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Shimon Bar Yochai, Rashbi -

Hebrew: Shimon Bar Yochai, שמעון בר יוחאי
Also Known As: "Simeon bar Yochai", "רבן שמעון בר יוחאי", "Rabban Shimon bar Yochai", "Rashbi"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Tiberius, Israel
Death: Died in Meron, Israel
Immediate Family:

Son of Yochai and Sarah Eshet Yochai
Husband of Eshet Shimon Bar Yochai
Father of Eleazer Ben Shimon

Managed by: Malka Mysels
Last Updated:

About Shimon Bar Yochai, Rashbi -

Simeon bar Yochai,  also known by his acronym Rashbi, was a famous 1st-century Tannaic (Mishnaic, ed.) sage in ancient Israel, active after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. He was one of the most eminent disciples of Rabbi Akiva, and is the fourth-most mentioned sage in the Mishnah.

The Zohar, the chief work of Kabbalah, is attributed to Bar Yochai who died on the 33rd day of the Omer ie. known as Lag BaOmer. On the day of his death, he revealed deep kabbalistic secrets which formed the basis of the Zohar.

In addition, the important legal homilies called Sifre and Mekhilta are attributed to him. In the Mishnah, he is often referred to as simply "Rabbi Shimon."

Rabbi Shimeon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) - (80-160 CE)

"With this book (Zohar) of yours, the people will be redeemed from exile with mercy" (Zohar III, 124b)

“In the sixth century of the sixth millennium, the gates of the supernal wisdom will be opened, as will the springs of the earthly wisdom, preparing the world to be elevated in the seventh millennium” (Zohar I, 117a)

According to popular legend, he and his son, Rabbi Eleazar b. Simeon were noted Kabbalists. Both figures are held in unique reverence by kabbalistic tradition. They were buried in the same tomb in Meron, Israel, which is visited by thousands year round.

According to the Talmud, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai criticized the Roman government and was forced to go into hiding with his son for thirteen years. They sheltered in a cave (which local tradition places in Peki'in). Next to the mouth of the cave a carob tree sprang up and a spring of fresh water gushed forth.  They studied the Torah all day long and left the cave when they received a Heavenly voice saying that the Roman Emperor had died.

According to the "Bnei Yissaschar", on the day of his death, 33rd day of the Omer, known as Lag BaOmer, Yochai said, "Now it is my desire to reveal secrets... The day will not go to its place like any other, for this entire day stands within my domain..." Daylight was miraculously extended until he had completed his final teaching and died. As such, the custom of lighting fires on his yahrzeit (anniversary of death) symbolizes this revelation of powerful light.

His yahrzeit is widely known as a Yom Hillula, a day of celebration, there is thus a very widely observed custom to celebrate on his yahrzeit at his burial place in Meron. With bonfires, torches, song and feasting, the Yom Hillula is celebrated by hundreds of thousands of people. This celebration was a specific request by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai of his students.

Some say,  that as bar Yochai gave spiritual light to the world with the revelation of the Zohar, bonfires are lit to symbolize the impact of his teachings. As his passing left such a "light" behind, many candles and/or bonfires are lit here as well as in locales throughout Israel and the Diaspora. Source

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FAMILY BACKGROUND

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, also known as “Rashbi”, was a student of Rabbi Akiva, who was the spiritual leader of the Bar Kochva Revolt against Rome. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is one of the most important sages in Jewish history, lived over 1800 years ago in 135 CE, which began in glory and ended in calamity.

His father was a man of considerable honor among the Jewish People.

His mother, Sarah, was unable to have kids. His parents tried for years. Yochai, his father, was considering divorcing his mother, and marring a wife who will provide him with children. Sarah was continuously crying, praying and giving donations, hoping her prayers will get answered.

On Rosh Hashanah Yochai had a dream, and in the dream he was standing in a wide forest. The forest had many trees and some of them were fresh with fruits and some are dry. In the forest he saw a man, watering all the trees. Yochai was leaning on one of the dry trees. When the man came to water Yochai’s tree he used a little plate with just a little water. Yochai felt the blessing in the water. The little bit of water kept the tree soaked of water.  The tree grew fruits immediately.

When Yochai woke up he told his wife about the dream. Yochai asked his wife for the reason why the man watered all the other trees with a bucket and only his try with a little plate. His wife suggested going to Rabbi Akiva, and asking for an explanation of the dream.

Rabbi Akiva explained that the little bit of water the man used were the tears Sarah cried when she prayed. He told them she will get pregnant this year. And so happened, Yochai and Sarah had a baby boy born on Shavuot – The day we received the Torah.  They called him Shimon (from the word Shama – heard) – as god heard her prayers.

