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                         L'CHAIM - ISSUE # 1021
                           Copyright (c) 2008
                 Lubavitch Youth Organization - L.Y.O.
                              Brooklyn, NY
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   Dedicated to the memory of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson N.E.
        May 23, 2008           Bechukosai         18 Iyyar, 5768


Most of us, at some point in our lives, have had obnoxious neighbors.
The obnoxiousness can take many forms. Maybe you go to bed at a
reasonable hour but your neighbor insists on playing music into the
morning hours. Loud. You like classical, or even "oldies but goodies,"
but your neighbor insists on playing very bad country. Loud. Or worse,
he plays it himself, in what seems like an echo chamber aimed at your
kitchen. Loud.

Maybe the obnoxious neighbor takes your parking place, or his visitors
block your driveway.

Maybe your neighbor walks her dog on your property - or rather, lets her
dog run all over your yard, doing whatever it pleases.

There are many ways a neighbor can be a nuisance. Some actions are
annoying, create friction, and just get us angry. Yet they may be
legally, ethically and in the scheme of things, just petty annoyances,
but not dangerous, life-threatening, or illegal.

So what if the neighbor is just obnoxious, a nuisance, irritating,
inconsiderate, but not more than that? How do you deal with it?

(If you politely ask the neighbor to alter her behavior, if you explain
to him why the music bothers you or why you need the parking space, and
the neighbor apologizes and accommodates, you didn't have an obnoxious
neighbor. You had - past tense - an insensitive or oblivious one.)

You have three choices: prevent, counterattack, or ignore.

In every case, you'll find the best way to deal with an obnoxious
neighbor is ignore him.

This parallels what Chasidic thought teaches us about the yetzer hara,
the evil inclination. Although these teachings focus on an obnoxiousness
that disturbs our prayer, the advice applies to all our spiritual
endeavors. In fact, this advice works well any time we are trying to
focus (and accomplish):

"Even if licentious imaginings or other extraneous thoughts occur to him
during his service of G-d - in Torah or in prayer with concentration -
he should pay them no attention, but avert his mind from them
immediately. ... for example, a person who is praying with devotion
while facing him stands a wicked heathen who chats and speaks to him in
order to confuse him. Surely the best advice in this case would be to
answer the wicked heathen neither good nor evil, but rather to act as
though he were deaf, without hearing, and to comply with the verse
(Proverbs 26:4), 'Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you too
become like him.' He should answer nothing at all, nor should he engage
in argument against the foreign thought, for he who wrestles with a
filthy person is bound to become soiled himself." (From Tanya by Rabbi
Shneur Zalman)

So whether the "obnoxious neighbor" is the person living next door, or
our own distracting or "foreign thoughts," we have to recognize that
both divert us from our goal, drain our energy and keep us from being
productive and recognizing the positive in our life.

The obnoxious neighbor and the unhealthy thought should be ignored, and
we should concentrate more on what occurs inside our homes - the
physical home outside our heads and the spiritual home inside ourselves.

Bechukotai, this week's Torah portion, contains the curses and
punishments to be meted out upon the Jewish people if they do not obey
G-d. Even a casual reading of these misfortunes in the Torah makes our
hair stand on end. Chasidic philosophy, however, teaches that by delving
more deeply into the meaning of these curses we can understand that they
are actually blessings.

Furthermore, these "curses" are not only blessings, but blessings of
such a high order that they can only manifest themselves in their
seemingly opposite form!

A perfect illustration of this concept is found in the Talmud. Rabbi
Shimon Bar Yochai once sent his son to two Sages for a blessing. When
his son returned he complained that the Sages had cursed him. "What did
they say?" asked Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. "You shall sow, but not reap,"
answered the son. The father patiently explained that the rabbis had
meant that he should grow to be the father of many children who would be
healthy and strong and not die during their father's lifetime. Likewise,
every example the son gave of the rabbis' "curses" were similarly
interpreted to contain great blessings.

But why did the rabbis go through the trouble of disguising their good
intentions in such a convoluted manner? Chasidut explains that ultimate
good is sometimes clothed in an outer garment of its exact opposite,
precisely because it is too lofty to come into this world in any other

If, then, the rabbis' blessings were so lofty that they had to be
"disguised" as curses, how did Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai recognize their
true content?

