|Location:||Pekiin or Peki'in, northern Israel. Turn left off the Acco-Tsefas road (#85) at Rama, the road makes a steep ascent to Mitzpe Hod (Hod lookout point) and leads us to the town of Pekiin after 7 km.|
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|149||Rabbi Shimon and his son Rabbi Elazar hid in a cave.|
|161||the emperor died and their sentence was annulled.|
|162||they finally left the cave.|
The word Rashbi is an acronym from the words Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was one of the great Tannaitic sages who lived during the era of Roman persecution in the 2nd century. His story, which contains a cave in a prominent role, is well known to any Jewish child.
Rabbi Shimon, well-versed in miracles, was sent to Rome to the emperor Antoninus Pius by the leaders of the Jewish people. It was an attempt to have the ban on Jewish observance officially lifted. The daughter of the emperor was possessed by a demon, which Rabbi Shimon exorcised. Because of this the ban was abolished.
But later - in the year 149 (3909) - Rabbi Shimon had to flee from the Roman authorities. In a private discussion he argumented that the commercial and social benefits caused by the Romans in Israel were merely out of self-interest. This was betrayed to the Roman authorities, who sentenced Rabbi Shimon to death penalty. He and his son Rabbi Elazar fled and hid in a cave.
While they hid in the cave, a miracle happened. They were sustained by the fruit of a carob tree and water from a spring, created to allow them to live inside the cave. they did not leave the cave for 12 years, until the emperor died and their sentence was annulled. They did not leave the cave a single time in this 12 years but studied the Torah day and night. They were naked and covered themselves with the sand in the cave, to protect their clothes from wearing out. They only put them on for their daily prayers.
At the time the sentence was annulled, Elijah stood at the door of the cave and invited them to leave. But they were so totally immersed in the Torah, it was traumatic for them, and consequently for the entire world. Whatever they cast their eyes upon was immediately burnt up. After they turned a farmed on a field into dust by looking at him, a Heavenly Echo appeared and told them "Have you emerged to destroy My world? Return to your cave!" So they stayed another year in the cave until they were able to leave the cave without harm to others.
During his stay in the cave, Rabbi Shimon wrote the main body of the Zohar, called the First Mishna. He had various disciples, who were called chevraya. One of them, Rabbi Aba, recorded most of his teachings, which he passed on orally to his close associates. Other important chevraya were Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yossi ben Yaakov, Rabbi Yitzchak, Rabbi Chizkiya, Rabbi Chiya, Rabbi Yossi, and Rabbi Yaakov bar Idi.
Rewritten from Talmud Bavli, Shabbos 33b (reminiscent of the 33 of Lag B'Omer)
Rabbi Shimon is probably the most important Rabbi in Jewish history, he is mentioned in every chapter of the Talmud. He is best known as the author of the Zohar, but he also holds an important place in the revealed aspects of Torah, the Talmud and associated works. He is also the author of all statements in the Sifri (a Midrash on Halacha) and the author of Mechilta d'Rashbi.
The cave is located at the western Galilee town of Pekiin, a small village which is home to mostly Druze, a minority of Greek Orthodox Arabs. The town is known in Arabic as El Bukeia, meaning little valley (bik'a). A spring in the town is used as drinking water supply for the town, and is said to be the remains of Rashbis cave spring. The cave is a few minutes uphill. At the entrance is an an ancient carob tree, perhaps the very one that sustained Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Elozor for thirteen years. The cave is quite small, but visitors are told that it stretched all the way to Meiron at the time of Rabbi Shimon. An earthquake destroyed it, so the story goes.
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