A Lag B’Omer Lesson
I got a call the other day from New York. It was from a girl who was dating, who was confused. “I want to marry a boy that is learning. The boy I am dating wants to learn in Kollel for a few years. But I do not want to take on myself responsibility for the financial department of the family. My parents will support us, and I want to be honest to my future husband about how long I am okay with him staying in learning. My parents are willing to help for a limited amount of time, but then, what? I do not want my husband to expect me to get money from my parents for him to stay in learning longer, if they are not ready to continue their support…” (see Rama EH, 2;1)
There is no one answer to this question, and the subject is very, very complex. There are many girls who approach this dilemma by somehow saying to the boy they want to marry exactly what the boy would want to hear. And they hope for the best. This girl, though, wanted to be honest, open and fair.
This is what I told her. I hope that it was the right answer. Learning in Kollel, dedicating the first few years of marriage to learning Torah, has great advantages. The learning after marriage is totally different from the learning before marriage, and if one takes it seriously, he will merit to start his marriage on the right foot. Something that is invaluable.
But this girl was talking about more than just a year or two. So I told her what I learnt from my Rebbi. The Rambam says, “And why did the Tribe of Levi not merit a portion in the Land of Israel along with their brothers? Because the Tribe of Levi was set apart to serve G-d and to teach His straightforward ways to the People, and that is why Levites do not go to war, and G-d is their portion. And not only the Tribe of Levi is such, but each and every man of the world, whose spirit is uplifted, and his intellect is capable of grasping this concept, to stand before G-d and to serve Him, to know G-d,… and he throws off his shoulders the burdens of calculations that people make for themselves; this person becomes sanctified as holy of holies, and G-d will be his portion, and his inheritance, for ever and ever. And he will deserve to have his needs met in this world, just as the needs of the Kohen and Levi’s needs were met by G-d.” (Shmitta Vayobel 13; 12 -13)
Of course, it makes sense that if you can’t pay bills and you do not have a way – a source from which to pay back loans, your husband will have to consider getting a job. If he can swing it, a job in Kodesh would be great, like teaching, or something similar. But the honest answer of how the Kollel person, or the person in Kodesh live, is that he lives without planning. As long as he can make it through the month, he can stay in Kollel. But the essence of a Kollel person, the essence of working in true Kiruv, or in true teaching, is not worrying about where you will have next month’s money from. Of course, live with a plan. But if the plan is taking over the learning, teaching, etc., then this is not the real Shevet Levi. Part of working for G-d is knowing that you will not know how G-d will set up your future. Tell the boy, that you are supportive of having him learn, not supporting him to learn. As long as he is dedicated, and you aren’t borrowing money you can’t pay back, you are willing to live on as tight a budget as you can, while still feeling “normal”.
This is something that we learn from R Shimon Bar Yochai. R’ Ovadia M’Bartenurah, R’ Chaim Vital, the Chidah and Sdei Chemed say that R’ Shimon passed away on Lag B’Omer, and it is a day of celebration. Why do we celebrate Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer? If R’ Shimon died on that day, shouldn’t we be sad, not happy? And aren’t we supposed to be sad that the students of R’ Akiva perished?
The Chattam Soffer explains that Lag B’Omer was 33 days after the Jews left Egypt. It took them 30 days to finish the supply of Matza they carried on their back. And, for three days they went without bread. Day 33 was the day they received the Mannah.
R’ Shimon Bar Yochai in the Mechilta (D’Rebbi Yishmael, Parashat Beshalach) writes that the Torah was given only to those who ate the Mannah. The reason why the ones who ate the Manna merited receiving the Torah is because the only way to really learn the Torah well is by not worrying about tomorrow’s bread. If you saved some Mannah for tomorrow, it got wormy. The more engrossed in Torah you became, the more conveniently the Mannah was available to you. This is what kept R Shimon and his son alive in the cave.
The Talmud in Berachot(35b) brings the opinion of R Shimon Bar Yochai, that when someone studies Torah, and does the Will of G-d, their work will be done by other people. Not everyone is cut out for this. But those who take upon themselves responsibility to bring G-dliness to the World have a firm basis to support their decision.
This day of Lag B’Omer is the day that R Akiva taught the Oral Torah and ordained his last five students. (Kaf Hachaim תצג:כו) That was the only link of the chain of the Oral Torah from Har Sinai, to the Torah we have today.(Sanhedrin 86a) In the merit of this day, we have all of the Oral Torah. And on his last day, Lag B’Omer, R Shimon allowed his student R’ Abba to write the Hidden Torah. Being that R Shimon was the greatest of R Akiva’s five students, and being that despite the hardships R’ Shimon went through, he died a natural death, Lag Baomer is a day of celebration. A day to commemorate the light of Torah we have in the world, in the merit of those people who dedicate their lives to Torah learning.