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by Rabbi Mendy Herson
I assume it's a pretty common scenario.
Somebody's walking life's path, oblivious to his own benign neglect, when suddenly...boom! He hits his 'brick wall'.
Maybe it's a family member or an accountant, perhaps a client or an employer; somebody perceives the truth and yells "Stop! This can't continue; something needs to change."
It feels like an unpleasant, jarring disruption to life's rhythm.
It's also an important wake-up call. And even though it's painful, the stress can serve as productive energy, propelling us out of our rhythm's gravitational pull.
In a way, it's our personal Passover story.
We each have our own 'Egypt' - our own counter-productive habits which stifle our growth.
When we're fortunate, our 'Moses' - our conscience, spouse or friend - helps us recognize our pattern, catalyzing us to urgently 'leave [our] Egypt in haste."
In this sense, the word 'Pass-Over' also refers to the liberating leap from a spiritually constricted life to a visionary, conscious one.
But what about the times when I'm not escaping an Egypt? When things seem just fine? When I feel no friction and face no brick walls?
Then, I face a different danger: Complacency. When I feel that I'm on a good path, I'm more likely to put my life on auto-pilot. I can relax; if I'm not being chased, why run?
Because when I'm on 'auto-pilot', I float along with life's current, without the initiative to go quicker and further. Because when I'm on 'auto-pilot', I'm without the healthy anxiety, the butterflies in my stomach, that accompany a quantum leap forward.
My life deserves more.
We shouldn't only grow to escape the pain, we should grow because we have great potential and a beautiful destiny.
So the Torah gives me an exercise called 'The Second Passover' ('Pesach Sheini' in Hebrew) and it's about finding the strength to 'Pass-Over', to leap forward in my life even when I'm comfortable where I am. The day is about me taking the opportunity to consider where my life is going RIGHT, and finding the strength, vision and humility to make go even MORE RIGHT.
This coming Sunday, April 29 (Iyar 14), is the Second Passover. Mark it on your calendar so you can have a piece of Matzah and think about your life's potential.
Choose a growth-objective.
Pass-Over your own complacency.
Because finding Freedom isn't only about leaving captivity; it's about taking a leap forward.
Rabbi Mendy Herson and his wife Malki direct Chabad of Somerset, Hunterdon & Union Counties in New Jersey. This is from Rabbi Herson's blog. Read more at chabadcentral.org
This week we read two Torah portion, Acharei and Kedoshim. In Acharei we read "And you should guard My statutes and My laws, that the person will do them, and live by them, I Am G-d."
The Maggid of Mezrich explains that the words "and live by them - vachai bahem," can also be translated, "and put life into them." Thus, according to the Maggid, we learn from these words that we have to bring life into the mitzvot (commandments).
How does one bring life into the mitzvot? What can we learn from this for our relationships?
The approach to doing mitzvot can take on several different forms.
There is the person whose mitzvot and life are not interconnected. To him, there is a separation between holy and mundane. He prays with fervor, but when he does business, eats, etc., holiness and refinement are not visible.
A second person is one whose life and mitzvot are connected, he does mitzvot with all the bells and whistles. But he does them with the hope that by doing them, he will get what he wants from G-d. His drive to do mitzvot is the physical pay out. In this case it is his mitzvot bringing life into his needs.
Then there is the one whose every physical need and act is so that he can do mitzvot. He eats, he exercises, he works, and rests, just to be able to carry out G-d's will. This is bringing life into the mitzvot; his whole life is dedicated to G-d.
Most of us at one time or another fall into the various above categories. But the goal should be to make G-d the focus, to bring life into the mitzvot. When you are G-d focused you eat differently, work differently, respond differently, etc., your every step will become filled with purpose and meaning. Of course, this is a life's journey. One step at a time, you have the power to reach higher, and the more you do it, the more meaningful your life will become, the closer you will feel to G-d.
