Love Yourself! | Living with the Rebbe | A Slice of Life | What's New
The Rebbe Writes | Rambam this week | A Word from the Director | Thoughts that Count
It Once Happened | Moshiach Matters
"People think," the Previous Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, explained, "that the mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael, loving one's fellow Jew, means that you love the other person as much as you love yourself. They have it all wrong. It means loving yourself as much as you love the other person!"
Long before modern psychology focused on self-esteem, Judaism taught the importance of loving and accepting ourselves. For it is only when we love ourselves that we can properly love our family, friends, co-workers, and even the cashier with the attitude. (Loving ourselves does not mean being egotists, nor does accepting ourselves mean allowing bad character traits to remain unchecked or unchanged. But that's another article!)
How can we foster self-love? We can start by studying and internalizing the first words that a Jewish child is taught. "Torah Tziva - the Torah that Moses commanded to us is an eternal inheritance to the Jewish people."
We have been given a precious gift from G-d - the Torah. The moral, ethical and spiritual teachings flowing from the Torah are ours to dip into and relish. We have the ability to grow and change by bringing these teachings into our lives. They were tailor made for us by G-d, who loves every Jew as a parent loves an only child born to him in his old age.
The Torah is eternal and its teachings are eternal; G-d's love for every single Jew is also eternal. G-d love us! Surely we can love ourselves!
From "Torah Tziva" we go on to "Shema Yisrael - Listen Jews, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One." These words are not merely a declaration of monotheism. They acknowledge that G-d is everywhere and affirm a basic Jewish teaching that G-d is good. There is nothing disconnected from G-d and everything G-d does is ultimately good. (We can hope, though, that the "good" is something that we recognize and appreciate.)
Every Jewish teaching is a lesson in how to foster self-love. In Chapter Three of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), which we study this Shabbat, Rabbi Yishmael instructs us to "Greet everyone with joy." Extrapolating from the Previous Rebbe's words above, this means that we should greet ourselves with joy! When awakening we should say "Good morning" to ourselves with gusto. If we "lose" it, once we're back to normal we should offer ourselves a hearty "Welcome back."
Loving ourselves has nothing to do with what we do, who we are, how much money we make or how we look. It is loving what we are at our very core. And essentially, we are all sparks of G-dliness, sparks of the same One G-d. So when we love ourselves, we truly love everyone else.
- (Back to text) It is customary to study one chapter each Shabbat afternoon between Passover and Shavuot. Many Jews have the custom of continuing this course of study until Rosh Hashana. Some books on Pirkei Avot are In the Path of Our Fathers by Eliyahu Touger (Sichos In English); Beyond the Letter of the Law by Yanky Tauber (V.H.H. Publishing); Ethics from Sinai by Irving Bunim (Feldheim Publishing); and Ethics - Meam Loez (Moznaim Publishing)
This week we read two Torah portions, Acharei and Kedoshim. In most years, the Torah portions of Acharei and Kedoshim are read together. In fact, they share the common theme of holiness.
The portion of Acharei opens with G-d's command to Aaron, warning him that he may not "come at all times into the Sanctuary." (The High Priest was only allowed to enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.) Acharei thus deals with the highest level of sanctity (the service in the Holy of Holies), on the holiest day of the year (Yom Kippur), performed by the Jew on the highest level of holiness, the High Priest.
The portion of Kedoshim also begins with a command concerning holiness: "You shall be holy, for I am holy." Every Jew is obligated to emulate G-d and strive for the highest degree of holiness. But, practically speaking, how is this possible?
The answer lies in the Torah's directive "You shall be holy," the wording of which also implies a promise: "You will be holy!" G-d assures every Jew, "for I am holy" - for the simple reason that your holiness is derived from Mine. Every Jew possesses a "veritable portion of G-d Above," a Jewish soul that is a part of the Infinite. Every Jew is thus capable of rising to even the highest levels of holiness.
As the Torah teaches, the ultimate objective is not what happened to Aaron's two sons, Nadav and Avihu, who achieved such a state of spiritual arousal that their souls could no longer tolerate the confinement of their physical bodies. The highest level of Divine service transcends even this.
