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May 23, 1997 - 16 Iyar 5757

469: Behar

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Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.

  468: Emor470: Bechukosai  

Respect  |  Living with the Rebbe  |  A Slice of Life  |  A Call To Action
The Rebbe Writes  |  What's New  |  A Word from the Director  |  Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened  |  Moshiach Matters


Self-respect, respect for other people, respect for other's property and opinions.

Respect never goes out of style, it's always politically correct, and it does not become obsolete as technology catapults us toward the next millennium.

The revered and venerated Sage, Rabbi Akiva, is renown for his teaching, "Love your fellow as yourself. This is a great principle of the Torah." A lesser known teaching of his is: "Beloved is a person, for he was created in the image of G-d..."

Keeping this second teaching in mind can help one act on the first teaching; when we remember that every person is a Divine creation can we do anything less than respect him or her?

This coming Sunday we will celebrate the special day of Lag B'Omer. One of the events commemorated on Lag B'Omer is the suspension of a plague which had been afflicting the students of Rabbi Akiva. The plague, we are told, was caused by the students not displaying enough respect for one another.

A disciple is one who follows in the ways of his teacher. Is it possible that disciples of one whose entire life was consumed by the axiom, "Love your fellow as yourself" -- so much so that this teaching is synonymous with the name "Rabbi Akiva "-- did not display enough respect for each other?

An amazing insight of the Rebbe on this question is as follows: Each of Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students was so infused with love for his fellow that this love was all-consuming. He was not able to give his colleague "space." He loved his friend so much that he wanted to not only share his insights, opinions and interpretations but to convince his peer of their validity until the peer adopted them as his own.

Remember, we're not talking about a person who is opinionated, arrogant, narcissistic, or condescending. We are talking about someone who loves the other person so much that he wants the other person to share his Truth (with a capital "t").

And this is where the hint of a suggestion of a lack of respect comes in. Respect includes giving another person space. It means allowing for divergent opinions. It acknowledges that G-d created every person differently for a reason. Yes, we can learn to harmonize, modify, accommodate, adapt, perfect. But we cannot expect to become the same, otherwise G-d would have created us that way.

Most of us don't have to worry that our lack of respect for another is caused by such an all-encompassing love. We're still working on the regular, run-of-the-mill respect.

The way to encourage such respect is to begin looking at our fellow person as one who is created in the image of G-d.

Living with the Rebbe

In this week's Torah portion of Behar, we read, "Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruit. But in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of rest to the land, a Shabbat for the L-rd." The year of shemita is a "Shabbat for the L-rd."

Commenting on this verse, Rashi explains that "Shabbat for the L-rd" means "for the sake of G-d." In other words, the practice of allowing the land to lie fallow in the seventh year must be done solely because it is a Divinely-ordained mitzva.

At first glance, allowing the land a periodical rest appears to be a natural means of rejuvenating the earth. It is a well-known fact that not cultivating the land for an entire year serves to enrich its soil and improve the quality of its future yield.

Nonetheless, the Torah demands that we not keep shemita for the purpose of land improvement. The only reason we allow the land to rest is "for the sake of the L-rd," for G-d has so commanded us.

When Jews refrain from working the land in the seventh year, they thereby attest to G-d's mastery over the world. Observing shemita demonstrates openly that our involvement in the pursuit of a livelihood has not caused us to forget the Creator.

The mitzva of shemita trains us to remember that no matter what we do, everything in life is "for the sake of G-d." Even those things which are considered "natural," i.e., eating, drinking, sleeping and going to work, must be done purely for the sake of heaven.

When a Jew eats, he must do so "for the sake of G-d." He consumes food in order to be strong and healthy, to be able to perform more of G-d's mitzvot.

When a Jew sleeps, he sleeps "for the sake of G-d." He knows that the body must rest to recoup its strength, that he be fully alert and capable of observing the commandments.

Such must be the attitude toward every detail in life: We must always remember that all facets of existence are "for the sake of G-d."

Acting in such a manner brings down G-d's blessing, as it states, "And I will command my blessing upon you," ensuring that G-d will grant us only goodness from His full, open and holy hand.

