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Respect. Self-respect, respect for other people, respect for other people's property and opinions and customs and feelings and history....
Respect never goes out of style, it's always politically correct, and it does not become obsolete as we find ourselves in the age of knowledge-on-request-at-your-fingertips.
The revered and venerated Sage, Rabbi Akiva, is renowned for his teaching, "Love your fellow Jew 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, for when we remember that every person is a Divine creation, can we do anything less than respect him or her?
This Thursday 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 that had been afflicting the students of Rabbi Akiva. The plague, we are told, was caused by the students' lack of 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 Lubavitcher 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 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. He was not able to give his colleague "space."
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; had G-d wanted us to all think, act and react in exactly the same manner, He would have created us that way.
Most of us don't have to worry that our lack of respect 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.
This week we read two Torah portion, Acharei and Kedoshim. Kedoshim contains the commandment: "Sanctify yourselves and be holy." Man is commanded to sanctify himself even within the parameters of Torah law. Not only must he heed both positive and negative mitzvot (commandments), but he must also sanctify himself in those areas which the Torah has deemed permissible.
One might think that because these areas are not specifically spelled out in the Torah, this commandment is less important than others which are explained in great detail. But it is precisely this personal sanctification which has the power to bring the Final Redemption closer to reality.
Although learning Torah and performing mitzvot requires the individual to subjugate, to a certain extent, his own personal desires to G-d's will, this in no way ensures that his inner nature will be purified and refined. But when a person, of his own accord and of his own volition, consistently behaves in the same dignified and respectful manner, no matter what the endeavor, it demonstrates that the Torah's holiness has penetrated his inner being and that he is totally committed to G-d.
At the same time, this imbues one's entire life with meaning, not only those areas directly involved with religious observance. A person who strives to sanctify himself at all times, however mundane his activity, reveals the G-dliness within all of creation and proves that no aspect of life is too insignificant to be used in the service of G-d.
This commandment has particular meaning for us now, as we stand on the threshold of the Final Redemption, for one of the main changes that will occur when Moshiach comes is the revelation of G-dliness that will suddenly become apparent. When Moshiach comes we will realize that G-d is indeed everywhere and that truly "there is nothing besides Him."
At the present time, holiness is manifested in a limited way. Today, it is the physical objects we use to perform mitzvot that are related to as holy. During the Messianic Era, however, we will easily recognize the G-dliness inherent in every detail of creation.
When Moshiach comes, G-d will be perceived as He exists - without any limitations whatsoever. G-d's desire to establish a dwelling place for Himself "down below" will be totally fulfilled and the purpose of creation realized.
Sanctifying even the most mundane aspects of our lives, therefore, not only prepares us for the imminent Redemption, but serves to bring Moshiach even closer.
Adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Kiev's King of Kosher Cooking
Uriel Stern relates how he became Kiev's "King of Kosher Cooking."
My family has been in Odessa since 1908. I was born in this city during the rule of communism. The only traditions that we kept were the culinary traditions.
We always celebrated Passover and Rosh Hashana - those are two of my Jewish childhood holidays. At the age of 13, a grand birthday was arranged for me, the bar mitzva - they just said it is an important date for the Jewish boy, but no more. My grandmother and mother were fluent in Yiddish, my great-grandmother wrote in Yiddish, but they were afraid to teach me the language and traditions. So, apart from cuisine, there were no particular Jewish traditions in our home, although my grandmother did ask me not to work on Saturday.
In Soviet times, of course, it was impossible to think of any Jewish religious life. But in 1989, when I went to Israel, I discovered the sanctity of Yom Kippur. It inspired me, and when I returned to Odessa, I began to attend the Jewish Community Synagogue for all of the Jewish holidays. During one of the celebrations, I met the Odessa Chief Rabbi Abraham Wolf. He encouraged me to come to the synagogue every Sabbath for Torah reading. I came, listened to the Torah, and I began to follow certain commandments. Then, on moving to the United States, I began to comply with the commandments in full: kosher food, Shabbat...
My life has changed since then. It has become, in the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a life full of meaning. Any action, even the most mundane, such as, for example, food!
I have always loved to cook - this is my vocation. My grandmother loved to cook and knew how to cook well. I have cooked childhood and learned all the principles of traditional Jewish cuisine from my grandmother.
I cook at home many traditional Jewish foods, but I prepare them exclusively for Jewish holidays. For Shabbat meals I cook contemporary kosher food so that my guests can taste and enjoy something new every time. In my family - I have a wife and four children, there is a rule that special meals are prepared only for Shabbat and Jewish holidays. For the rest of the week we follow a simple healthy diet: lots of vegetables, fruits, dairy products, fish, and meat once a week. But for Shabbat we prepare delicacies, because a Jew must separate and elevate the Sabbath from the regular days.
