Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai

When the plague of Rabbi Akiva’s students ended, only five students survived. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was among them.

Like his teacher Akiva, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was a great scholar and political leader. He believed that all Jews should be immersed exclusively in Torah study, and only late in life did he come to understand that not every Jew could make such a total commitment. His own intense study of Torah brought out the deeper, esoteric meanings of the Torah. With the approval of his teachers, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai set out to share the hidden secrets of the Torah, what is today called Kabbalah, with his fellow Jews

With the arrest of Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar, were forced to go into hiding from Caeser’s army. For 13 years they dwelled in a cave on Mount Meron in the Galilee, not far from the city of Safed, where, according to tradition, they sustained themselves with the fruit of a carob tree. When the throne changed hands, the pair of scholars were able to come out of hiding and once again share their knowledge with their people.

The teachings of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai were set down in a book called the Zohar, which means “splendor.” According to tradition, on the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s last insight of Kabbalah was given over and he died. Just before he passed away, he requested that his death not be marked by sadness, for he felt that death should be a time of rejoicing as the soul takes its proper place with G-d. The great sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who revealed the secrets of the Kabbalah, was buried in his cave on Meron. For this reason, tens of thousands of people gather on Mount Meron every year on Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, to celebrate the anniversary of his death.