Adapted for Maayan Chai from Likutei Sichot, vol. 7

A Slice of Life

I Took my Own Advice
by Mazal Zirkind

Tonight, a friend called me on the phone. Her friend had lost something, and she had advised her to give tzedaka (charity) "in the name of a certain rabbi who helps you find lost objects." My friend couldn't think of the name of the rabbi.

I told my friend that the rabbi to whom she was referring is Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes, and that I had several tzedaka boxes at home from various charities that bear his name. I suggested that she could come over and put some money in them if she so desired.

After I hung up the phone, I reminded myself that I had also lost something -- an important document. I had been searching for it for two weeks and had just contacted the government agency involved to inquire as to how to replace it.

Now I decided that as soon as I was done packing my son's camp gear, I would also put some money in a Rabbi Meir Baal Hanes pushka and add a little prayer to recover the document. I bent down to pick up a bag that I thought contained camp supplies. I took out an envelope that I had searched through many times over these past two weeks, and there was the document sticking halfway out of the envelope. I didn't even have to look for it! This took place moments after just having made the decision to give the tzedaka. I was so grateful that I immediately put the tzedaka into an envelope to mail in the morning on my way to the camp bus with my son.

I had relearned the value of a mitzva, and also the inherent power contained in just the thought of doing a mitzva.

Unexpected Mitzvot

This past Thursday, I went to a store on Avenue U in Brooklyn. While I was there I met a very old man -- close to 100 years old. He longed for a fellow Jew to talk to, and I was honored to be able to lighten his load. He told me his sad and lonely life story, one that left him without one living relative in the whole world. I stayed and listened to what he had to say, and I shared a few Torah thoughts with him. I was amazed at how his spirits were lifted by just a few friendly words. Eventually, when I left, I "let my feet do the walking," not paying much attention to where I was going. I found myself standing in front of an elderly woman who was soaking in the sun, so I stopped to talk to her. She too was a Jew, and I shared some Torah thoughts with her. She asked me to please come by again, as she felt uplifted by our brief conversation. I told her that I'm not usually in that area, and her reply was, "You can never know." She's right, I told myself. I hadn't expected to be there that day either!

And then, as I reached the next corner, I heard a commotion and realized that a woman had tripped on the sidewalk and was bleeding. I rushed to find a phone and called Hatzala (the Jewish volunteer ambulance corps). I went back and helped comfort her until Hatzala arrived to take her to the hospital. She kept thanking G-d for sending "angels" to help her. What a mitzva I had been privileged to do! I realized that if I hadn't stopped to speak to those two lonely people, I would not have been there to help this woman, either.

The amazing part of this story, though, happened when I got home. I looked at that day's entry in HaYom Yom, a book of daily meditations compiled over 40 years ago by the Rebbe at the behest of the Previous Rebbe:

"...The Alter Rebbe [the first Chabad Rebbe] taught: 'The footsteps of man are directed by G-d.' When a Jew comes to a particular place, it is for an (inner Divine) intent and purpose -- to perform a mitzva, whether a mitzva between man and G-d or man and his fellow man. A Jew is G-d's messenger. Wherever a messenger may be, he represents the power of the One who sent him..."
The Wrong Stop

It was a dark, drizzly, foggy morning. My children had missed the school bus, and I had to dig into my emergency funds to get them to school by taxi. Not exactly my favorite way to start the day.

It seemed that lately, I had been spending a lot of time running around to take care of several difficult matters. Now not only was I running again, but this time, because of the earlier delay, I was also running late!

As I ran for the bus, I saw it at the corner. I waved to the driver and kept running to the bus stop. A passenger got off the bus and saw me approaching. I heard him ask the driver to wait, but just as I reached the front of the bus, it pulled away. Seven minutes till the next bus. I took out my book of Tehilim (Psalms) and started reciting the daily portion. Seven minutes on the dot, the next bus pulled up to the stop. By this time, there were two other women and a child waiting for the bus. We waited for a passenger to get off the bus, but before any of us could get on, the bus pulled away!

