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When you've missed the boat there's nothing you can do but wave to the passengers. If the train has already left the station, you might as well sit down and wait for the next one to arrive. There are many things in life that depend on being in the right place at the right time; if you're late, you've missed that opportunity forever.
Likewise, the Torah tells us that there are specific times for performing specific mitzvot (commandments). There is a proper time to put on tefilin, a proper time to light Shabbat candles, a proper time to eat matza, and a proper time to sit in the suka.
The Torah's narrative about Pesach Sheni - the "Second Passover" (always on 14 Iyar, this year coinciding with May 19), thus expresses a very radical concept in Judaism.
Right before their Exodus from Egypt, G-d commanded the Jewish people to offer the Passover sacrifice, on the 14th of Nisan. One of the requirements, however, was that a Jew had to be in a state of ritual purity. As a result, not everyone was permitted to bring an offering, and the Jews who were excluded felt terrible. 'Why should we be left out?!' they demanded of Moses. They were so eager to observe the mitzva that G-d relented, granting them another opportunity to bring an offering one month later, on the 14th of Iyar.
This story reveals the unfathomable depths of the Jewish soul and the infinite power of teshuva, repentance. It teaches us that every Jew is so intimately connected to G-d that when he makes a sincere and heartfelt demand, it 'forces' G-d, as it were, to open up new channels through which to send us His abundant blessings.
As the Previous Rebbe explained, the lesson of Pesach Sheni is that it is never too late to correct the past and return to G-d. It also emphasizes the power of a Jew's initiative. When a Jew cries out, from the depths of his soul and with a genuine desire to fulfill G-d's will, G-d listens to his plea and grants his request.
There is an additional message of Pesach Sheni. What, in fact, was the cause of the ritual impurity which excluded some Jews from participating in the sacrifice? The Torah states: 'There were people who were defiled by contact with the dead and were unable to offer the Passover sacrifice on that day.' According to one opinion in the Talmud, these Jews were involved in the mitzva of burying a dead person found on the roadside who had no known relatives to do so. Even a kohen (priest) and even a High Priest - neither of whom is normally permitted to come in contact with the dead - is obligated to defile himself by burying the dead person.
This concept applies on a spiritual plane, as well. When we encounter another person who is spiritually 'lifeless' we are obligated to get involved with him, even if it takes us away from our own spiritual pursuits.
Ultimately, Pesach Sheni teaches us that we must never despair or give up on ourselves, on others, and especially in bombarding G-d with our demand that He send us Moshiach immediately.
This week's portion, Behar, contains the laws of Shemita, the commandment to allow the holy land of Israel to lie fallow every seventh year.
"When you come into the land which I give you...six years shall you sow your field...but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of rest for the land, a Sabbath for the L-rd: your field you shall not sow, and your vineyard you shall not prune."
As reward for this mitzva (commandment), G-d promises to provide the Jewish people with sustenance in overwhelming abundance, more than enough to compensate for their cessation of labor for an entire year.
"And if you should say, 'What will we eat in the seventh year? For behold, we are not permitted to sow, and we cannot gather in our harvest,' then will I command My blessing to you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth a harvest for three years."
During the sixth year, sufficient crops will be harvested to last throughout the sixth, seventh, and even eighth year of the cycle.
Symbolically, the sixth year of the Shemita cycle alludes to the six thousand years of the world's existence; the seventh year alludes to the Messianic Era.
The service of the Jewish people throughout the first six thousand years has served to ready the world for the ultimate Sabbath of the seventh millennium, when peace and tranquility will reign triumphant.
We find ourselves now at the end of the six thousand year period. "What will we eat during the seventh year?" we ask.
How can our lowly generation, which is on an infinitely lower spiritual level than that of our forefathers, possibly bring about the Final Redemption?
G-d reassures us that we need not worry: "I will command My blessing to you in the sixth year," we are promised.
G-d has endowed our generation with special strengths and abilities, for despite our spiritual poverty, we have a merit previous generations did not - that extra measure of self- sacrifice necessary for preserving the spark of Jewishness throughout the darkness of the exile.