It is always difficult to balance between family and work, family and personal interests. When work and recreation are an escape from family, your family is resentful. But when your family knows that they are your priority because you treat them that way, and your work and recreation are so that you can be a better spouse or parent, then they will have no resentment to your work and recreation. Just the opposite, they will take pride and joy in what a great and loving spouse or parent you are.
The key is to make G-d most important to your family and your family most important to you.
May we all be blessed with meaning in our lives, closeness to G-d, and closeness to our families.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
"Pesach Sheni" - the "second Passover" occurs each year one month after the first day of the Passover holiday that we all know and love (this year Sunday, April 29).
In Temple times it was an opportunity for Jews to bring the Passover sacrifice who had not been able to make it to the Holy Temple for the "regular" Passover.
Today, Pesach Sheni is celebrated by eating matza and by omitting the "Tachanun" prayers.
The Previous Rebbe explained that Pesach Sheni teaches us that it's never too late to make up for past deficiencies. Just as the Jews of old had an opportunity to make up for what they missed on the regular Passover, so too can we make up for things that we thought we missed out on.
Pesach Sheni is a perfect time, as well, to share a few glimpses of Chabad Communal Passover Seders in 91 countries. Just xx of the over 3,000 Seders this year!
All photos were taken before the onset of the holiday.
The name of our publication has special meaning.
It stands for the name of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson (obm), wife of the Rebbe.
13th of Iyar, 5730 
Greeting and Blessing:
The story of Lag b'Omer, as related in the Gemoroh, is well known. Our Sages tell us that the disciples of Rabbi Akiva were stricken by a plague because they were not respectful towards one another. But on the thirty-third day of Sefirah [counting the Omer] - Lag b'Omer - the plague stopped.
As in the case of all stories of the Torah, which are also part of the Torah, meaning "instruction," the story of Rabbi Akiva's students contains a lesson for each and every one of us, particularly pupils, boys and girls.
To begin with: Since the Gemoroh [Talmud]testifies that they were "disciples of Rabbi Akiva," it is clear that they were worthy of this title. This means that they were dedicated to the Torah and Mitzvos [commandments] with devotion, diligence and Mesiras Nefesh (self-sacrifice), as the great Tanna and exalted Sage had taught them.
It follows that their lack of respect for one another could not have been due to trivial mat-ters, but was motivated by the high level of their spiritual standing as "disciples of Rabbi Akiva."
The explanation of their conduct is to be found in the saying of our Sages, of blessed memory, that people generally have different minds and different concepts. Each individual has therefore his own approach in serving G-d, studying the Torah and observing the Mitzvos with "Hiddur" [an enhanced manner]. For example, one person may do it primarily out of love for G-d, another person may do it primarily out of fear of G-d, a third may do it primarily out of a sense of complete obedience and submission to the Will of G-d and so forth, though in actual practice, all of them, of course, fully and meticulously observe the Torah and Mitzvos in the daily life.
Now, being disciples of Rabbi Akiva, they were surely "men of truth," who served G-d with the utmost sincerity and devotion, which permeated their whole being. Thus, it seemed to each one of them that his particular approach was the right one, and anyone who had not attained his level was lacking in perfection.
Moreover, being disciples of Rabbi Akiva, who taught, "Thou shalt love thy fellow Jew as thyself - this is the great principle of the Torah," they were not content personally to advance from strength to strength in their own way of serving G-d, but they wished to share this with their friends and tried to influence them to follow their path. Seeing that the others were reluctant to accept their particular approach, they could not respect them to the degree that was to be expected of the disciples of Rabbi Akiva.
In the light of the above, we can see that the story of Lag b'Omer in the Gemoroh teaches us what should be the right conduct of each and every one of us, and the instruction is threefold:
Serving G-d, studying the Torah and observing the Mitzvos, both the Mitzvos between man and man, and the Mitzvos between man and G-d, must be perfect with true inspiration and vitality, which permeate the whole of the person and his daily conduct.