I looked at the other two women in disbelief. I said, "You won't believe this, but the same thing happened with the last bus!"

I went back to my Tehilim, firm in my belief that "there must be a good reason that Hashem is doing this." And at that moment, I realized that in my rush, I had been waiting at the wrong bus stop! Fortunately, I made it to the right stop, and got to my appointment just on time, thank G-d.

The lesson to me was clear. Hashem is in control, even to the point of making two bus drivers decide, on a whim, not to pick up passengers!

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A Call To Action

The holiday of Lag B'Omer emphasizes the commandment of ahavat Yisrael, to "love your neighbor as yourself." It is insufficient to merely think about the commandment and make a resolution to that effect, but one should even go so far as to make the verbal declaration every day before prayer, "I accept upon myself the fulfillment of the positive commandment, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

(The Rebbe, Lag B'Omer, 5751)

The Rebbe Writes


Lag B'Omer, 5733 [1973]
Translation of a letter of the Rebbe

To All Participants in the Eighteenth Annual Convention of Nshei U'Bnos Chabad

On this auspicious day of Lag B'Omer, I send you greetings and prayerful wishes for hatzlacha [success] in the fullest measure.

It has often been pointed out that in every important event in our history, which is commemorated by special days on our calendar, Jewish women had a decisive role. This is true also of Lag B'Omer.

On the day of Lag B'Omer, as is known, we commemorate the survival of Rabbi Akiva's disciples, after a plague which had decimated their numbers. These, together with their teacher, revived and perpetuated the continuity of the Torah shebe'al peh [the Oral Law].

Among these disciples was also Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Rashbi), author of the Zohar, and the vital link in the transmission of P'nimiut HaTorah, the inner light of the Torah, the Kabala. Lag B'Omer is also the hilula (simcha) of the Rashbi.

Our Sages of blessed memory declared that these very disciples of Rabbi Akiva saved the Torah at that time (Yevamot 62b).

Wherein lies the women's role in this critical period in Jewish history?

Our Sages of the Talmud clearly brought it out by relating to us the story of Rabbi Akiva. Behind his rise from a poor ignorant shepherd to the rank of the greatest sage in his generation was a woman, his faithful and courageous wife Rachel. And Rabbi Akiva publicly acknowledged this when he said to his disciples: "All that I have learned, and all that you have learned, we owe to her." (Ketubot 63a)

This means that the entire edifice of Torah shebe'al peh, the very basis of the existence of our Jewish people and its way of life, is ultimately credited to a Jewish woman!

That this story, in all its details, has been told and recorded for all times is a clear indication that it is meant to serve as a source of instruction and inspiration to all Jewish women, everywhere and at all times. Its practical message is that every Jewish woman has been given tremendous potentialities, with far-reaching consequences, not only for herself, her husband and children, but also for our entire Jewish people.

Specifically in the sphere of the main theme of this year's Convention, namely, "Turning the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of the children unto their fathers," or, to use a modern phrase, to bridge the "generation gap" in the true spirit of the Torah -- it is plain and self-evident that the woman has a very special role. For, in matters of the heart, that is, the sphere of feeling and emotion, the woman has been endowed with an extra measure of sensitivity and understanding, not to mention the fact that chinuch [education] and character development of children, from their infancy on, are largely in the domain of wife and mother, the akeret habayit.

May G-d grant that in the spirit of the theme of the Convention, and, what is the essential thing, through increased activities that will grow out of it, and carried out by all our people, men and women, young and old, we will soon merit to see the fulfillment of the said prophecy, which begins with the words, "Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant" -- to be implemented in the daily life and conduct; which will hasten the fulfillment of the prophecy as it is continued: "Behold I send you Elijah the Prophet" -- who will herald the arrival of our Righteous Moshiach, and the fulfillment of the conclusion of this prophecy: "And he will turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of children unto their fathers."

Then will also be fulfilled the prophecy of King David, the Sweet Singer of the Songs of the Jewish People: "And His Glory will fill all the earth, Amen and Amen" -- reflecting the Glory of G-d which will have permeated and filled the hearts of all children and parents, all the sons and daughters of our people Israel...

