by Abigail Pogrebin for The Jewish Daily Forward
Twenty four thousand students who studied with the famed 2nd Century Rabbi Akiva were killed by a terrible plague.
What sin made them deserving of such a wipeout?
“They did not treat each other with respect,” the Talmud says plainly.
What does the holiday of Lag B’Omer, which arrives this evening, have to do with Rabbi Akiva’s students? It marks the lifting of the plague that killed them, and the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shim’on Bar Yohai, one of the students who survived.
The fact that Rabbi Bar Yohai – or Rashbi, as he’s known – was spared, must in some part be due to his respect for fellow Jews.
That, to me, is a thread of the elusive Lag B’Omer that I can grab onto: it’s a holiday that elevates consideration of one another, and cautions against what happens when we don’t.
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