Today I made a siyum on Maseches Shabbos. This particular masechta is so long and contains so many inyonim and halochos it’s incredible, I’m going to write out only one of the various potential droshos I had on this.
In this masechta we find the story of R’ Shimon bar Yochai and his son, R’ Elozor, running from the tyrannical Romans due to their revolutionary political opinions. R’ Shimon holds that everything the Romans do is for immorality, while other Tannoim maintain that there is much good that comes from their bridges and roads. For this, Yehuda ben Gerim reported R’ Shimon to the Roman government, due to this R’ Shimon had death a sentence placed upon him, hence he ran away with his son for safety. They found a cave, and while there Hashem gave them a carob tree, along with a spring. They lived there for 12 years, and they both spent their time learning Torah, eventually coming to generating at least part of the Zohar.
After this time, they came out of the cave, they saw people wasting time and not learning, which led to the power of their eyes causing fires and destroying things and people from their harsh judgement. Hashem told them they had to go back to the cave for another year. Once they came out then, they saw a Yid erev Shabbos carrying two haddasim. R’ Shimon had his Divine wrath begin arising in him, so he asked the Yid “Why do you have two hadassim? One isn’t enough?” The Yid answered “Two corresponds to ‘Shomor v’Zochor,’ (keep and remember the Shabbos).'” R’ Shimon was calmed, along with R’ Elozor, and they were able to live in society. From my understanding, it is clear that they realized this Yid understood the Sod of “Shomor v’Zochor b’dibur echod ne’emru,” “Keep and Remember in one utterance was said,” as the Ari states we have to say when taking the hadassim in our hands by the Shabbos seudos. The Yid in this story is a Tzaddik Nistar, a hidden Tzaddik, who keeps simple apperances, but actually performs major avodos, services for Hashem. Once he explained his reasoning to R’ Shimon and R’ Elozor from the Torah, then they became appeased, because the realized this wasn’t a meshigas, a craziness, from the Yid, rather it was a holy matter.
What we can also learn from this story is the stages of spiritual growth. Though we cannot compare ourselves in any way to R’ Shimon and R’ Elozor, the story can teach us something. One a person seeks to make t’shuva and becomes a Baal T’shuva, or mayber a Ger, such a person must lock themselves away for some time to study. Once this is over, and such a person enters general society again though, it is very difficult. We see that people don’t pay attention to davening, they waste their time speaking of narishkeit and general nonsense. So we have to retreat again. After this period of retreat, we must come out and realize there are those among the hamon am, the general populace, who are genuinely involved with higher matters, they just keep them hidden. The implication of the story is that R’ Shimon and R’ Elozor couldn’t accept that someone could take delight in this world and still serve Hashem; after learning enough Torah and spending enough time talking to Hashem, eventually we have to accomplish avodas Hashem through physical actions and delights. This becomes the highest form of serving Hashem, once we understand how it can be done. True spiritual growth must follow such a pattern, because otherwise Hashem wouldn’t have caused R’ Shimon, HaBaal HaZohar, to be the one sent into exile and have this whole story happen for the gemoro to record. So even if a dear friend who is a Baal T’shuva or a Ger seems a little extreme at first, it is an eventuality that they shall come to be able to appreciate serving Hashem through physical things to accomplish spiritual goals, simply because this is how Hashem created the world to function. We are not supposed to be entirely separated, rather we should be able to utilize this world to serve Hashem.
We should merit true spiritual growth, along with the coming of Moshiach swiftly, even before the upcoming Tisha B’Av.