While the nation of Israel is struggling to cope with its worst peacetime disaster, the death of 45 people killed in a stampede at the Lag Ba’Omer holiday celebrations at Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s gravesite on Mount Meron, it was revealed that the tragic event was predicted in the writings of Rabbi Shimon himself more than 2,000 years ago.
Clue in the Zohar: 45 people crushed to death
The reference was made in the section dealing with the section of the Torah Naso on page 144 in the Edra Raba (the great gathering) called HaPartzuf HaElyon (the upper face) from the Zohar, the seminal work of Jewish mysticism authored by Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai who was buried on Mount Meron in 160 CE.
The Edra Raba relates a conversation between Elijah the Prophet and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. There was to be a gathering where Hashem would reveal secrets to the Tzaddikim. Elijah was there but had to leave as Hashem gave him a task. Elijah was sent to rescue Rabbi Hamnunah and his friends who were taken captive in a Roman prison. Elijah pushed down the walls and 45 of the Roman guards were killed. He then saved Rabbi Hamnunah.
Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, responded to this remarkable reference.
“It is impossible to fully understand entirely the secrets of the Zohar and now is not the time to place blame,” Rabbi Berger said. “We need to comfort each other and strengthen the nation in this. But even this horrible event is bringing us closer to the redemption.”
“The tragedy happened at the concert when they were singing ‘Ani Maamin’, a song about having complete faith in the coming of the Messiah,” Rabbi Berger said. “The exile began and the Temple was destroyed because of the prevalence of causeless hatred among the Jews. The people who were at the event were all entirely blameless but the tragedy of people trampling each other, people who were forced against their will to harm others, is a clear lesson that we need to increase the love for our fellow man to the point where that is all that remains, love for our fellow man.”
“The crushing avalanche that killed 45 Jews described in the Edra Raba delayed the revelation of deep secrets of the Torah. These secrets will finally be revealed by the Messiah. And the only way to usher in the Messiah is to increase our love for our fellow Jew. Jewish history has shown time after time that hatred among the nation means death for all.”
33: Beyond human understanding
“Rabbi Elazar son of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said in the book of Zohar: ‘A cry is stuck in my heart on one side, and joy is stuck in my heart on the other side’. Unfortunately, on the illuminating and happy day of Lag Baomer, this terrible disaster happened, specifically at the grave of Rabbi Shimon which has always been known as a place for celebration. Why? What is the explanation? Why is the pain so great?”
Rabbi Riess cited Psalms:
No signs appear for us; there is no longer any Navi; no one among us knows for how long. Psalms 74:9
“We cannot understand why 45 precious souls were taken from us in the middle of the holy day.”
“According to Kabbalah, the counting on the 33rd day of Omer is expressed in Kabbalah as’Hod in Hod’. ‘Hod’ in the doctrine of Kabbalah symbolizes admission and recognition of the hidden and unattainable aspects of God which cannot be perceived by limited human thought.
Rabbi Riess emphasized that such tragic events come from the unattainable aspect of God’s presence in this world and are, therefore, beyond explanation and understanding. For this reason, they are even more holy.
“We will pray for the safety of the wounded and for the uplifting of the souls of the deceased in the disaster, add light in good deeds, and do everything we can to make sure that such disasters do not happen in the future, anywhere and at any May we bring only good news. Amen.”