Tanya, the basic book of Chabad Chasidic philosophy, explains that
everything we perceive as evil in this world is, in reality, so good
that we cannot absorb it in its true form (much in the way that an
intense light hurts the eyes if one looks directly at its source). This
good therefore takes the form of human suffering, just as we avert our
eyes from a brightness which is too intense.

This, however, is only true at the present time. When Moshiach comes,
the concealed good hidden within our afflictions will be revealed for
what it is - utter and absolute blessing.

A Jew must, therefore, always accept whatever is decreed from Above, for
when Moshiach comes we will see that the suffering of the exile was in
truth a good of such magnitude that it could only be bestowed in such a

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai possessed a soul capable of discerning this
truth even before the coming of Moshiach. Likewise, Chasidut affords us
a "taste" of the Messianic Era, enabling us to understand these inner
truths which will soon become apparent, speedily in our days.

                   Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

                             SLICE OF LIFE
                     The Hidden Spark in Every Jew
                      by Rabbi Avraham E. Plotkin

On my recent trip to Ukraine, where my family went to celebrate my
father's 80th birthday, I met Sasha, a fellow emissary of the
Lubavitcher Rebbe and a student of my father. Sasha's job is to visit
Jews in the most remote corners of Ukraine and reconnect them to their
roots. He related to me the following story:

"I recently received a strange phone call from a mining company that was
digging near Anipoli, a small town in western Ukraine. They claimed to
have discovered what appeared to be a mass Jewish grave from the
Holocaust. At once, I dropped everything I was doing and contacted the
Chevra Kadisha (Jewish Burial Society) in Jerusalem, who immediately
dispatched a delegation of rabbis to confirm this and help organize a
proper burial and monument for these martyrs. A few weeks later, we
decided to follow up with a Shabbaton for the relatives, to honour the
memory of the martyrs. I brought along with me a group of young yeshiva
boys from Kiev, plenty of kosher food and a portable ark with a Torah.
It turned out to be a very moving Shabbat indeed, even beyond our
wildest dreams."

Sasha explained: "Among the many people who attended this Shabbaton was
an elderly gentleman who refused to participate in any of the religious
aspects of our program. At the Shabbat afternoon services, I saw him
sitting alone with his family, on the other side of the room, without a
kippah. I called him up for an aliyah to the Torah, and, as expected, he

"I really don't know what possessed me, but I literally took the man by
his the arm and escorted him up to the bimah. I then asked him for his
Hebrew name. He said that he couldn't remember, but if it helped, his
Ukrainian name was Vasilly. I called him up by that name. He then said
the appropriate blessings with some help from me. Just as I started to
make the Mi Sheberach prayer for him, I noticed that the man was crying
uncontrollably. I asked him what was wrong and he responded in a choked
voice that after so many years he suddenly remembered his Hebrew name.
It was Azriel, the name his grandfather, the rabbi of the town, gave him
at his bris.

" 'You know" he said, 'my Zaide was the first one to be shot by those
murderous Nazis. I remember it like today. They gathered our whole town
into the square. I was then only 12 years old, just before my bar
mitzvah. I was very lucky. I had just drunk a bottle of water and was
granted permission to relieve myself behind some trees. From behind
those trees, I watched how they shot everyone. No one was spared. My
Zaide was first, because he was the rabbi. The rest of my family
followed. After they finished, I was left in this world all alone,
wandering through the forests...'

"'After the war I returned to my hometown but unfortunately, with no
Jewish community left, I gave up my Jewish heritage, married out of the
faith and raised a non-Jewish family. When I heard about the discovery
of the grave, which more than likely has my family buried in it, an
incredible feeling of longing for my family and my past engulfed me. I
needed to make that connection once again. I even agreed to attend your
program with my family.

"'A whole Shabbos I was struggling with my Jewish past and my identity.
Who am I? Am I the Jew of my past or the Ukrainian of the present? Then
when you called me up to the Torah and asked me for my Jewish name, it
all came back to me. The floodgates of my past were opened. My Zaide, my
Hebrew name Azriel, and the bar mitzvah that I prepared for but never
happened, all flashed in front of my face. I knew that I belonged to my

Sasha concluded: "I then told 'Azriel' that he should treat this aliyah
as his bar mitzvah. 'Surely, your zaide is very proud of you today,' I
told him. He hugged me as tears were rolling down his face. I think they
were tears of immense joy.

"You see," Sasha said, "one should never underestimate the soul of a
fellow Jew, even one that has drifted away for many years. We need just
to provide the match. The spark is already there!"