As a student of the spiritual leader of the revolt, bar Yochai was chased relentlessly by the Romans.  As the story goes, once when Rabbi Shimon was together with Rabbi Yehudah ben Ilai and Rabbi Yose ben Chalafta, Rabbi Yehudah praised the Romans for their construction of markets, bridges and bathhouses. Rabbi Yose remained silent. But Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said that all those engineering marvels were made for their own self-interest. When the Romans heard this, they rewarded Yehudah by appointing him to a position in government. Rabbi Yose, for not supporting him, was punished by exile. For his criticism of the Romans, Rabbi Shimon was condemned to death.

He and his son, Rabbi Elazar ben Shimon, took refuge in a cave, where they remained for thirteen years. During those years, Rabbi Shimon studied Torah with his son, the Revealed Torah and the Hidden, or Secret, Torah, the "Torat HaSod," also known as "Kabbalah," and translated, or mistranslated as "Jewish Mysticism."

Rabbi Shimon wrote down the latter material, for the first time, in a book called the "Zohar," meaning "Splendor" or "Radiance." This mystical tradition, kept alive by the RAMBAN.

The first time Rabbi Shimon came out of the cave, he was completely "out of tune" with the people of his generation. He observed Jews farming the land, and engaged in other normal pursuits, and made known his disapproval, "How can people engage themselves in matters of this world and neglect matters of the next world?"

Whereupon a Heavenly Voice was heard, which said "Bar Yochai, go back to the cave! You are no longer fit for the company of other human beings."

Rabbi Shimon went back to the cave, reoriented his perspective to some extent, and emerged again. This time, he was able to interact with the people of his generation, and become a great teacher of Torah, the Revealed and the Hidden

Miracles always seemed to be happening to him. And so it was when the Roman Emperor Antuninus proclaimed some terrible decrees against the Jews, it was he that was chosen to go to Rome to try and get them rescinded. Sure enough, when he arrived in Rome, the emperor's daughter became very sick and he was miraculously able to cure her. As an expression of thanks, the emperor tore up the decrees.

While many of the sages believed that the day would come when the Torah will be forgotten, he believed that this would never happen since the pasuk promises "that it will never be forgotten from your children and children's children." In fact, you will find this very pasuk engraved upon the stone archway that leads into his cave.

He was buried in the city of Meron just to the side of his great son Rabbi Elazar (bar Rabbi Shimon).

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LEGACY

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (flourished 135 C.E. – 170 C.E.) He was a “fifth-generation” Tanna, and a student of Rabbi Akiva, and a contemporary of Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel II, who was the Nasi, the Scholar-President, and of Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehudah ben Ilai, among other great contemporaries.

His main achievement was the authorship of the “Zohar,” the Torat HaNistar, the hidden Torah that he received orally from his teacher, Rabbi Akiva. The latter is described in the Talmud as the only one of a group of four outstanding Torah scholars who attempted to enter the “Pardes,” the Orchard, a metaphor for the depths of Kabbalah, Jewish Mysticism, who was able to emerge safely.

His father was a man of considerable honor among the Jewish People. Yochai was a pacifist, was well-liked by the Romans, and was a bitter opponent of the revolt against Rome led by Rabbi Akiva and bar Kochba.

Although Shimon was extremely loyal to Rabbi Akiva, he rejected some of his methods of Torah scholarship, such as the inference of laws from “extra” words – prepositions and connectives, in the text of the Torah. He believed that for the purpose of inferring “halachot,” rules of Jewish Law, the text should be interpreted plainly.

He also rejected the “pilpulistic” method of his colleague, Rabbi Yehudah ben Ilai. He was a believer in using the “Taamei HaMitzvot,” the reasons for the commandments, as a guide in understanding them.

How remarkable it is that despite his insistence on learning the simple meaning of the Torah from its plain text, he was the one who saw the Torah as well on an entirely different level, as the “Torat HaSod,” the Secret Torah.

Another paradox in the thought of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is in his attitude towards Rome. In Bereshit 33:4, where Esav kisses Yaakov, there are dots over the word meaning “and he kissed him.” Rabbi Shimon says, “It is a well-known principle of Law that Esav hates Yaakov, but here Esav’s mercies were aroused, and he kissed him with all his heart.” Yet his sense of fairness did not allow him to adopt a leniency even with regard to a hated enemy, and he said “Stealing from an idol-worshipper is called ‘stealing,’ and is forbidden absolutely.”

Once, when Rabbi Shimon was together with Rabbi Yehudah ben Ilai and Rabbi Yose ben Chalafta, Rabbi Yehudah praised the Romans for their construction of markets, bridges and bathhouses. Rabbi Yose remained silent. But Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said that all those engineering marvels were made for their own self-interest. When the Romans heard this, they rewarded Yehudah by appointing him to a position in government. Rabbi Yose, for not supporting him, was punished by exile. For his disparagement of the Romans, Rabbi Shimon was condemned to death.

