Counting of the Omer
How Would You Feel If the Researchers About to Cure Cancer Died in a Plane Crash?
י״ז במרחשון ה׳תש״פ (15 בNovember 2019)
These days we mourn the death of Rabbi Akiva's students. Tens of thousands of men forego looking tidy, grow whiskers and come to work looking like mourners. We don't make weddings or celebrations and don't listen to music because of the great disaster that occurred during this period. 24,000 Torah scholars died!
The truth is that this mourning, lasting nearly 2000 years, is quite surprising. This was no doubt a terrible disaster. A great shock, losing twenty-four thousand Torah scholars! But it's still difficult to understand why we mourn till today?.
In addition to the message we must honor one another, which was why they were punished and our duty these days to memorize this message there is also a very important message in how we relate to specifically this disaster. Our nation suffered greater tragedies in the course of history that aren't mourned as much as this one.
It is possible that the reason we mourn during the Omer over the death of Rabbi Akiva's students for generations is because of how important it is to appreciate Torah giants and feel pain when they're lost to us.
For illustration sake, if we had a group of researchers gathered from all over the world about to announce a medical breakthrough, a cure for cancer. But they all died in a plane crash without yet documenting their medical breakthrough. Our mourning would be not just for them but for the loss to all mankind.
This is more or less true of the loss of the nation's potential leaders who perished between Passover and Shavuot. This was the loss of Potential Torah greatness in this world and is not recoverable. This eternal mourning conveys the message of what is important to us.
That's why this mourning period takes place during the days leading up to the days of the giving of the Torah. These days are the very essence of Torah honor as the Maharal wrote that the 32 days until Lag B'Omer has the numerical value of honor which also equals 32.
Talmud Torah equals all other mitzvoth combined
When our sages said Talmud Torah equals all other mitzvoth combined they meant exactly that. Some things are very important, but Torah study is the secret of existence of the world and of man. Whoever toils in Torah activates the nuclear power plant and sustains the whole universe.
This statement, Talmud Torah equals all other mitzvoth combined is said in our morning prayers every day, but for it to sink in to our daily lives it needs to be expressed in a concrete way. When a father honors his son as a Torah scholar, he shows him he recognizes the importance of learning Torah. It’s true the son is commanded to honor his father and the father isn’t commanded to honor his son, but there are many opportunities to express the honor and status of a son who learns Torah.
The Talmud (Shabbat, 22) says,” a person who loves Torah scholars will have sons who are Torah scholars, and those who honor Torah scholars will have son in laws that are Torah scholars.” This is not a ‘segulah’ a spiritual remedy rather it’s the steady message the child absorbed since he was young of what is truly important.
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