"By the way," I asked Sasha as he finished his amazing story. "When did
this story happen?"

"Three weeks ago."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, of course. Why do you ask?"

Now it was my turn to cry: "My first grandson was born exactly three
weeks ago and we named him Binyomin Azriel!"

    Rabbi Avraham E. Plotkin is spiritual leader of Chabad Lubavitch of
    Markham. Reprinted from the Canadian Jewish News

                               WHAT'S NEW
                    Healthy in Mind, Body and Spirit

This third volume of teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe relating to
health focuses on mental health. Among the topics are conquering
anxiety, healing through meditation and more. In Healthy in Mind, Body
and Spirit you will benefit from the wealth of the Rebbes wisdom on this
ever important topic. Compiled by Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg, published by
Sichos in English.

                             Majestic Bride

Prior to delivering the discourse Lecha Dodi at the wedding of his
daughter, the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneersohn of
related that at a wedding, the souls of the bride's and groom's
ancestors descend from their heavenly abodes and join in the
celebration. He then added that the discourse contains teachings of
their ancestors, each of the previous Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbes. By
repeating their teachings, the Rebbe explained, he was in effect
extending an "invitation" for them to participate at the wedding. In
1953, his son-in-law and successor, delivered an expository discourse on
his father-in-law's discourse beginning with the same verse, "Lecha
Dodi." Twenty five years later, in honor of his fiftieth wedding
anniversary, he edited and published this discourse. Majestic Bride
contains these two discourses. Eloquently translated into English by
Rabbi Yosef Marcus, published by Kehot.

                            THE REBBE WRITES
                           Freely translated
                       Pesach Sheni, 5710 (1950)

The Zohar [authored by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai] records that on the day
of his passing, Lag B'Omer, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai opened his discourse
with the verse (from Song of Songs), "I am my Beloved's, and His desire
is towards me," and said: "Throughout the days that I have been bound in
this world, I have been united in a perfect bond with the Holy One,
blessed be He; and now, by virtue of this, 'His desire is towards me.' "

Rabbi Shimon opened the appropriate conduit that brought down Divine
blessings and enlightenment into this world; this enabled others
following after him to likewise attain them. Thus it was that in the
generation of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, even little children uncovered
the mysteries of the Torah, because he had opened the conduit which
enabled the innermost dimension of the Torah to become accessible.

Though it is written: "Who is the man whose heart would dare to
approach" the level of R. Shimon bar Yochai, nevertheless:

"G-d bared His holy arm": Through our master, the Baal Shem Tov, and his
holy disciples, viz., our saintly forebears, the Rebbes of their
respective generations, up to and including my revered father-in-law,
the [Previous] Rebbe, G-d illumined for us the teachings of
Chassidus..., which unlock the gates of the heavenly palaces of Wisdom
and Knowledge.... These teachings light up a path by which every single
individual, according to his own capacity, is able to approach the realm
of holiness, and to serve G-d with his mind and with his heart.

This day is therefore particularly suited for fortifying and
invigorating one's efforts in the study of the inner teachings of the
Torah and in the service which one undertakes in this spirit. For, as
declared by my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, these conduits were
thrown open by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai - until the coming of the
righteous Redeemer, speedily, in our own days, Amen.

                                *  *  *

                       Pesach Sheni, 5710 (1950)

The concept of Lag B'Omer is explained in the teachings of Chassidus.

...The manner in which the Jewish people will leave the exile and enter
the era of Moshiach was already revealed by our Sages: "In the Future,
Israel will taste of the Tree of Life - this book of the Zohar - through
which they will leave their exile with mercy." And Moshiach told the
Baal Shem Tov that he will come when the wellsprings of the Baal Shem
Tov's teachings spread outward.

My revered father-in-law, the [Previous] Rebbe, explained Moshiach's
response at length, saying:

The teachings of the Baal Shem Tov are the vessel for the light of the
revelation of Moshiach. The teachings of our Rebbe, the Baal Shem Tov,
and the pure task of refining and cultivating our emotional qualities,
will ultimately spread to people on the periphery and all will realize
the truth. The self-sacrifice from their parents and grandparents will
awaken even those who are found on the peripheries.

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
Moshiach. 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 Moshiach is.

With greetings and blessings for all forms of good,

      From I Will Write it in Their Hearts, translated by Rabbi Eli
                             Touger, published by Sichos in English

                  What are some customs of Lag B'Omer?