In the Midrash, our Sages interpreted the verse "You shall be holy" as meaning "My holiness is superior to yours." In other words, no matter how high a spiritual level a Jew may attain, he should always remember that G-d is Infinite and thus higher.
This contains a practical lesson for every Jew to apply in his Divine service, regardless of his present spiritual standing: The greatest tzadik (righteous person) can always rise higher, while those on the lower rungs of spiritual achievement must never despair of improvement. The directive of "You shall be holy" applies to everyone. G-d gives every Jew the strengths and abilities he needs to ascend. And when a Jew takes the first step and makes the effort to sanctify himself, G-d takes him by the hand and helps him achieve his goal.
Adapted from Volume 12 of Likutei Sichot
Ariel Sharon and the Rebbe: Part II
In an interview, Ariel Sharon provided details of his first private audience (yechidut) with the Rebbe: "I was very surprised that a Rebbe could understand military matters so well," he told Kfar Chabad magazine. "I had asked the Rebbe to exert pressure on the Soviet Union; this was at a time when the Russians were trying to obtain economic support from the U.S. I figured that the only ones who could do it were the Rebbe and his Chasidim. They were the only ones who had maintained a connection with Soviet Jewry after the revolution.
"But the Rebbe refused my request. He told me that before long the gates of the Soviet Union would open. We have to be very careful with the Russians, he said, for one can never predict how the Soviets will react. At that time, Russia was going through a difficult period under Brezhnev. I remember thinking that what the Rebbe was saying sounded impossible, but the Rebbe was right as always.
"One of the most important areas in which the Rebbe has influenced me is his concern for Jewish education around the world. Even though I wouldn't define myself as a religious Jew, I am a Jew, and to me that's the most important thing. Giving children a Jewish education is very important."
After the Six Day War, the public debate began over what to do with the territories that were now part of Israel: Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Left and right argued over whether or not these areas should be settled by Jews, as a means of preventing their recapture (G-d forbid) by Israel's enemies.
Sharon described a yechidut he had with the Rebbe around that time in an interview with Kfar Chabad magazine: "The Rebbe mentioned the situation in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and Nachalat Chabad in Hebron. I had asked the Rebbe to send his Chasidim to settle there, but the Rebbe didn't like mixing into things that were liable to cause tension and dissent among Jews. Aside from that, the Rebbe had sent me an interesting line in a letter: 'What would happen if a fight were to break out between a Jewish boy and an Arab boy - whose side would the government take?' You have to remember that the situation then was not the same as it is today. This was right after the Six Day War. No one imagined that we would ever be in our present predicament. Except for the Rebbe, who foresaw it clearly."
In the period between the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, Arik Sharon had several con-frontations with Chief of Staff Chaim Bar Lev; their military philosophies were completely antithetical. Sharon's opinions fell on deaf ears and against his judgment the famous "Bar Lev line" was established.
Throughout this time the Rebbe sent Sharon many letters of encouragement in which he spelled out, among other things, his concerns about security.
"The Rebbe kept insisting that the Bar Lev line would be a terrible mistake. Even though all negotiations had been conducted in the utmost secrecy, the Rebbe apparently had his won source of information. He sent me a letter describing the disaster that would befall the Jewish people if the Bar Lev line was implemented. The letter was written several years before the Yom Kippur War, yet he accurately foretold the terrible losses later sustained."
When the Yom Kippur War broke out in 1973 the Israeli forces were taken unaware. Almost 3,000 Jewish soldiers died. The Egyptian army easily broke through the Bar Lev line and hundreds of soldiers were trapped in their positions, exactly as the Rebbe had prophesied. "When the Yom Kippur War broke out," said Sharon, "we saw that the Rebbe was right."
Against this backdrop of pitifully low morale, Sharon proposed that the IDF cross over the Suez Canal and attack the Egyptians. It was a very risky plan. Sharon did not wait for official permission and proceeded anyway. The operation essentially turned the tide and ultimately led to Israel's victory. Sharon later stated that when the existence of the Jewish people is in danger, one cannot sit around waiting for generals to make decisions.
After the War was over Sharon returned to politics. In 1977, Menachem Begin was elected Prime Minister of a right-wing government. Sharon was appointed Minister of Agriculture, and for the next few decades served in a number of different posts under several Israeli administrations.
