So, this week is the penultimate week of counting the Omer, which means we’re in the week of Yesod, or foundation.
I was thinking about what connects to ‘foundation’, and two things came to me:
1) Childhood and our formative years, because like it or not, whatever formative experiences God gives us as children continue to shape our reactions, beliefs and personalities for the rest of our lives. That doesn’t mean that we’re stuck with all the negative stuff ad infinitum, God forbid, but it does mean that we need to be aware that every emotional and mental problem we usually have as adults, from the mildest to the most severe, is somehow rooted in, and connected to our childhoods.
I know – that’s a scary thought, isn’t it, especially once we ourselves have been given the job of ‘creating’ the childhood experiences of the next generation.
Over at the spiritualselfhelp.org website, you’ll find an article called: The Seven Cardinal Rules of Raising Happy, Healthy Kids, which lays out some fundamental guidelines for how to lay a strong foundation for our children.
2) Tzaddik, Yesod Olam, translated as ‘The Tzaddik, foundation of the world’. There’s been a lot of tzaddikim, or holy people throughout Jewish history, but only five have ever merited this special title:
- Moshe Rabbenu
- Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (RASHBI)
- The Ari HaKodesh
- The Baal Shem Tov (BESHT) and
- Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
These special tzadikim all brought down some unique aspect of Torah, or daat (knowledge) to the world, that was completely hidden before they revealed it. By doing so, they completely changed the whole game plan, religiously, and remade the foundation of our existence, at least spiritually. (How’s that, for something impressive to stick on your CV?)
Last week, I went to visit RASHBI’s grave in Meron on Lag B’Omer, with a few hundred thousand other people.
It’s not an easy trip: 3 hours driving from Jerusalem; 1 hour commuting in from the Karmiel park and ride on the bus; 1 hour shlepping up to the grave (which is quite a walk even when it’s not boiling hot and you aren’t being jostled by thousands of other people and deafened by kosher trance music); 1 hour trying to get BACK ON THE BUS to the carpark (this is probably the most challenging part of the whole endeavour, as rugby rules apply, and anyone smaller, weaker, slower or female usually gets flattened by people who apparently never bought into the idea of queuing like civilised people); 1 hour back to the carpark; 4 hours driving back (as lots of traffic.)
I came back completely knackered, and to be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure why I’d gone – or why so many thousands of other people had gone, too, including pregnant women, small kids and old, old people.
But then today, I woke up feeling so much better than I’ve been feeling recently, and it brought back to me again the tremendous power of these tzadikim, the foundation of the world.
I got hot, deafened, tired and bemused at Meron. But apparently, I also got lit up with some tremendous spiritual strength without even knowing it. And that’s why people go back, year after year after year.