Lag B'Omer is the 33rd day of the Omer period between Passover and
Shavuot and a day-long break in this semi-mourning period. Lag B'Omer is
traditionally celebrated with outings to fields, playing with bows and
arrows, and bonfires. On Lag B'Omer, which is the anniversary of the
passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), hundreds of thousands visit
the Israeli town of Meron where Rabbi Shimon and his son are buried.
Boys who turn three between Passover and Lag B'Omer have their first
haircut on this day.

                        A WORD FROM THE DIRECTOR
                         Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Lag B'Omer (the 33rd day of the Omer), which takes place this year on
Friday, May 23, is a day of rejoicing and festivity. It is the
anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, author of the
Zohar, who proclaimed the day of his passing as a day of celebration.

The celebration of Lag B'Omer has an effect on the entire world, as
Rabbi Shimon stated: "I can free the entire world from judgment..." He
was able to do this because, as Chasidut teaches, Rabbi Shimon bar
Yochai was one of those unique individuals who was actually above the
exile, who was not touched by it; G-dliness was not hidden from him, but
rather, was fully revealed.

Thus, Rabbi Shimon was able to see the G-dliness and intrinsic worth of
every Jew and for that matter every created thing, and was therefore
able to find merit for its existence.

This is part of the task of each and every one of us in these last
moments of exile and the first stage in the G-dly revelation necessary
to completely transform exile into Redemption.

The first stage is to reveal within the world that G-d is its Master.
Since the world itself conceals the G-dliness within it (the word "olam"
- world - relates to "he'elam," concealment), a Jew must serve G-d in a
way that reveals that everything within the world has G-dliness within

We must use everything in our world for its ultimate G-dly purpose,
whether that be receiving Torah thoughts by email or enhancing our
Jewish education via the web, or jogging with a CD player while
listening to Jewish content.

The unique quality of our generation is that we have not only been given
the wherewithal to make giant leaps forward in the area of technology,
but that almost concurrently, we have devised Jewish applications for
those technological breakthroughs.

May we begin revealing the G-dliness inherent in our lives, thus
preparing ourselves for and hastening the total revelation of G-dliness
with the revelation of Moshiach, NOW!

                          THOUGHTS THAT COUNT
If you walk in My statutes (Lev. 26:3)

The Baal Shem Tov taught that a person must never become settled in his
habits and fixed in his ways, for G-d's laws are meant to be "walked
in." The service of G-d should never be static, but should lead us to
higher and higher levels of sanctity.

                                                   (Keter Shem Tov)

                                *  *  *

How do we walk in G-d's statutes? asks Rashi. By studying His Torah, he
concludes. Rabbi David of Kotsk once commented on the verse, "You should
believe when one tells you, 'I have toiled and I have succeeded.'" He
explained: Something a person achieves by dint of his own labor will
endure, but something acquired too easily will not last. Just as
effortlessly as it was won will it disappear. That is why our Sages urge
us to toil night and day in  Torah study - so our knowledge will be

                                                  (Mishnat Yisrael)

                                *  *  *

A yeshiva student once came to the saintly Chafetz Chaim and poured out
his heart. "Year after year I sit and learn, but I just don't get
anywhere in my studies! After all this time I have yet to understand
even one page of the Talmud properly!" The Chafetz Chaim replied: "G-d
did not command us to be geniuses. He only commanded us to toil in the
study of His holy Torah, whether or not we ever become great

                                *  *  *

I will give peace in the land, and you will lie down with none to make
you afraid (Lev. 26:6)

Our Sages said that King David, who spent his life waging many wars,
never enjoyed even one night during which his sleep was not robbed by
bad dreams or nightmares. G-d, however, promises the Jewish people that
one day their sleep will be tranquil and undisturbed.

                            IT ONCE HAPPENED
The walk was the highlight of the children's day. Each morning they woke
up and eagerly waited for their beloved teacher to pass by, pick them up
and escort them to school. The usual routine was the familiar knock at
the door and a kiss on the cheek from their mother, and they were on
their way.

It was all to the credit of this new assistant teacher, said the
townspeople amongst themselves. Since he had come, the children loved
going to yeshiva. They were so attached to Reb Yisrael (later to be
renown as the Baal Shem Tov), and he, in his unique manner, succeeded in
instilling within them fine character traits and fear of Heaven.