The last time Arik Sharon came to the Rebbe was at Sunday "dollars" before Shavuot in 1989. The Rebbe greeted him warmly, and Sharon asked for a blessing for the security and integrity of Israel. The Rebbe replied with the words of the verse, "And I will give peace in your land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid." The Rebbe pointed out that the Torah doesn't say "in the land" but "in your land," meaning that it must be obvious that the land is Jewish. The Rebbe also quoted the saying of our Sages, "Whoever refutes avoda zara (idolatry) is termed a Jew," and explained that avoda zara refers to anything that is contrary to the spirit of Yiddishkeit. In order for people to feel that the Holy Land is indeed Jewish, the observance of mitzvot must be encouraged and strengthened.
Today, after 28 years in the military and 25 years in politics, Ariel Sharon is the elected head of the Jewish State. Unfortunately, Mr. Sharon does not have an unblemished record when it comes to upholding the Rebbe's guidance concerning the security and integrity of the Land of Israel. As Defense Minister under Begin, he was responsible for implementing various stipulations of the Camp David Accord, including the forced evacuation of Yamit in the Sinai. All of the Jewish homes were destroyed, and the land was handed over to Egypt.
Sharon was also involved in implementing the Wye agreements under Netanyahu, which essentially handed Hebron over to the terrorists in 1996. This was despite his pre-election promise that a right-wing government would never give up an inch of land to Israel's enemies. As a result of these actions, thousands of Jews are in acute danger in Hebron and throughout Judea and Samaria.
We can only hope and pray that Mr. Sharon will rededicate himself to following the Rebbe's guidance, which will guarantee peace and the safety of the Jewish people.
Reprinted from Beis Moshiach magazine
CD Torah Studies
Torah study has become easier and more convenient with the release of a series of audio Torah classes on CD by Sichos in English. The CDs are available through their website at www.SichosInEnglish.org or by calling (718) 778-5436 are:
- Maimonides Mishneh Torah (1017 lessons);
- Sefer HaMitzvos (Maimonides' concise definition of the 613 commandments in 339 systematic lessons);
- Tanya (chapter by chapter);
- The Chasidic Masters (a selection of treasured stories);
- The Chabad Heritage Series (biographies of Chabad luminaries);
- Basic Principles of Chasidic Philosophy;
- The Holidays;
- Heichaltzu (inspiring advice on how to become less judgmental and to truly love one's fellow).
Erev Shabbos Mevorchim Iyar, 5737 
To All Participants in the Annual Dinner for Oholei Torah
G-d Bless You All!
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to be informed about the forthcoming Dinner on the first day of the week of the Torah portions Acharei-K'doshim. May G-d grant that it should be with much Hatzlocho [success] in every respect.
As is well known, the weekly Torah-portion contains teachings of our Toras-Chayim (our practical guide in life) which are relevant to all happenings in that week, especially events that are directly connected with Torah.
At first glance it seems strange that the portion of Acharei begins with details concerning the avodah (service) of the High Priest on Yom Kippur, which occurs only once a year, all the more so considering that these instructions were given in the month of Nissan - six months before they had to be actually implemented - while those relating to the everyday life and conduct of the kohanim follow later in the Sedra Emor ("Speak to the Kohanim-priests").
One of the explanations of this seemingly strange order is that when the kohanim were about to be inducted into the affairs of priesthood which is, of course, in the realm of holiness - and on a higher level of holiness than that of an ordinary Jew, who is also a member of the "Kingdom of priests and holy nation," it was necessary to emphasize that the basis and force of holiness derives from the "Holy of Holies" - in space (the Holy Temple), in time (Yom Kippur), and in the soul of the person representing the highest level of holiness in the "Kingdom of priests and holy nation" (with all these three elements of olam, shanah, nefesh (space, time, soul) combined and united, as explained in Chabad).
Herein is also a practical instruction in regard to Chinuch-al-taharas-hakodesh (a holy and pure Jewish education). For the essence of Chinuch (a Jewish education) is to provide the Jewish child with the quality of education that "also when he grows old he will not depart from it." It should be an education that will be felt throughout his entire life and will permeate his daily conduct, as is expected of one who is a member of the "Kingdom of priests and holy nation."