The above includes, of course, the great Mitzvah of V'Ohavto L'Reacho Komocho (love your fellow Jew as yourself), which must also be fulfilled with the utmost vitality and in the fullest measure.
Together with the above, a person must look kindly and most respectfully upon every Jew who is fully committed to all the Torah and Mitzvos but differs only in the manner of worship, whether it is out of love, or out of reverence, etc.
A further instruction from the above is that even if one meets a Jew who has not yet attained the proper level of Divine service, the approach must still be that of respect and affection, in accordance with the teaching our Sages, "Judge every person favorably." It is necessary to bear in mind that the person lacking in commitment to Yiddishkeit may not be responsible, and that he simply may not have had the opportunity to receive the proper Jewish education. On the contrary, in such a case, one must pity such a person all the more, and it is necessary to make the utmost effort to help him come closer to Yiddishkeit, and to do so with love, respect and in a pleasant manner....
May G-d bless each and every one of you, in the midst of all our people Israel, that you should live and act in accordance with the spirit of Lag b'Omer, as mentioned above, and that you should do so with the utmost measure of true Ahavas Yisroel, with joy and gladness of heart; and that you should go from strength to strength in all your affairs, to hasten the realization of the words of the (Lag b'Omer) week's Sidra [Torah portion]: "I will break the bars of your yoke (in exile) and make you go upright ," - in fulfillment of the true and complete Geulo [Redemption], through our righteous Moshiach.
With blessing for Hatzlocho [success] and good tidings in the aforementioned,
LEVI means "joined to." Levi was the son of Jacob (Yaakov) and Leah (Genesis 29:34). All the Priests and Levites who served in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem were his descendants.
LEAH means "to be weary." In Gen. (29:17) she is introduced as the daughter of Laban. She was the first wife of Jacob and the mother of six of the 12 Tribes of Israel: Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Yissaschar and Zevulun. Her daughter Dina is also mentioned by name in the Torah. She was the ancestress of Moses the first redeemer of the Jewish people and King David from whom Moshiach descends, the final redemmer.
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
Next Thursday, May 3, is Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. It is traditionally an auspicious time for fostering an increase in Ahavat Yisrael, the mitzva of "And you shall love your fellow as yourself."
The emphasis on loving our fellow Jews on Lag B'Omer goes back thousands of years, to the days of Rabbi Akiva. Although 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's students passed away in the weeks between Passover and Shavuot (for failing to show each other the proper respect), no one died on that day.
Yet we cannot say that Rabbi Akiva's disciples did not observe the mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael. These were not "regular" people; they were the disciples of a very great tzadik, who surely instilled in them the knowledge that Ahavat Yisrael "is a very important principle in the Torah." What happened, rather, was that they failed to show the proper degree of respect.
Each one of Rabbi Akiva's students was a great scholar in his own right. Accordingly, in addition to the usual measure of love every Jew must demonstrate for his fellow, an extra degree of deference and honor was required.
Lag B'Omer thus reminds us that it is not enough to love our fellow Jew merely to the extent that he is not insulted. We must take that extra step and demonstrate an additional degree of honor that makes all the difference.
In truth, every Jew is deserving of special respect, as every Jew is considered to be an entire world. G-d Himself stands above each and every Jew and scrutinizes his behavior at all times, setting aside all His other affairs, as it were, just to watch him and see what he is doing!
And if any Jew is worthy of such close attention, surely he deserves that extra degree of respect!
May the Jewish people immediately merit true unity with the ingathering of the exiles, with the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption.
Akavya ben Mehalel said: "Reflect upon three things and you will not come near sin..." (Ethics 3:1)
Reflection in this sense is indicative of the deepest levels of meditation. When a person takes the mission for which his soul descended to this world seriously, he will reflect upon the ultimate elevation of his soul - which comes about through his being in this world - and he knows that eventually he is destined to give an accounting. By reflecting thus, he will certainly not come near sin - he will not transgress inadvertently, and he will fulfill his mission in life fully.
