courage are similar. They are both an expression of the willingness of Am Yisrael to reveal and promulgate the name of Hashem in the world. Sometimes this is expressed in fighting our enemies in battle and other times it is expressed in our willingness to die as heroes in sanctification of Hashem’s name.
In our generation we have merited the sanctification of Hashem’s name through the courage of our sons and our soldiers, the settlers of Eretz Yisrael.
Yehi-Ratzon – Just as we have merited, in this generation, to be soldiers fighting for the teachings of Hashem, so too we should merit soon the complete Redemption.