He related to the children as a father. If a child was sick, Reb Yisrael
went to his home immediately and fed him. At the same time, he bolstered
the child's faith and trust in the Healer of the sick, our Father in
Heaven. No wonder the parents relied on him implicitly and entrusted
their children into his hands.

The nearby forest was one of Reb Yisrael's favorite places. Every so
often he would take the children there, and, surrounded by the wonders
of nature, he would explain to them the greatness of the Creator. He
told them of Jews who loved the mitzvot (commandments), of tzadikim
(righteous people) who devoted their lives to G-d and to their fellow
Jews, and implanted a deep love for G-d and His Torah within their

Reb Yisrael was a hidden tzadik. But one day, Reb Yisrael, who later
came to be known as the Baal Shem Tov, revealed a little of his
greatness. This is what happened:

Getzel the Milkman related the horrifying news about a band of Cossacks
who were approaching the area and were planning to attack their town.
The Jews quickly stockpiled food and began preparing their hiding
places, relying on cellars and attics as temporary shelters. As far as
the loss of property, they had already made peace with that misfortune.
The main thing now was their lives, for they knew that an encounter with
a Cossack would be fatal, G-d forbid. Reports they had heard from the
survivors of nearby towns that had already been visited by the Cossacks
was terrifying.

Jews hid themselves and fearfully waited the arrival of the Cossacks. A
group of Jews was in charge of watching over the food supply and dealing
with any problem that might arise.

Reb Yisrael sat in the study hall consumed with worry. It wasn't that he
was afraid, for his father had told him to fear nothing but G-d Himself.
It was simply that his compassionate heart was broken with worry over
the townspeople, especially for the innocent children, his students, who
were hiding in fear, moaning in sorrow. They were so young, yet they
were destined to suffer the lot of their fathers and grandfathers
throughout the generations. Reb Yisrael wailed over the exile and cried
out to G-d to annul the decree threatening the town.

One day passed and then another. For an entire week, no one heard the
sound of children singing in the morning. The town was deserted, with no
signs of life. Who even remembered that tomorrow would be Lag B'Omer,
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's day of celebration? This was the day that
children traditionally went out to the fields and forests to play with
bows and arrows. Only one person remembered the date, and that was Reb
Yisrael. He remembered and resolved that this year would be no
different. But what would the children's mothers say?

Night fell and word got around that the Cossacks were camping at the
edge of the forest. Reb Yisrael didn't sleep that night. He prayed that
the holiness of the day and the merit of the tzadik would stand by the
townspeople and save them.

Day broke and Reb Yisrael went to carry out his plan. Laden with bows
and arrows, he visited the various hiding places, and invited his
charges out to the forest to play. The mothers couldn't bear the thought
of parting with their little ones for even a moment, and to the forest
of all places!

The children begged their mothers to allow them to accompany him. Reb
Yisrael's holy, shining face encouraged the mother's to accede to their
children's wishes.

The deserted streets were now witness to a most peculiar procession.
With Reb Yisrael in the lead, the children burst into song. They
completely forgot the reason they had been hiding in the first place.
The children went out to the field and celebrated Lag B'Omer!

The Cossacks could hear the sounds of rejoicing. Who dared to irritate
them this early in the morning? They guided their horses in the
direction of the noise, resolving to wipe out those insolent Jews. The
hoof beats shook the town, the Cossacks approached closer and closer.
Then,  suddenly something amazing happened. As soon as the Cossacks saw
the glowing face of the children's leader, fear filled their hearts.

They simply turned their horses around and left, never to return.

The merit of the two tzadikim had brought about this great miracle!

            Reprinted from Beis Moshiach Magazine, adapted from Kol
                   Sippurei HaBaal Shem Tov by Menachem Hayitzchaki

                            MOSHIACH MATTERS
The Baal Shem Tov taught that when the Messiah arrives, he will explain
the entire Torah from the perspective of each and every letter, starting
from the first letter of the Torah to the last. Then he will join all
the letters together into one long Name of G-d and explain the entire
Torah from the total perspective. Meaning to say, first he will explain
the Torah according to the unique view of every individual, so that each
one will hear an explanation of Torah that rings harmoniously with the
root of his soul. Then he will join all the letters together, and reveal
the unity of the entire Jewish People through the Torah.

                                           (Eliezer Shore-Bas Ayin)

              END OF TEXT - L'CHAIM 1021 - Bechukosai 5768

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