Quite often I am asked about whether or not there is a problem that I am both a well-known personality and a religious Jew at the same time. Inside me there is no conflict between these two. Yes, I am the first media personality on the central Ukrainian TV to appear with a kipa, with a beard, and not just once, but over a whole series of shows. And it is not a problem! I am proof that being Torah observant does not hold one back. When working with Forbes, I was going to wear a chef's hat on top of my kipa, but the producers said, "No, we want you to be this way in the picture." More than 90% of the viewers of my programs are non-Jews. And with that I feel great joy - and responsibility - when talking about kosher Jewish cuisine, to both Jews and non-Jews. People are keen to learn about Jewish cuisine and kosher cooking.
I had never intended to become a kosher chef as a career. I cooked at home, as well as for friends in many countries. And people remembered my meals. When I moved to Kiev and saw that there is no fine kosher food I began to create tasty and varied kosher treats with the ingredients available. We started with kosher whole grain bread, opened a bakery, and eventually when a restaurant was opened I was invited to run it. At that time in Kiev, there were two kosher meat restaurants, so we decided to open a dairy restaurant. It is truly one of the best in the world - I travel a lot, believe me - right here in Kiev.
Kashrut is one of the three pillars of Jewish life, the other two are Shabbat and the laws of Jewish married life. If we recall the creation of the world, it turns out that Adam ate the forbidden, non kosher product - and heaven collapsed. Adam had just one commandment - and it was actually kosher: to eat from these trees, and from those not to eat! And it is clear that in Jewish law, major importance is applied to the kosher diet: for G-d, not only the soul of a Jew is important, but also the body.
I believe that in the FJC's and Chabad's work of returning post-Soviet Jews to their heritage, food plays a major role. Chefs who are masters in creating and preparing kosher food help people transition from non-kosher food to kosher. We help people understand that kosher food is not too complicated, and there is no deficiency in kosher food. I want to emphasize once again: the renaissance of Jewish religious life was possible thanks to the great work of the Federation of Jewish Communities' rabbis and Chabad emissaries.
I started filming "The Jews Cook For Saturday" show for Chabad.org, where I talk about Jewish kosher food from more than a hundred countries. By the end of the year I hope I'll release a book of recipes.
I also started an Internet TV station- 1kosher.tv. It features not just recipes, but also stories about Jewish traditions and interviews with rabbis. This allows the viewer to come to the conscious implementation of the rules of kashrut.
Rabbi Shmuel and Mushky Raitman recently moved to Northern California to open a new Chabad Jewish Center serving the Jewish community in the Danville and S. Ramon areas.
Renovated and New Mikvas
The Jewish community of Ann Arbor, Michigan, celebrated a milestone with the dedication of a newly renovated Mikva. The Mikva, built in 1975, was updated to a beautiful, state-of-the-art Mikva. The renovations were made possible by Mikvah USA.
In Bucktown, a Chicago, Illinois neighborhood just northwest of the Loop, a ground-breaking for a brand new "City Mikvah-Mei Daniel" took place. The mikvah will be located in the lower level of the Bucktown Wicker Park Chabad Jewish Center, right across the street from Bucktown's original Mikva.
Rosh Chodesh Iyar, 5741 
To All Participants In the
Annual Dinner of Oholei Torah
G-d bless you all!
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to be informed about the forthcoming Annual Dinner on the 13th of Iyar, on the eve of Pesach Sheni [the "second Passover"]. May G-d grant that it should be with much Hatzlocho [success].
Pesach Sheni came about, as the Torah tells us, when (on the first anniversary of the Exodus from Egypt) there were several Jews who were unable to offer the Korban Pesach [Passover offering] and celebrate Pesach with all the Jewish people, and they voiced their unhappiness with a heartfelt appeal: "Why should we be deprived of this Mitzvah [commandment]?" And for the sake of these several Jews, indeed for the sake of each one of them, an entirely new chapter was incorporated in the Torah, and a special day was designated in our calendar Pesach Sheni, with its particular Mitzvos and all this "unto your generations" - for all posterity.
Thus the Torah, Toras Chaim ("instruction in living"), emphatically reminds us how precious each and every Jew is, and that no Jew should ever be deprived of his natural right to fulfill all the Mitzvos, by reason of circumstances, such as being on a "faraway journey," and the like.