To escape this punishment, Rabbi Shimon fled with his son to a cave. There they remained for thirteen years, studying Torah together, both the Revealed and the Hidden Torah. Rabbi Shimon wrote down the latter material for the first time in a book called the “Zohar,” Splendor, or Radiance.

'KABBALAH

While in the cave Rabbi Shimon studied Torah with his son, the Revealed Torah and the Hidden, or Secret, Torah, the "Torat HaSod," also known as "Kabbalah," and translated, or mistranslated as "Jewish Mysticism."

Rabbi Shimon wrote down the latter material, for the first time, in a book called the "Zohar," meaning "Splendor" or "Radiance."

This mystical tradition, kept alive by the RAMBAN, in his Commentary to the Bible, and others, resurfaced with a vengeance in the sixteenth century, and became the splendor and the glory of the "Ari" (the "Lion"), Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, and his followers in "Tzefat," or Safed, Palestine. It also became the basis of the unique spirituality of Chassidut, founded in the eighteenth century, by Yisrael ben Eliezer, the "Baal Shem Tov," in Eastern Europe.

LAG B'OMER

Chapter l

Every year, when Lag BaOmer (18 Iyar) comes around, we remember the great and holy Tanna (Mishnaic sage) Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who died on this day about eighteen centuries ago. To this day, pious Jews make an annual pilgrimage to Kefar Meron, in the Land of Israel, to pray at the tomb of this great and holy scholar.

When Shimon was a young boy, he studied in the great academy of the scholars of Yavneh, founded by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, who died just about the time that Shimon was born. Shimon’s principal teacher was the famous Rabbi Akiva, who had his academy at Benei Berak. So attached did Shimon become to his master, Rabbi Akiva, that the latter called him “my son.”

During the cruel persecution by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, when the Talmudic Academies were shut down and the study of the Talmud was forbidden on penalty of death, Rabbi Akiva continued to teach the Talmud publicly, and his devoted pupil Shimon stayed at his side, until Rabbi Akiva was arrested. Even then, Shimon continued to visit his master in prison to receive instruction there. Only death finally separated them, for Rabbi Akiva was condemned to die a martyr’s death for Kiddush Hashem (the sanctification of G‑d’s name).

Those were very difficult times for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel under the brutal persecution of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. It was particularly difficult for the sages to study the Talmud and to conduct schools. On penalty of death, it was also forbidden to ordain students of the Talmud. Both the ordaining Sage and the ordained scholar were put to death if caught.

The entire Jewish religious life was in danger, until the great Rabbi Yehudah ben Baba publicly ordained five famous scholars, defying Hadrian’s cruel decree. Rabbi Shimon was one of these five scholars. (Rabbi Meir was another one.) The Roman authorities were soon after these dauntless Jewish champions. The ordained scholars escaped, but Rabbi Yehudah ben Baba was caught and put to death.

Finally, the cruel Hadrian died in great pain, and his decrees were no longer enforced with the same brutality as before. Then the leading sages of that time gathered to consider ways and means of restoring Jewish religious life.

Among the leading sages gathered at Usha, we find Rabbi Shimon again. For reasons of safety, the sages moved to Yavneh, where they sat in conference in a vineyard. The leading sages were Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yosei the Galilite, and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Discussing what attitude to take towards the Roman government, Rabbi Yehudah suggested a friendly one, Rabbi Yose expressed no opinion, while Rabbi Shimon spoke very bitterly of the Roman tyrants, and advocated every possible defiance. For Rabbi Shimon could never forget the terrible sight of his beloved master and teacher, Rabbi Akiva, being tortured to death by the Roman executioners.

The sages were not aware that their conversation was overheard by a certain young man, Judah ben Gerim. At one time a disciple of Rabbi Shimon, Judah ben Gerim later turned spy for the Roman authorities. This treacherous man reported the conversation of the sages to the Roman authorities. At once they decreed honor and rank for Rabbi Yehudah for speaking favorably of them, exile for Rabbi Yosei for failing to do so, and death for Rabbi Shimon, who dared to challenge them.

Rabbi Shimon fled for his life together with his son Rabbi Elazar. For some time they stayed in hiding in the Bet Hamedrash (academy), where Rabbi Shimon’s wife brought them bread and water daily. When the search was intensified, they decided to seek a better hiding place. Without telling anyone of their whereabouts, they hid in a cave. G‑d caused a carob tree to spring up at the entrance to the cave, as well as a spring of fresh water. For twelve years, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son Elazar dwelt in the cave, sustaining themselves on carobs and water. During the time, they studied and prayed until they became the holiest sages of their day.

Chapter II

At the end of twelve years, the Prophet Elijah brought them the good tidings of a change in the government and a reprieve. Father and son now left the cave. Passing a field where they saw Jewish farmers toiling on the land, they said, “Imagine people giving up the sacred study of the Torah for worldly matters!”

