Today is La”g BaOmer, which is a special day not only because of the Sefira itself, and because it’s the day in which ceased the plague which inhilated 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s pupils. It is also the Hilula of Rabbi Simon Bar Yochai זיע”א, the day of his parting from this world.
Rashb”i was a great Tana, a Mishnah Sage. But what made him different was the fact that he was the one who introduced Judaism with Torat HaSod, the Kabala, the Torah of the Hidden. He, we believe, was the one who wrote the holy Zohar, our main source of Kabalistic thought through the ages.
Certainly not from Mt Sinai! Because Rashb”i lived a mere 2,000 years from today. So where was Kabala from Moshe Rabeinu up to Rashb”i?
Was it something new? Indeed there are those who claim that Kabala is a later-generation mystic invention, some even claiming that it was invented much later than Rabbi Shimon, disputing the authenticity of our tradition.
But we must first understand, that the Torah has four levels of understanding, through which each and every verse may be interpreted. Those four levels are initialed פרד”ס, Pardes, which is also the word for “orchard” in Hebrew.
In that word, פ stands for פשט, Pshat, the “simple observation” or understanding of a verse.
ר stands for רמז, “a hint” in Hebrew, and means something hinted in the verse, other than the Pshat.
ד stands for דרש, Drash, a basis for a midrash or fable/legend brought to us by Haza”l, our Sages.
ס stands for סוד, “secret” or “obscure and hidden”.
These four levels are simultaneous in each verse, and they are always there, and will always be there – forever.
But the hidden layer, the Sod, is indeed “a secret”. It is the Secret of Life, and it’s supposed to be a hidden – or it won’t be a secret, would it? So there’s no wonder that that part of the Torah was indeed hidden for years. And no wonder too, that in later times it would become more and more available – and understandable. Because as we approach the End of Times, the knowledge of HaShem is bound to be more and more wide spread; and there is nothing closer to the understanding of HaShem as Sod, the real spirit of the Pardes.
One may add too, that it was just the same with Halacha, (the laws of conduct according to the Torah). There too we find many Halchot, or laws, which were inexistent until modern times, but were sure to appear; such as rules about use of electricity on Holy Shabbat. This did not mean that the Torah changed with the change of time! Indeed it has not and shall not change, from what it was when given at Mt Sinai. But the change of times brings forth that which is a hidden potential in the Torah. For what use there was to talk explicitly about electricity, if was not yet invented! Only our Sages knew and had the authority to decide, in which part of the Torah could be found the laws for electricity.
So indeed it is with the Sod, the hidden part of the Torah.
With the approach of our Time of Redemption, the secrets of the Torah are bound to flourish.