In the area of Chinuch, too, there are the said three elements: the educational institution where the child learns; the period of formative education when the foundation is laid for the whole life; and the teachers and administration who carry out the sacred educational service. These are, so to speak, the three elements of "space, time, and soul" of Chinuch, which must combine on the highest level of sanctity to achieve the utmost results.
However, in order to make this kind of Chinuch a reality, it requires the collaboration and support of the parents and of the friends of the educational instutution. And this is the purpose of the Annual Dinner, which takes place once a year but must lay the groundwork for meeting the needs of the school, to enable it to carry out its sacred task in the maximum good.
May G-d grant that all that has been said above should find the proper response and the proper expression at the Dinner of the Oholei Torah institution, with a corresponding effort by everyone, with joy and gladness of heart.
With esteem and blessing for Hatzlocho and good tidings,
14 Iyar 5761
Positive mitzva 114: valuation of a person
By this injunction we are commanded concerning the law of the valuation of man (Lev. 27: 2-8), which prescribes that if one says, "I vow my own valuation" or "I vow the valuation of a certain individual," he must pay (to the Sanctuary) the specific amount as laid down in the Torah. It is derived from the words: "When a man will express a vow to G-d regarding a valuation of souls, etc."
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This Monday is "Pesach Sheini" (the "second Passover"), which commemorates an event that happened one year after the Exodus from Egypt. When some Jews were unable to bring the korban Pesach (Passover offering) at the proper time, they complained so vehemently that G-d gave them a second chance one month later, on the 14th of Iyar.
The Passover offering was unique. With all other korbanot, if the proper time for sacrificing it elapsed and an individual was unable to bring it, he lost the opportunity forever. The korban Pesach was the only instance in which Jews who were tamei - ritually impure - (and therefore unable to bring it at the proper time) were permitted to bring it at a later date. Pesach Sheini was established in response to their demand not to be excluded.
But why were some Jews impure? When the Jews left Egypt, they took with them the bones of Joseph so he could be buried in Israel. According to Jewish law, if a person comes in contact with a dead body he becomes ritually impure. The men who carried Joseph's remains were thus excluded from the mitzva of the Passover offering.
This caused them to be so heartbroken that they pleaded and demanded that they be given a second chance. "Why should we be held back?" they cried. G-d relented and granted them a second opportunity. In this way, every Jew was given the opportunity to make up for what was lost.
From Pesach Sheini we learn that a Jew must never despair. No matter how spiritually estranged from Judaism a Jew may be it is never too late; G-d will always give him a "second chance." It is always possible to correct past mistakes.
This also teaches how important it is to repeatedly implore G-d to bring about the Final Redemption. The initiative must come from us. Again and again we must beg Him until He relents and sends us Moshiach.
For when Jews ask, G-d heeds their request, and Moshiach will indeed arrive speedily, in our time, and at once.
In the seventh month, on the tenth of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and not do any work (Lev. 16:29)
The Apter Rebbe (Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel), used to say: "If I had the power, I would revoke all the public fast days on the Jewish calendar, as the generations have become weaker and more exhausted. That is, with two exceptions: Tisha B'Av, the day on which the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, and Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. For on Tisha B'Av, who can bring himself to eat? And on Yom Kippur, who needs to eat?"
You shall observe My decrees and My judgments, which man shall carry out and live by them (otam) (Lev. 18:5)
In this verse the word "otam" (alef-tav-mem) is written without a vav, leaving the same three letters as the word "emet," meaning truth. From this we learn, by way of allusion, that a person who reveres the truth and is always honest with himself and others can rest assured that he will "live by them" - be blessed by G-d with a long life.
(Degel Machane Efraim)
You shall not go about gossiping among your people (Lev. 19:16)
There is nothing in the world as revealing as when a person opens his mouth; it divulges to all who he really is.
"A person's eyes and ears are not under his control, but his mouth is."
And you shall love your fellow as yourself, I am G-d (Lev. 19:18)
True observance of the mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael, love for one's fellow Jew, requires a lot of effort. That is why the Torah follows the commandment with the words "I am G-d": G-d is ready and willing to help us perform this mitzva, if our desire is sincere.
