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D'Var Torah - Lag B'Omer
By Rabbi Baruch Lederman

        Two thousand years ago, there was a great scholar named Rebbi Akiva. At the age of 40 he was unlearned and set out on the ambitious task of catching up. He applied himself with legendary diligence (and patience) and succeeded beyond anyone's expectations. Through hard work and selfless dedication he eventually became one of the generation's leading Torah scholars and amassed 24,000 talmidim (students). These talmidim were devoted to their exalted Rebbi. They represented the future, for they would carry on their master's teachings and traditions.
        Then tragedy struck. A horrible plague wiped out his 24,000 talmidim. Only five were left alive. The Talmud explains that they were punished because of a defective character trait, namely they didn't show the proper honor to each other (lo nahagu kavod zu lazu).
        These 24,000 men had but one thing in common - they were all students of the same teacher, Rebbi Akiva. It stands to reason that this flaw existed in the Rebbi, for why else would it be shared by these 24,000 in particular. This leads to one question. If Rebbi Akiva had that same flaw, why were only his students punished. How come he himself was not punished.
        The answer is that he was punished. In fact he received the harshest punishment of all. He had to witness his beloved 24,000 talmidim die. He put all he had into his talmidim and now they were gone. The Talmud states "Talmidim harei heim k'bonim - Talmidim are like children."  Given the love that a Rebbi has for his talmidim, such a loss is almost unbearable.
        Rabbi Aryeh Rodin was once accompanying the Rosh Yeshiva Rav Henoch Leibowitz shlit"a. The Rosh Yeshiva is known world wide for his unrelenting dedication to Harbotzas Torah (spreading Torah). Those of us privileged to learn in his yeshiva saw another, perhaps even greater, dedication - the intense dedication and love that he has to each and every one of his talmidim.
        The Rosh Yeshiva was going for a haircut that day and Rabbi Rodin was assisting him. As Rabbi Rodin was helping the Rosh Yeshiva take off his coat and hang it up, the proprietor, asked him, "Is this your father?"
        Rabbi Rodin replied, "No, he is my teacher."
        Upon hearing this, the Rosh Yeshiva interjected, "I am not his father, but, he is my son."

This Dvar Torah is dedicated in honor of the fifth wedding anniversary,
on Lag B'omer, of Cliff and Laurie Alsberg.

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