This special power has been granted precisely to our generation, the last generation of exile and the first of Redemption, in order to prepare the world and sow the seeds of the great revelation of G-dliness about to begin.
When Moshiach comes, speedily in our day, G-d's promise to "bring forth a harvest for three years" will find ultimate fulfillment in the three distinct phases of the Final Redemption: the Messianic Era, the Resurrection of the Dead, and the seventh millennium itself.
Adapted from Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Vol 27
The Seventh Year
by Dov Weiss
I was one of a group of about 30 young men that started the moshav (agricultural settlement) of Komemiyut, in the south of Israel. It was in 1950, after we had completed our army service. Among the founders was also the well known Torah scholar Rabbi Benyamin Mendelson, of blessed memory.
At first we lived in tents, in the middle of a barren wilderness. The nearest settlements to ours were several kibbutzim associated with the Shomer Hatzair movement: Gat, Gilon, and Negvah. Several of our members supported themselves by working at Kibbutz Gat, the closest to us, doing different types of manual labor. Others worked in our fields, planting wheat, barley, rye and other grains and legumes. I myself drove a tractor. We sold our produce, which grew throughout the nearly 4,000 acres allotted us, to bakeries and factories.
At that time, there were not yet water pipes reaching our moshav. We had to content ourselves with what could be grown in dry rugged fields. Every few days we would make a trip to Kibbutz Negvah, about 20 kilometers away, to fill large containers with drinking water.
The second year we were there, 5711 on the Jewish calendar (1950-1951), was the shmita year which comes every seventh year in which the Torah commands to desist from all agricultural work. (Ed.'s note: Our current year is also a shmita year). We were among the very few settlements in Israel at the time to observe the laws of the Sabbatical year and refrain from working the land. Instead, we concentrated on building and succeeded that year in completing much of the permanent housing. The moshav gradually developed and expanded and more and more families moved in, as well as a number of young singles. By the end of the year we numbered around eighty people.
As the Sabbatical year drew to its completion we prepared to renew our farming activities. For this we required seed to sow crops, but for this purpose we could only use wheat from the sixth year, the year that preceded the shmita, for the produce of the seventh year is forbidden for this type of use. We went around to all the agricultural settlements in the area, near and far, seeking good quality seed from the previous years' harvest, but no one could fulfill our request.
All we were able to find was some old wormy seed that, for reasons that were never made clear to us, was laying around in a storage shed in Kibbutz Gat. No farmer in his right mind would consider planting such poor quality seed, not if he expected to see any crops from it.
"If you really want it, you can take all that you like, and for free, with our compliments," the Kibbutznikim offered in amusement.
We consulted with Rabbi Mendelson. His response was: "Take it. The One who tells wheat to sprout from good seed can also order it to grow from inferior wormy leftover seed as well."
We loaded all the old seed that the kibbutz had offered to us free of charge onto a tractor and returned to Komemiyut.
We were not permitted to plow or turn over the soil until after Rosh Hashana, the beginning of the eighth year, so we didn't actually sow the seed until sometime in November. This was two or three months after all the other farmers had already completed their planting.
That year, the rains were late in coming. The farmers from all the kibbutzim and moshavim gazed upward longingly for the first rain. They began to feel desperate, but the heavens were unresponsive.
Finally it rained. When? The day after we completed planting our thousand dunam of wheat fields with those wormy seeds, the sky opened up and the rains exploded down to saturate the parched earth.
The following days we were nervous in anticipation but we turned our attention to strengthening our faith and trust in God. Anyway, it did not take a long time for the hand of the Almighty to be revealed clearly. Our fields, sowed with the old seed, and long after the appropriate season, were covered with an unusually large and healthy yield of wheat, in comparison to any standard.
The story of "the miracle at Komemiyut" spread quickly. Farmers from all the agricultural settlements in the region came to see with their own eyes what they could not believe when they heard the rumors about it.
The farmers from Kibbutz Gat also arrived to see the miracle. After absorbing the sight of the bountiful quantity of wheat flourishing in our fields, they announced they wanted payment for the tractor-load of old rotten wheat they had scornfully given us for free only a short time before.
Even more startling: they said they would file a claim against us at a rabbinical court, and with Rabbi Mendelson himself.