The grandson of the holy Baal Shem Tov was getting married. The elaborate wedding procession was a sight to behold. At its very head stood the tzadik himself, leading the bridegroom to the chuppa. All of the townspeople followed behind, dressed in their finest holiday clothes.
At that moment a wagon rumbled into town. This wouldn't have attracted undue attention, but when the Baal Shem Tov left the procession to speak to the driver, all the guests were astounded. Everyone watched how the Baal Shem Tov whispered something into his ear before returning to the bridegroom's side.
The driver was dressed as a simple Jew, but this didn't fool the Baal Shem Tov's Chasidim. Surely the stranger was a "hidden tzadik"; why else would the Baal Shem Tov have run over to talk to him?
The next morning they decided to get to the bottom of the mystery. They located the inn where the man was staying and paid him a visit. Maybe, just maybe, the "tzadik" would reveal some secret the Baal Shem Tov had divulged.
"Shalom Aleichem, Rebbe!" the Chasidim addressed the stranger reverently.
"Rebbe?" the man said in embarrassment. "I'm not a Rebbe, and not even the son of a Rebbe."
"Oh, please," the Chasidim persisted. "You don't have to play any games with us. If the Baal Shem Tov made it a point to speak to you, it must mean that you're a holy man."
"You're making a big mistake," the man replied. "The Baal Shem Tov only spoke to me about a personal matter." But the Chasidim were so persistent that he finally agreed to tell them his story:
"I live in a small village," the stranger began, "and my best friend lives right across the road. My friend is a peddler who plies his wares throughout the surrounding countryside. Sometimes he's gone for weeks and months. But whenever he comes home, all his friends and neighbors gather in his house to welcome him back. I always arrive first, because I live the closest.
"One time my friend returned after a long absence, and as usual I was the first to walk over. I didn't bother to knock, as we'd known each other so long we each felt at home in the other's house. Oddly enough, however, he wasn't there. The children were out in the yard and his wife was in the kitchen. Looking for something to do, I opened the cupboard to get some tobacco for my pipe. I was surprised to see a big fat moneybag just sitting there, where anyone could find it. No doubt it contained all the money my friend had just brought home.
" 'How careless!' I thought to myself. 'I'm going to teach him a lesson.' I took the bag and put it in my pocket. Scaring my friend into thinking he had lost it would ensure that he never acted so irresponsibly again.
"I sat down and waited for him, but for some reason he was delayed. Then I remembered that I had something urgent to attend to at home, so I decided to leave and come back immediately. In my mind, I was already preparing a long reprimand.
"But I never got to deliver it. When my friend came home and couldn't find his money, he let out a bloodcurdling scream. His wife and children started searching frantically. By that time the house was full of people, which only added to the tension. When I returned a few minutes later it looked like a house of mourning. My little prank had gone terribly haywire.
"I'm the first to admit that I'm a coward. I just didn't have the courage to come clean before such a large audience. How could I ever explain myself adequately? I made believe I didn't know what was going on, and pretended to share in my friend's sorrow. I resolved to wait for the first opportunity to return the money when no one was looking.
"Unfortunately, the days passed and the opportunity never presented itself. My friend was even forced to borrow money. But still I couldn't come up with a way to return the money without looking like a thief.
"Several months later the money was still in my possession. Then my Evil Inclination started urging me to invest the money so I could return it with interest. But I couldn't figure out how without arousing suspicion. I hired a horse and wagon and set out on the road...
"Shortly afterward I arrived in your town. When the Baal Shem Tov saw me he came over and whispered, 'It isn't too late to repair the damage. Go home and give back the money. I promise your friend will believe that you never intended to steal it. I'll even tell him myself, if necessary. But you mustn't waste any more time...'
"I feel as if a huge stone has been lifted from my heart," the stranger concluded. "However, I must hurry now and leave. I've learned a lesson to last me the rest of my life..."
Moshiach will be distinguished by extreme humility. Though he will be exceedingly exalted, and though he will study Torah together with the Patriarchs and with Moses, he will be utterly humble and self-effacing and will teach simple folk, too. This explains why Moshiach is known by the name of King David, as in the prophecy concerning the end of Days, "And My servant David will be king over them." For David was so exceedingly humble and self-effacing, that though he was a king he referred to himself as "poor and needy."
(Sefer HaMaamarim 5699)