It has often been emphasized that the best way of coping with spiritually "deprived" Jews, as in the case of any problem, is - prevention: to see to it that no Jew should ever find himself in a state of being on a "faraway journey" from Yiddishkeit [Judaism]. This can be achieved only through a Torah-true education, permeated with the spirit of dedication, that is implanted in Jewish children from their earliest childhood, in keeping with the principle, "Educate the youngster in the proper path; even when growing old he will not depart from it."
Such is the kind of education that is implanted in the students of Oholei Torah, with much Hatzlocho, as is well known to those who are familiar with this educational institution.
However, it is up to all of us to see to it that this Torah institution should not find itself in a position where it must come with a heartfelt appeal: "Why should we be deprived?" Surely, it must not be kept back by the lack of financial means, from carrying on its vital educational work, and, moreover, from expanding its facilities for a growing number of students. This is the obligation and privilege of the loyal friends and supporters of Oholei Torah.
With prayerful wishes to the Honored Guests and all who are active participants in this great endeavor, and with esteem and blessing for Hatzlocho,
16 Iyar 5711 
I was pleased with the opportunity to exchange a few words with you. As you connected your visit with the day of Pesach Sheni which we observed on the day before yesterday, I want to make it the subject of this letter.
One of the significant lessons of Pesach Sheni is never to despair even when one has not attained the spiritual heights of others. Thus, while all the people are celebrating the Passover at its proper time, and one finds himself "far away," or otherwise unfit to enter the Sanctuary, he is told: Do not despair; begin your way towards the Sanctuary; come closer and closer; for you have a special chance and opportunity to celebrate the second Passover, if you try hard enough.
Please convey my regards and best wishes to your circle.
Know...before whom you are destined to give an accounting (literally, "judgement and accounting"). (Ethics, 3:1)
Don't we first make an account and judge based on our accounting only after? The Baal Shem Tov taught that in reality, "judgement" always comes first. A person may think he is pronouncing judgement on others, but whatever sentence he decides on will be later applied to him as well. When a person is judgmental, condemning his fellow man for transgressing, G-d uses the same standards to judge him. (Lubavitcher Rebbe)
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
This coming Sunday is one month after Pesach (Passover) and is known as "Pesach Sheni - the Second Passover."
A year after our ancestors left Egyptian exile, they were poised to celebrate Pesach. However, some of them had become ritually impure and were not permitted to offer the Passover sacrifice. They begged Moses to intercede on their behalf and with G-d's permission they were allowed to offer the sacrifice one month later on 14 Iyar.
The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, wrote: "The theme of Pesach Sheni is that it is never too late! It is always possible to put things right. Even if one was ritually impure, or far away, and even in a case when this impurity or distance was deliberate - nonetheless it can be corrected."
It's never too late! We can always make up for a past misdeed, omission or failing through sincere desire and making amends.
It's never too late! What an inspiring and optimistic thought! There's always a chance to improve, to become better, to learn and do.
This is truly a motto worth memorizing (and hanging on the refrigerator). Rather than muttering about yourself or another person, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks," realize that it's never too late.
You didn't put on tefilin yesterday? Today's a new day and it's never too late.
You didn't light candles for Shabbat last Friday night? Do it this week; it's never too late.
You never went to Hebrew school, so you can't read Hebrew? Enroll in an adult education course; it's never too late.
You never knew that Judaism had so much to offer? Now that you know, do something about it, because it's never too late!
You shall be holy, for I am holy (Lev. 19:2)
The commandment to be holy includes sanctifying oneself even within the confines of Torah law.
"Holy, but not removed from the world," comments the Ktav Sofer. Man is enjoined to imitate G-d, the source of all holiness, Who actively involves Himself in all aspects of His creation. G-d wants us to live a holy life within the physical world, not to be ascetic. A saying exists that a wealthy man's son never has to worry about making a living. Likewise, G-d reassures His children, the Jewish people, that holiness and sanctity are well within their grasp. "For I am holy"--"I have enough holiness to go around for everyone."
(The Rebbe of Alexander)
And you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am G-d (Lev. 19:18)
This verse may also be read: "And you shall love your neighbor"--"as you are yourself." G-d holds us to the same standards by which we judge other people. If we show love for our fellow Jews, G-d will show the same love for us.
And when you come into the land (Lev. 19:23)
Certain commandments only pertain to the land of Israel, and are not applicable outside of its borders. Despite the admonition of the Tzemach Tzedek - the third Lubavitcher Rebbe - to "make here the land of Israel," we should not feel that it is acceptable to languish in exile for even one minute more than necessary. Our goal remains the physical land of Israel and the ushering in of the Messianic era through the coming of Moshiach.