Rabbi Mendelson accepted their case seriously, and in the end judged that we should pay them. He explained that the reason they gave it for free was because they thought it worthless for planting, while in truth it really was excellent for that purpose. We were astonished to hear his ruling, but needless to say, we complied.
The whole story became an extraordinary kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d) amongst all Jews in Israel, secular and religious alike. Everyone agreed it was a fulfillment of G-d's promise in Leviticus 25:
"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 shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath for G-d...
"And if you shall say: 'What shall we eat in the seventh year? Behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our produce!' But I will command my blessing upon you..."
Translated and adapted from Sichat HaShavua by Yerachmiel Tilles. Reprinted from www.awscentofsafed.com. This year, too, miracles have occurred for farmers who have kept shmita, as reported in the Jerusalem Post and other places.
Programs at the new Chabad-Lubavitch Center in the Dominican Republic, which opened just a few short months ago, have taken off since the arrival of Rabbi and Mrs. Shimon Pelman to that country. The new shluchim (emissaries) have already successfully arranged Passover programs as well as adult education classes and various community outreach activities. Rabbi Levi and Rishe Gurevitch will be arriving soon in Arlington, Texas, where they will be starting a new Chabad-Lubavitch Center serving the needs of the Jewish residents there as well as the communities of Colleyville, Southlake, Mansfield, Hurst, Euless and Bedford.
Freely translated and adapted
10 Iyar, 5710 (1950)
Greetings and blessings,
We are now in the midst of the days of the Counting of the Omer. We can learn a lesson in the service of G-d from every matter. From a mitzvah (commandment), in particular, we can learn many things.
The Counting of the Omer teaches us, among many other things, that time is precious. We always have to be counting. If we miss one day, that creates a blemish not only in the day that was missed, but in the days and weeks that follow. Conversely, when we do count that day, the coming days and weeks are also blessed.
In the blessing for the Counting of the Omer, we praise G-d as E-lokeinu ("our L-rd") which means "our strength and our vitality" and "the King of the universe," implying that He controls the entire world. (As a matter of course, it can be understood that He must, and He will, give all types of good to those whom He calls "My son, My firstborn, Israel.")
This applies to an ordinary person. In particular, it applies to a person who has influence over many people and whose activities are reflected within many Jews and have an effect on them. And in a most particular sense, it applies to those who have already succeeded in having an influence on others. They certainly must use every opportunity - and indeed, seek out new opportunities - to have an effect in strengthening the Torah and Judaism and spreading the Torah and the teachings of Chassidus. My revered father-in-law, the [Previous] Rebbe promised that one can rest assured that any effort undertaken will not be without results....
8 Iyar, 5710 (1950)
Greetings and blessings,
I found out, incidentally, that you have become very volatile recently and that you are irritable.... Certainly, you heard from my revered father-in-law, the [Previous] Rebbe, and learned from his talks, discourses, and letters, that there is nothing accidental in the world, but on the contrary, everything is controlled by Divine providence. On our part, we must try to align our deeds with the intent of the His providence. Who am I to say that I know the intent of His providence? Nevertheless, since I heard about the above, and it is possible for me to help - at least to a certain extent - I am therefore writing this letter.
The reason for your emotional volatility was not told to me, but it is likely to be your dissatisfaction with your present situation. The G-dly soul is not happy with your spiritual circumstances and the animal soul is not happy with your material situation. Therefore you let your body and your nerves just have their way.
It is difficult for me to give a particular answer to your assertions regarding your appraisal of your situation, because I have not heard those assertions from you directly.
I will therefore offer only a general answer according to my understanding of your situation. Since you have a greater vested interest in the matter than I do, according to Torah law, my testimony and conception of the matter is more trustworthy.
My perspective is that my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, established you in the path of light, i.e., Torah. Moreover, he did not remain content with this, and also granted you a portion in "the light of the Torah," i.e., that you and the teachers under your direction are chassidim who study the teachings of Chassidus, whether profusely, in an average way, or at least to a limited extent. And you are able to instill the fear of Heaven into your students, which is the purpose of the Torah and its mitzvos.
