“Usefartem Lachem…,” “And you shall count for yourselves…” (Vayikra 23:18). During these days of Sefira we mourn the death of Rabi Akiva’s students who were punished for their lack of Derech Eretz. Torah law hardly considers lack of Derech Eretz worthy of capital punishment. It is therefore very hard to understand why Hashem would kill 24000 students of Rabbi Akiva simply because “they didn’t treat each other with respect.” Obviously, something needed to be corrected.
We spent the first few days of advanced infantry training getting our gear together and in target practice. I found it very frustrating that no matter how carefully I aimed my rifle, the bullet always seemed to hit the target somewhere to the left of where I aimed. This problem became magnified over long distances. When I expressed my frustrations to my company commander he said to me, “No problem Berman, you just need a COURSE CORRECTION!” With that he took out of his pouch a special key which he inserted into the gunsight of my Galil rifle. He counted just three clicks and declared the problem corrected. He was right. The rifle shot straight.
Rabbi Rekowsky shlita explains that the death of Rabbi Akiva’s student was also a course correction of sorts. Although these students were Torah giants, they had a small problem in Derech Eretz. As small as this problem may have been some 2000 years ago, Torah in its purest form could not have been transmitted to us long distance without this awesome course correction.
It is now our turn to use these days of Sefira to effect small changes on our own Derech Eretz. With a little patience it’s possible to see how a small course correction can have huge ramifications.
Saving a Jewish life is equivalent to saving the entire world! There are chayalei tshal guarding Israel without the protection of bulletproof vests! These vests cost $1000 each. Such is the economic stress on Israel that the government can’t afford to provide each chayal with body armor. I would like to use this opportunity to remind the TABC community of the upcoming annual Lag B’Omer 25 mile bike trip in the Poconos run by Rabbi Jachter and myself. Our students have been busy the last two weeks generating sponsors. All proceeds will be used in purchasing bullet proof vests for Chayalei Tzahal. Last year we merited to purchase three vests. This year, G-d willing, we will exceed this number. Please support our students in carrying out this huge Mitzvah.