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Lag Ba’Omer: Bar Yochai I

“Bar Yochai! You were anointed – you are fortunate – With oil of joy from your fellows.” Anointment alludes to prophetic knowledge. (See I Kings 19:16) While Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was not a prophet, he was granted an unprecedented degree of mystical knowledge, just as a prophet is given his prophecy directly by God. The Zohar (Volume 3 190b) does say that, “Definitely, the spirit of prophecy rested on Rabbi Shimon.” We do not understand that to be literal.

“You are fortunate,” as in, “You are fortunate and it is well with you.” (Psalms 128:2) You are fortunate to have received such a holy spirit from God.

“Oil of joy,” because prophecy rests only in the midst of joy, and is therefore described by the Zohar as joy.

“From your fellows,” Rabbi Shimon merited his greatest revelations because he always sought to see the good side of others, (Shabbat 33a) and to defend them against criticism (Succah 45b) Thus, his prophetic teachings came, in a sense, from his fellows.

“You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your Lord, anointed you, with oil of joy from among your peers.” (Psalms 45:8) The verse is usually read as “More than your peers, which is probably the more accurate reading of this stanza.

We should also note that the holy group that studied with Rabbi Shimon was called, “The Chaveirim,” and “Your fellows,” or “Chaveirecha,” also refers to them.

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