This was not enough. From early on, my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, led you by the hand and directed you in all your affairs. You built a home on the basis of the Torah and its mitzvos. Thank G-d, you always had the means to provide for your sustenance and the sustenance of the members of your household and you have that now as well. And you have received blessings from my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, that this situation will continue in the future, and furthermore, that you will be able to give charity generously.
In brief, this describes your spiritual and material situation. After all that, why are you so disturbed? That although certain things are granted you in hand, in addition, you have to work?! That this entails heartache?! That you must deal with simple people?!
The Rebbe's time and energy were certainly precious. He certainly had the right to demand more from Above than others and, nevertheless, he went through all sorts of challenges and endured them over and above the norm.
Who then can come along and indulge himself and claim, "I don't want to do that!" (which inevitably leads to the assumption) "I can't do that," and as a result, to the conclusion: "I'm walking away. I'm all upset"?! Is this the right approach....?
With good wishes for your wife and to all the members of your household, for blessing for all types of good.
From I Will Write it in Their Hearts, translated by Rabbi Eli Touger, published by Sichos in English
What is Pesach Sheni?
The 14th of Iyar (this year Monday, May 19) is Pesach Sheni, the Second Passover. When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, all those who weren't capable of offering the paschal lamb in its proper time on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nisan (due to impurity or distance), would offer the Paschal Lamb exactly one month later, on the 14th of Iyar. It is customary to eat matza on the day of Pesach Sheni. There are those who also partake of matza on the evening following Pesach Sheni.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Each Shabbat afternoon, from Passover until Rosh Hashana, we customarily read a chapter from Pirkei Avot - "Ethics of the Fathers."
This Shabbat we study Chapter Three, which contains within it the following teaching from Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa: Anyone whose [good] deeds exceed his wisdom, his wisdom will endure; but anyone whose wisdom exceeds his [good] deeds, his wisdom will not endure.
There are many explanations for the words above, though at first glance they seem to be simple and self-understood. According to one source, our deeds - our observance of the positive and negative commandments in the Torah - must surpass that which we know, understand, or have studied.
Thus, we cannot use the excuse, "I don't understand the meaning of the mitzva, all its ramifications, the exact manner in which to perform it, etc." For, we are expected to observe mitzvot even though we have not yet become "expert" in all their details.
A second explanation is reminiscent of Chasidic philosophy, which emphasizes the actual performance. This is especially true in the case of the unlearned person who does not necessarily understand even the simple meaning behind the mitzva. It is based on another teaching from Pirkei Avot: "Not study, but practice is the essential thing." According to this explanation, one's wisdom and Torah study will only endure if the study is accompanied by performance of mitzvot.
What does this mean to us? Studying about Judaism - history, mysticism, Chasidic stories - though certainly a worthy pursuit, is not sufficient.
We must apply the knowledge we gain from such study to our own personal lives. Only by combining study with actual mitzvot is our study really of value.
Do a mitzva today! That's the important thing.
For strangers and sojourners are you with Me (Lev. 25:23)
The more a person considers himself only a sojourner and a temporary resident of this world, the closer he is to G-d. And, unfortunately, the opposite is also true...
(Rabbi Boruch of Mezhibozh)
Do not take of him any usury or increase ("ribit") (Leviticus 25:36)
The numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word "ribit" is 612 - one short of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah - teaching us that the mitzva of not charging interest is considered as great as all the other mitzvot combined.
If he is not redeemed by one of these means, he shall go out in the jubilee year (Leviticus 25:54)
The jubilee year is mentioned 14 times in this section of the Torah, alluding to the fourteen jubilee cycles the Jewish people celebrated until they were exiled from the land of Israel.
In years gone by, it was not unusual for Chasidim to spend extended periods of time in their rebbe's presence, where they would fine-tune their own character traits and learn a path of spiritual service which would become the basis for their own spiritual endeavors.
Once, Rebbe Michel of Zlotchov, sent one of his Chasidim to another town to learn from a simple, unlearned Jew, the attribute of trust in G-d. The Chasid was a good student, and he remained in that town for many weeks, observing that individual and learning how to perfect his trust in the Creator.
Finally, when the time came to leave, the Chasid made his way home, pondering the lessons he had learned. He was walking down the road lost in thought, when he was shaken by the cries and screams of women and children.
