Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai lived in the 2nd century after the destruction of the temple, while the Romans ruled Israel. He was a Tana (a name given to the sages of the Mishna period), son of a fourth generation to a Tanaim family. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai was one of Rabbi Akiva’s students and learned at his Yeshiva in Benei Berak for 13 years. In fact, he was one of five students that survived the plague and the battles against the Romans that was followed by the death of 24 thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students.
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai was one of the strongest opponents of the Roman regime, when he realized that he was informed to the Romans that sentenced him to death he ran away for his life.
Tradition tells us that Rabbi Shimon and his son were hiding from the Romans in a cave near Pekiin for 13 years, and for the whole time they fed themselves from a carob tree and a spring located nearby. For all this time they studied the secret wisdom – Kabbalah. Later on, when the Romans cancelled his death sentence, Rabbi Shimon and his son Rabbi Eliezer got out of the cave.
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai gathered eight more of his colleagues (the Idra Raba) and taught them what was revealed to him while he was in the cave. Among his students was Rabbi Aba, who wrote everything down, and for days to come his writings were known as the Zohar – the mainly and most important book of the Kabbalah.
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