There was once a woman named Rachel who had no children. Her husband, Nosan, considered himself to be modern and disdained rabbis and their "antiquated" teachings. Rachel, however, believed differently, and whenever her husband was away on business she would visit the great tzadik Rabbi Meir of Premishlan to beg him to bless her with children.
For poor Rachel each visit was the same. She would wait for her turn and then make her request. Each time Rabbi Meir's reply was the same: "I cannot bless you unless you come together with your husband." And each time Rachel would return home sad, but not hopeless, for she believed that somehow salvation would come to her.
On one visit her faith was rewarded when Rabbi Meir replied, "Return home. When your husband returns from his business trip, tell him, 'Rabbi Meir of Premishlan commands you to come at once.' Of course, he will refuse, but when he does, tell him, 'On the day before yesterday, which was Lag B'Omer, you attended a gathering where you spoke disrespectfully of Rabbi Meir.' When your husband hears this he will certainly come, and then you will be blessed."
Rachel was at home when Nosan returned, and she immediately repeated Rabbi Meir's words. His response was the expected one, but when Rachel countered, telling him about his untoward comments about Rabbi Meir, his face flushed. How could the rabbi know such a thing, he wondered, and he at one resolved to visit Premishlan to find out.
Nosan was not, however, ready to endure the ridicule of his friends. He decided that instead of traveling straight to Premishlan he would make a detour through Lemberg, thus cloaking his true intentions in a bogus business trip. When he finally arrived in Premishlan and was admitted to Rabbi Meir's room, he announced his name and his request. Rabbi Meir responded, "Don't think I don't know that you came here via Lemberg. If you want my blessing, you must return home and then come here directly."
Nosan was completely amazed. How could Rabbi Meir have possibly known that? If he had such wondrous powers, he would do as Rabbi Meir said. To his wife's utter joy, Nosan returned home and announced his plans to spend Shabbat in Premishlan. When the couple arrived in Premishlan, Rabbi Meir was pleased to see them. On Shabbat, Nosan was honored with an aliya to the Torah for the passage which read, "There shall not be a sterile or barren one amongst you." He was so moved, that he was about to offer a large donation. Rabbi Meir interrupted him with the words, "Because he has promised to help a Yisrael [lit. Israelite]." Nosan was confused. What could Rabbi Meir's words mean?
When the prayers ended, Rabbi Meir explained his cryptic words. "One day you will have the opportunity to save a very holy Jew, at great personal risk. If you promise to help him, you will have a son." Without giving the matter a moment's thought, Nosan said, "I promise!" In due time, the tzadik's blessing was fulfilled, and Nosan and his wife were the parents of a baby boy.
A year or more passed and Nosan was on a business trip near the Austrian-Romanian border when he heard that the illustrious Rabbi Yisrael of Ruzhin was also there. He was fleeing the Russian authorities and had to somehow get across the border. This was obviously what Rabbi Meir had alluded to when he had made the promise.
True to his word, Nosan presented himself to Rabbi Yisrael and disclosed to him a plan to carry him across the border over a small, frozen river. Rabbi Yisrael agreed and they set off at midnight. Nosan knew the crossing well, but he was unaccustomed to heavy physical labor. Despite the bitter cold, sweat poured down Nosan's face. Carrying a grown man was harder than he had thought, and at each step he prayed that the thin ice would hold the weight of the two men and not crack, plunging them to a frozen death. Suddenly Nosan stopped walking. "Is anything wrong?" Reb Yisrael asked.
"Nothing is wrong. I just realized that we have reached the middle of the river. If I am to make my request, this is the time. Rebbe, I have committed many sins. I have scoffed and disregarded the teachings and precepts of the Torah. But before I continue, I want your promise that I will have a place in the World to Come. If you give me your promise, I will continue; if not, I won't go on."
Rabbi Yisrael replied at once, "Of course, I will give you my word. I am happy that at such a time you can have such thoughts!"
With that assurance, Nosan continued his dangerous progress across the icy darkness. It wasn't until many hours later that they arrived safely in the small, Austrian border town. It was Nosan's good fortune to have spread the news that through his efforts, the holy Ruzhiner was finally safe.
G-d extracted us from Egypt before we had completed the task of refining the sparks within ourselves nad within the world around us. Like a fruit whose tip has ripened while the remainder remains unripe, only the beginning of the Jewish people - firstborn in each family - became sanctified. Even then, it was not through their achievements, but a result of G-d's strike against Egypt. In the surrounding world, only the firstborns among the animals became sanctified. When the task of refining the sparks will have been completed and the final redemption arrives, the entire Jewish nation will have spiritually ripened and will rightfully earn the status of kohanim.
(Shem MiShmuel/Yalkut Moshiach UGeula al HaTorah)