The Chasid looked up to see two Jewish women, bound in chains, being dragged down the road by two large, muscular gentile guards. He ran after the party and asked the women, "What has happened to you?"
The weeping women replied to him, "Our husbands leased the inn which belongs to the master of the village and they owe him a lot of rent. When they couldn't pay the rent, the master took us and he says he will kill us!"
The Chasid told the guards, "I will go to your master and I will pay the entire debt." They all went to the house of the master of the village, but instead of finding him, they found the manager of the estate. When the Chasid explained his intention to repay the debt, the manager was very willing to make the deal.
"Here are 150 rubles and I will sign a note for the balance," the Chasid said. "You don't know my master," said the manager. "He's not the type to settle for less than the whole amount. He's waited a long time for these Jews to pay up! Either you produce the whole amount, or the deal is off!"
The Chasid had no choice but to comply, for the fate of two Jewish families was at stake. He laid all his money on the table, but was still short. Then he went and pawned whatever possessions he had to amass the entire sum of money. The manager took the money and released the women.
The Chasid continued on his journey home, giving thanks to the Creator for having given him the privilege of performing the exalted mitzva (commandment) of redeeming captives.
Before dark, the Chasid stopped at an inn to rest for the night. He soon fell into conversation with another Jewish traveler, who, by the look of his clothing, was a wealthy merchant.
The wealthy Jew asked him many questions. It so happened that the two men came from the same town. They passed the entire evening in pleasant conversation, until the dawn broke and it was time to recite the morning prayer.
The Chasid mentioned to his new acquaintance the names of the towns he intended to pass through on his trip home. "You know, I have a relative living in the town of R--, not far from the road you will be taking. For some time I have been looking for a trustworthy messenger with whom I could send him inheritance money. Perhaps you would agree to perform this favor for me?"
The Chasid agreed at once. He wouldn't have to go far out of his way, and he was happy to be able to do yet another favor for a fellow Jew. He took the money and carefully sewed it into the lining of his jacket. The wealthy merchant thanked him warmly and offered to compensate him for his trouble, but the Chasid refused, saying, "It is really no trouble for me to make a short detour, and I'm glad to be able to help you out."
But the merchant persisted, saying, "I promise you that your mitzva will stand intact, even though you accept this small gift from me." At last the Chasid agreed to take the money, for indeed, he had not even enough to pay for his night's stay at the inn. The two men shook hands and went their separate ways.
The Chasid finally came to the little town and asked around for the man, but no one recognized the name or the description. He was puzzled, for the merchant had entrusted him with an enormous sum of money. He certainly must have known that his relative lived in that town. Perhaps he was a recluse, or lived on the outskirts of the town. The Chasid decided to spend a few days in the town in the hope that he would discover the whereabouts of the lost relative, but all his searching was in vain.
It was a very downhearted man who returned to Zlotchov, to the court of Reb Michel. The Chasid went into the room of his Rebbe and related to him all he had learned about his service to the Al-mighty; how he had learned to put his trust entirely in his Creator with a pure and simple belief. He also told the rebbe about his encounter with the two women and how he had ransomed them from their cruel captors.
Finally, he told the tzadik about his meeting with the wealthy merchant who had entrusted him to deliver the inheritance to the relative who could not be found.
"Rebbe," said the man, sadly, "In this last mission which was entrusted to me I regret that I have failed, and now, I have a great sum of money which I cannot deliver to its rightful owner."
Reb Michel smiled at him and replied, "Let me offer you the explanation of what you experienced. In the merit of the great mitzva of redeeming the two Jewish women, angels were created as your advocates in the Heavenly Court. The man you took for a wealthy merchant was really an angel which was created by your merciful deed, and the money he gave you is for you to make use of with a happy and peaceful heart."
We must all clearly know that each and every activity and each and every effort made to spread the wellsprings [of Chassidus] outward illuminates the darkness of the exile and hastens the coming and revelation of Mashiach. There are no words to describe how difficult it is to remain even one extra moment in exile and how precious one extra moment of the revelation of Mashiach is.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Pesach Sheini 5710-1959)