Humility within Humility.
Today is the minor Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer, which literally means “the 33rd [day] of the Omer.” The festival marks the end of a plague that devastated the Rabbinic academy at the time of the Talmud. The day is also marked as the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, one of the great mystics of Jewish tradition. This last connection is reflected in the card for the day: the Hermit. A story is told in the Talmud of Shimon bar Yochai who spent 12 years in a cave in prayer and study and contemplation. When he emerged he noticed a man plowing and was so incensed at what he saw as a forsaking of spirituality for mundane activities that he used his gaze to burn the fields. A heavenly voice ordered him back into the cave saying “did you emerge just to destroy my world?!” One year later he left the cave again, this time ready to rejoin the world. The Hermit card reminds us of the promise and peril of deep self-reflection: we may come to know ourselves better and develop a deeper sense of what is true for us and of our own inner guidance, yet we run the risk of isolation and cutting ourselves off from others. The corrective is today’s interplay of hod she’b’hod. Humility is about having the ability and strength to do serious soul-searching, and humility of humility is the ability and strength to know its limits and not become too inwardly focused. There is work in the world that we must do, reflected in the traditional practice on Lag B’Omer of spending time outdoors. Our task on this day is to reflect on what that work might be.