This week is Parshas Emor, but today is lag ba’omer so let’s discuss the holiday of the day. Lag Ba’omer is celebrated because it was the end of the plague which killed 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva. The question arises, what are we celebrating? It was the end of the plague because they all died out.
I saw a beautiful answer to that question this week. When Rabbi Akiva’s students all died he could have said I’m an old man. I’ve tried, but now my students are gone and I’ve failed. Instead he found five new students (Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yosi, Rabbi Elazar ben Shamua, Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai) and these five students saved the Jewish people. What we are celebrating is the resilience to keep going and rebuild in the face of tragedy.
Last night an immense tragedy happened, one that is not easily processed and the pain of which threatens to overwhelm our emotions. Yet we cannot forget that this is the holiday of surviving tragedy and rebuilding. We must each find something that we can do to move the Jewish people forward and honor the memories of those who died. Whether it is a pledge to learn a mishna a day or to greet a stranger with a smile and a warm hello each day, we can honor their memories, bring a zechus to their souls and help rebuild our people. Wishing everyone a shabbos of comfort and consolement.