We have learned: On the day that Rabbi Shimon [bar Yochai] was to depart the world, he began arranging his teachings.
Tzaddikim of the stature of Rabbi Shimon know when they have fulfilled their tasks in this world, and when they are to pass on to the World of Truth. They therefore begin preparing themselves for the transition.
The disciples [of Rebbe Shimon found out that he was making his final arrangements, and they] gathered together at the house of Rebbe Shimon. Before him were Rabbi Elazar his son, Rabbi Abba and the other disciples, so that the house was filled. Then fire surrounded the house, so that everyone fled outside...
When Rabbi Shimon looked up and saw that the house was full, he wept and said, “On another occasion, when I was deathly ill (as mentioned in the Addenda to Zohar, Devarim), Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair was with me. While I was choosing my place [in the Garden of Eden], they granted me [extra years] until now. When I returned [to the living], a fire surrounded me and it never ceased, so that no person could come in to me without permission.
The fire surrounding him was a sign that the Shechinah was constantly revealed upon him. Even the greatest of Rabbi Shimon’s students, such as Rabbi Chiya, required permission to enter (see Zohar II:14a).
“Now I see that it has ceased, and so the house has filled up [with visitors who entered without my permission].”
Commentaries explain that perhaps there were some there who were not worthy of hearing the mysteries that Rabbi Shimon planned to reveal, and for this reason the Shechinah had left him. (Kocho d’Rashbi, Ma'arachah 4)
While they were sitting, Rabbi Shimon opened his eyes [in the sense of spiritual gazing into the higher worlds] and saw what he saw.
He experienced the revelation of the Shechinah (Sha’arei HaIdra).
Then fire surrounded the house, so that everyone fled outside, leaving only Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Abba [who were worthy of receiving the Shechinah]. The remainder of the disciples sat outside. Rebbe Shimon said to Rabbi Elazar his son, “Go outside and see if Rabbi Yitzchak is here. I made a promise to him [that he would live until the day of my passing, and that I would take him into the Garden of Eden. (see Zohar I:118a)] Tell him to put his affairs in order, and then come and sit with me. Happy is his lot!” The holy matters that I did not reveal until now, I wish to reveal in the presence of the Shechinah...
Rebbe Shimon arose [in deference to the Shechinah and the souls of the saintly tzaddikim that had descended to be with him as he revealed the secrets of the Torah]. He then sat again, smiling and happy, and he asked, “Where are the disciples?” Rabbi Elazar arose and brought them in. They sat down before Rebbe Shimon.
Rebbe Shimon raised his hands in prayer and made his supplications with great joy. Then he said, "Those who were in the Idra [Rabba] are invited [to stay, but not the rest of the visitors, lest they put themselves in danger]. They all went out, and only Rabbi Elazar his son, Rabbi Abba, Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yose and Rabbi Chiya remained. Meanwhile, Rabbi Yitzchak arrived, and Rabbi Shimon said to him, “How fortunate is your lot. How much joy should be added to you on this day!” Rabbi Abba was sitting behind Rebbe Shimon’s shoulders, and Rabbi Elazar before Rebbe Shimon.
Rebbe Shimon said, “Now is an auspicious time [to reveal the secrets of the Torah]. I wish to enter the World to Come without shame. For the holy matters that I did not reveal until now, I wish to reveal in the presence of the Shechinah, so that no one will say that I left the world without fulfilling my task, and that I concealed [these secrets] in my heart until now so that they would come with me to the World to Come. I will present them to you; Rabbi Abba shall write, and Rabbi Elazar my son will review them, and the remaining disciples must whisper them in their hearts.” I see that today is special, for G‑d and all the tzaddikim are rejoicing in my celebration (Hilula). The dead do not praise G‑d...
Rabbi Abba rose from behind Rabbi Shimon’s shoulders [and sat before Rebbe Shimon]. Rabbi Elazar continued sitting before Rebbe Shimon. Rebbe Shimon said, “Arise, my son, for another [a tzaddik from the upper worlds] will sit in that place.” Rabbi Elazar arose [and sat down elsewhere].
Rebbe Shimon wrapped himself [in his tallit]. He sat down and said: “‘The dead do not praise G‑d, nor do those who go down into Silence [the eternal silence of the grave, for the absolutely wicked].’ (Psalms 115:17) ‘The dead do not praise G‑d...’—this surely means those who are called ‘dead’ [even when they are alive], for G‑d is called ‘[eternally] living,’ and He dwells among those who are also called ‘live’ [the righteous], and not among those who are called ‘dead’ [even during their lifetimes, for they do not cleave to G‑d, the Source of Life]. The end of the verse states, ‘. . .nor do those who go down into Silence’—those who descend to Silence will remain there. [Meaning: only those who descend to Silence permanently will not praise G‑d, whereas those who experience a temporary spiritual anguish (Purgatory) after death do return to utter G‑d’s praises.] But those who are called ‘alive’ are different; the Holy One, blessed be He, desires their honor.”
...Rabbi Abba recalls, "I was writing, in middle of quoting a verse. Rebbe
Shimon stopped at the word 'chayim'. I waited, wanting to continue, but
did not raise my head to see why Rebbe Shimon had stopped, for I was unable to
look at the great light that was shining around him. Suddenly, I heard a voice
call out a verse with the word 'chayim', and then another voice called
out an additional verse. I fell to the ground and wept. When the fire and the
light departed, I saw that the great light, Rebbe Shimon, had passed away. He
was lying on his right side and his face was smiling."
[Translated by Moshe Miller from the Idra Zuta, Zohar III:287b–296b]