Friday, May 04, 2007


I heard R. Hershel Schachter speak yesterday evening at a dinner for the Hesder Yeshiva of Sderot. He quoted the Gemara in Yevamos 62b that learns the following law from the verse (Ecc. 11:6): "In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hands be idle" -- Even if one has children when one is young, one should continue having children even when one is older.

The Gemara continues that even if one learned Torah when young, one should continue learning when older. And even if one teaches students when one is young, one should continue teaching when one is older. The example brought for this second law is Rabbi Akiva, who had thousands of students, all of whom were killed (and for whom we observe the mourning aspects of Sefirah). It was only after they all died that Rabbi Akiva taught five talented students who became the pillars of the Mishnah -- Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yossi, Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Elazar.

R. Schachter quoted R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik as once saying that the celebration on Lag Ba-Omer cannot be simply because Rabbi Akiva's students stopped dying. If that were the reason, then we should simply stop mourning. Why do we celebrate? He answered that we are celebrating the rebuilding that Rabbi Akiva did with his new students. Lag Ba-Omer is about recovering from destruction and starting anew. That, R. Schachter said, is what all yeshivos are in this post-Holocaust era -- rebuilding what was destroyed like Rabbi Akiva did. And this is especially so in places like Sderot, where they had to rebuild from Palestinian attacks.

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