In the Zohar Haazinu 291a it teaches that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai spent the last moments of his life doing what he always did: teaching. The mystical ideas that he shared with his devoted students that day were the deepest and most revolutionary teachings he had ever revealed.
But as he conveyed this parting message, there was tension in heaven. Rabbi Shimon’s death was ordained to be that day before sundown. As the afternoon stretched on and evening approached, he had not yet finished sharing his final wisdom. The day would soon be over, but the lesson was not. Rabbi Shimon refused to return his soul until he had revealed all the secrets that it held. His life could only come to end when his mission came to an end. But time was running out.
And so the day didn’t end. The setting sun slowed down, and daylight was extended to allow Rabbi Shimon to say all he needed to say. Only after he had completed his lesson did his holy soul depart and the sun finally set.
On the anniversary of that day each year, to remind us of this miracle, we brighten the night with bonfires.
There is a powerful symbolism in this: You will be allotted enough time to complete your mission and nothing can make your sunset before it is time!
So use your time wisely. Happy Lag Baomer!
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Bluming (Potomac, MD) and Rabbi Moss