Rabbi Shimon shows us the path to growth which comes specifically through pain. He wrote the Zohar which is full of profound Torah secrets specifically when he was in hiding in a cave for 13 years.
They hid in the cave from the Romans who wanted to kill them for 13 years with the bare minimum needed for living. Carobs from a tree growing there and water from a spring G-d opened for them in the cave. Even their clothing was used only when they prayed in order not to wear their clothing out. The rest of the time they were covered to their necks in the dirt of the cave and learned Torah in these conditions. They could’ve easily felt bad for themselves and wallow in misery but they kept on learning reaching higher levels of understanding until attaining the deepest Torah secrets.
From years of sitting buried in the dirt of the cave Rabbi Shimon’s skin was cracked all over and painful. Rabbi Pinchas Ben Yair met him after they came out of the cave and painfully exclaimed; “Woe is to me that I’ve seen you in this state!” Rabbi Shimon replied “how fortunate you are to have seen me in this state for if you wouldn’t have seen me in this state you would not find me to have (the Torah) which I have inside me!”
Here’s Rabbi Shimon’s message to us: “Every difficulty will bring you to a higher level.”
When we are suffering a setback we can encourage ourselves with his message that specifically through hardship you can reach the greatest heights. Historically, Rabbi Shimon lived in a difficult time for our nation. His teacher Rabbi Akiva was martyred by the Romans, the Bar Kochba rebellion failed and the giant city of Beitar was destroyed. All these could have contributed to a feeling of despair, that there’s no hope. Yet, specifically in this era and specifically hiding for his life, Rabbi Shimon revealed the greatest Torah secrets. After he decided he was learning Torah, come what may he merited amazing divine assistance. Wellsprings of wisdom opened up in his mind, angels came to teach him Torah and even Elijah the Prophet taught him Torah. The end result was he gave us the book of Zohar, protected his generation in his merit and continues to protect us with his Torah and his merit till this day.