What's New


Photo Caption: At the U.N. ceremony: India's Counselor, Arajat Shah; UNESCO representative, Nina Sibal; Jon Voight; Elie Wiesel; former UJA President Martin Stein (co-chair); and Chabad Children of Chernobyl's Medical Liason, Jay Litvin.

In a dramatic ceremony at the United Nations, Chabad's Children of Chernobyl was honored at the launching of an international postal salute to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

The postal salute, involving 21 nations, was the joint effort of Chabad's Chernobyl program and UNESCO. "This is an example of the kind of cooperation that can occur when the nations of the world, individuals and organizations join together," said Under Secretary General of the UN, Yashushi Akashi.

A Word from the Director

On the 18th day of Iyar, which is the 33rd day of the counting of the omer, we celebrate the holiday of Lag B'Omer. There are two reasons for this celebration.

First, during the time between Pesach and Shavuot, 24,000 students of our Sage Rabbi Akiva died because they were not respectful to each other. For this reason, the days of the omer are a time of semi- mourning, when we do not listen to music or celebrate weddings. On Lag B'Omer the dying ceased.

Second, a later disciple of Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, passed away on this day. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was the author of the Zohar, the primary book of Jewish mysticism. Before his passing, he requested that his yahrzeit be celebrated as a holiday, as he had fulfilled his mission in this world.

The two Sages who are associated with Lag Ba'Omer, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, both emphasized the mitzva of ahavat Yisrael, loving your fellow Jew.

Rabbi Akiva said that a person should love another Jew as he loves himself, and he was a living example of his words. Unfortunately, as we see, his students did not learn from his example.

In his writings, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai highlighted the concept of unity by drawing attention to the verse, "How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to sit together."

During the Lag B'Omer parade in 1990, the Rebbe spoke about unity. Unity stems from shared roots. Two brothers may lead very separate and different lives, but they share the same parents, and their fundamental common identity remains.

As Jews, we all share a common parentage, that of our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and from them we can learn a great lesson about unity. Each of our forefathers had a different approach to Divine service, yet together they formed the unique spiritual heritage of our people. Difference does not have to cause division, and in fact, true unity comes from bringing two opposites together.

Because of a lack of ahavat Yisrael, a lack of unity, we lost our Holy Temple and were sent into exile. Thus, we see that increasing our efforts in this area is the route home, to our complete and total redemption with the coming of Moshiach.

Thoughts that Count

And the land shall yield her fruit and you will eat your fill Lev. 25:19)

The Torah emphasizes "her fruit" because in the Garden of Eden, the earth was capable of producing fruit on the day it was plowed and sowed, and even the trunk of the trees tasted like fruit. After Adam sinned the earth was cursed, and we no longer receive those blessings. Here the Torah alludes to the days of Moshiach when we will once again receive these blessings, and the land will produce her fruits according to her potential.

(The Rebbe)

If your brother becomes impoverished and sells part of his possession, his relative who is closest to him shall come and redeem his brother's sale (Lev. 25:25)

This law is stated in the singular, while the previous laws are stated in the plural. When one is affluent and successful, he finds himself surrounded by friends and associates who enjoy his company. But if his fortunes take a downturn, he may find himself very much alone and in need of help. The Torah tells us that each person should consider himself to be the sole individual capable of coming to his brother's aid.


Do not take from him interest and increase, and let your brother live with you (Lev. 25:36)

When a person lends money on interest, he wants the days to pass as quickly as possible, because with each passing day he makes more money. When a person borrows money on interest, he feels the opposite way, that time should go slowly, because with each passing day he owes more money. They have a different outlook on time, which would not be the case with an interest-free loan. Thus, the Torah says, "your brother will live together with you," with the same outlook on time.


From Vedibarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky

It Once Happened

The wife of the Baal Shem Tov was awakened with a start when she heard her husband cry out in the middle of a Shabbat nap. She ran to his side and shook him, asking, "What is the matter?" "Thank G-d you woke me up, because if you hadn't I might never have woken up again. Please call my students right now, so that I may relate to them the wondrous things which I just saw when my soul ascended to the Heavenly Academy."

When they arrived and stood around his bed, the Besht proceeded to tell this tale:

"Every Shabbat when I pray the Musaf prayer my soul rises to the upper realms, and there I can hear how Torah is being studied there. When I return to my body, I am able to transmit many of these teachings to you, my students, when we eat the third Shabbat meal.

"I have a certain friend, Reb Nachman Kassover, a great Tzadik, who passed on, and I miss terribly. I have tried many times to find him in the world of souls, but I never succeeded.

Today, when my soul ascended Above, I found myself in a part of the Heavens which I had never seen before. There I saw palatial structures which shone with precious diamonds and rubies. There were towers of sapphire and houses of study which shone like the sun. When I entered them, they were occupied with dazzling souls that sparkled like angels, and each of them was busy in his own realm of Torah study.

"I asked one angelic soul, 'To whom does all this belong?' And he replied, 'All of this is the glory of Reb Nachman Kassover.' I asked to see him, and before me was a soul that sparked fire and whose brilliance outshone anything I had ever seen. 'My dearest brother,' he said, 'these are the souls of those people I brought to the study of Torah and the ways of righteousness while I was on earth.' And he continued, asking me if I would like to remain there with him.

"'If you remain here with me, you will never have to experience the pangs of death, and you will enjoy the bliss of the Divine Presence. The decision is yours to make.'

"I thought for a moment, torn as to which decision to make. Finally I replied, 'I would like to stay, but I want to be buried in the Land of Israel.'

"'You are destined to be buried outside of the Holy Land,' he replied, 'for reasons I cannot reveal. But if you decide to remain here, many things will be revealed to you.'

"I stood there confused and unable to decide. If I remained, I would be deserting my wife, my son and daughter, and all of my students and disciples. How could I leave so quickly without even a last will and testament? No, I decided, I must return. Before I die I must prepare for my departure, not just abandon my loved ones.

"My good friend didn't want to take no for an answer. He continued to beg and plead with me to remain there with him. Finally, I couldn't stand it one more second, and I uttered a loud cry. This is the cry which woke you up. If you hadn't run to me and awakened me when you did, I would have lost my will to return and my soul would have remained Above."

The power of prayer is not completely understood by us, but in the words of one of the Rebbes of Lubavitch, "If you knew how the words of Psalms ascend to the highest Heavens you would never stop reciting them."

Through his holy vision, the Baal Shem Tov saw that a decree was made Above against a certain Jewish settlement. Summoning two of his companions, Reb Mordechai and Reb Kehos, the Besht set about to annul this terrible catastrophe.

Ascending to the upper realms, the Besht learned that this decree was firm and could not be rescinded. As his soul descended to earth, he passed by the "palaces" of many saintly individuals. These palaces represented the accumulated good deeds which awaited their soul when their earthly lives had ended. One palace in particular attracted his attention, for it sparkled so brilliantly. He approached it to see to whom it belonged, and discovered that it was the palace of a certain simple villager.

What, he wondered, had this man done to merit such a reward in the next world? It was the custom of this uneducated, but pious Jew to recite the entire book of Psalms five times every day as he went about his work.

When the Besht returned to earth, he traveled to the village of that man and asked, "If you knew that your reward in the World to Come could save an entire community of Jews, would you be willing to give it up?"

The unassuming fellow replied, "If I have a portion in the next world, I would certainly give it away to save my fellow Jews."

With that utterance, the decree was abolished, and for his total self- sacrifice, the simple villager won the admiration of all the Heavenly host.

Moshiach Matters

Before the Messianic Era, the earth will be in a state of chaos and decay, as the prophet Isaiah said, "The foundations of the earth shake, the earth is completely broken down, the earth crumbles away, the earth continually falters, the earth reels to and fro like a drunkard." G-d will send Moshiach to bring stability to the world.

(Ibn Ezra, Psalm 96).

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