No sooner did they utter these words, than all the produce of the field went up in smoke. Then they heard a heavenly voice saying, “Have you come out to destroy My world? Go back to your cave!” They returned to the cave for another twelve months, and left it again, only after they heard the same heavenly voice calling them to leave.

This time, they came out with a different outlook on life. Seeing a Jew carrying two bunches of myrtle, rushing home on Friday afternoon, they asked him what he was going to do with the myrtle. “It is to adorn my house in honor of the Shabbat,” the man replied.

“Would not one bunch of myrtle be sufficient to fill your house with fragrance?” they asked. The stranger replied, “I am taking two bunches, one for ‘Remember the Shabbat day’ and the other for ‘Keep the Shabbat Day holy.’”

Said Rabbi Shimon to his son, “See how precious the precepts are to our brethren!”

Satisfied that despite all the decrees and persecutions of the cruel Roman rulers, the Jews still clung to the commandments and especially Shabbat observance, Rabbi Shimon and his son felt greatly encouraged. Proceeding on their way, they met Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair, another famous scholar about whom there are so many wondrous tales in the Talmud.

Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair was Rabbi Shimon’s father-in-law, and he came out to meet his in-laws. Seeing the terrible effects of the prolonged cave life upon the health of his son-in-law, Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair burst into tears, but Rabbi Shimon consoled him saying that he could never have attained such a high degree of scholarship and divine wisdom, had he not spent so many years in the cave.

Rabbi Shimon settled in the town of Tekoa, where he founded a great academy. The greatest scholars of the time gathered there to receive instruction from Rabbi Shimon. Among them was Rabbi Yehudah, the son of Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, the Nassi, later the compiler of the Mishnah.

One day Rabbi Shimon met Judah ben Gerim, the treacherous spy who had caused him so much trouble. Rabbi Shimon exclaimed, “Is this man still alive?” and soon afterward Judah ben Gerim died. Once again religious persecution increased. The Romans prohibited Shabbat observance and other important Jewish laws.

The Sages decided to send a delegation to Rome, and chose Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai to head the delegation.

When they came to Rome, they heard that the daughter of the Roman emperor had lost her mind and that no one could cure her. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai proceeded to the palace and asked for permission to treat the patient. After a few days’ treatment the princess became well. In gratitude, the emperor told Rabbi Shimon that he could choose the most precious thing in his treasury. Rabbi Shimon found there the original decrees of persecution, and claimed them as his reward. Thus he succeeded in bringing great salvation to his people.

Chapter III

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was one of the greatest teachers of Jewish Law and ethics. His many sayings and laws in the Talmud reflect his holiness of character and devotion to the Torah. Once he said, “If I were present at the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, I would have demanded two mouths: one for continuous study of the words of the Torah, and the other for eating.”

But then he admitted that this would not be very wise, since even now when man has but one mouth, he says so many wrong things. How much more so if he had two!

Even though he lived the life of a recluse for many years, Rabbi Shimon knew the importance of good human relationships.

RASHBI'S SAYINGS

“Man should rather jump into a fiery furnace than offend another in public.”

“To deceive anyone by words is worse than cheating him out of money.”

“He who lets arrogance get the better of him is like the heathen worshipping idols.”

In the Ethics of Our Fathers, we find his saying,

“There are three crowns: the crown of the Torah, and crown of priesthood, and the crown of royalty; but the crown of a good name excels above them all.”

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is the author of the sacred Zohar (“Brilliance”), containing mystic interpretations of the Torah, and chief source of the Kabbalah. For many generations the teachings of the holy Zohar were studied by a few select scholars, until the great scholar Rabbi Moses ben Shem Tov de Leon published the Zohar about seven hundred years ago.

Rabbi Shimon is also the author of Sifri and “Mechilta of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.”

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai died in Meron, a village near Safed, in the Land of Israel. As we mentioned before, many Jews make an annual pilgrimage to his grave on the eighteenth of Iyar (Lag BaOmer), the day he died, where they light candles and pray at his grave.

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Simeon bar Yochai, (Aramaic: רבן שמעון בר יוחאי, Rabban Shimon bar Yochai), also known by his acronym Rashbi, was one of the most eminent disciples of Rabbi Akiva, and is attributed with the authorship of the Zohar, the chief work of Kabbalah.

In addition, the important legal homilies called Sifre and Mekhilta are attributed to him. In the Mishnah, he is often referred to as simply "Rabbi Shimon."

He is the fourth-most mentioned sage in the Mishnah.

According to popular legend, he and his son, Rabbi Eleazar b. Simeon were noted Kabbalists. Both figures are held in unique reverence by kabbalistic tradition. They were buried in the same tomb in Meron, Israel, which is visited by thousands year round. Read complete Wikipedia Article

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