(Ma'amarim of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, 5705)
Rabbi Chanina, the deputy Kohen Gadol, said: "Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the fear of it, men would swallow one another alive..." (Ethics 3:2)
Our Sages state that the authority on earth is like the authority in Heaven, since the former derives from the latter. Therefore, when a person "prays for the welfare of the government" below, he comes to the awareness, not only of fear of authority in this world, but also awe of the King of kings. And by virtue of this fear and his subservience to G-d, his feelings of superiority and disdain for others - due to which "men would swallow one another alive" - is suppressed and subdued.
(Likutei Sichot vol. 17)
Rabbi Elazar of Bartosa said: "Give to Him of that which is His, for you and whatever is yours are His..." (Ethics 3:7)
A person shouldn't be miserly in charitable matters and in spending for G-d's honor. A person should realize that what he gives is really G-d's, and therefore, he must give generously and joyfully. The Midrash states, "Does anyone precede Me, so that I have to pay you back? You never had to place a mezuza on the door post until I gave you a house, nor a railing around your roof before I gave you the roof, nor tzitzit on your garment until I gave you the garment!"
It was a typical autumn day in 1906 when Rabbi Yedidya Horodner walked into the "Tiferet Yisrael" synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem with a big smile on his face. With a grand flourish he placed a bottle of whiskey and some cake on the table, and invited everyone to make a "lechaim."
The congregants wondered what the cause for celebration might be. A rumor had been circulating that the day before, Rabbi Horodner had gone to all the local yeshivot and distributed candy to the children. Something good had obviously occurred, and they waited expectantly to hear what it was.
Indeed, after everyone had made a blessing on the cake and lifted a few glasses, the Rabbi filled them in:
The whole story revolved around the Rabbi's nephew, a 15-year-old boy named Shmuel Rosen who was originally from Riga. His father, Rabbi Ozer Rosen, had sent the lad to his uncle when he was only eight years old, in the belief that there was no better place in the world to develop the boy's intellectual talents than the holy city.
Rabbi Horodner raised little Shmuel as if he was his own son, and the boy flourished. He was a delightful child, and exceptionally devoted to his studies.
A few weeks ago, however, disaster had struck. After experiencing deteriorating vision for several months, Shmuel was now completely blind. The total darkness had set in as he was sitting and poring over a volume of the Talmud.
The boy's spirit was completely broken. For days and nights he wept over his fate, most bitterly over his inability to study Torah by himself. Suffering from a profound sadness, he withdrew and rarely ventured from his room.
His uncle felt helpless, until it occurred to him that a change of place might do the boy good. He contacted his friend, Reb Shimon Hoizman of Hebron, who agreed to let the boy stay in his house. Shmuel felt a little better in Hebron, but remained very depressed.
At that time the Jewish community of Hebron was headed by two Torah giants: the Sefardic Rabbi Chizkiyahu Medini (author of Sdei Chemed), and the Chasidic Rabbi Shimon Menashe Chaikin, the chief Ashkenazic authority in the city. Every evening at midnight, the two Rabbis would go to the Cave of Machpeila, the resting place of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs, to recite Tikun Chatzot (a special prayer lamenting the destruction of the Holy Temple).
Reb Shimon Hoizman was very affected by the boy's suffering. But what could he do to help? Then one evening, he came up with a plan...
About a half hour before midnight Reb Shimon went into Shmuel's room. "Wake up, son," he whispered to him softly. "Get dressed and follow me." The two went off into the night, in the direction of Rabbi Chaikin's courtyard.
A few minutes later the two Rabbis could be seen approaching, on their way to the Cave of Machpeila. As soon as they reached the spot where Reb Shimon and Shmuel were standing, Reb Shimon disappeared and left Shmuel by himself. The two Rabbis quickly realized that Shmuel was blind. With gentleness they asked him how he had become sightless.
When the young man got up to the part about how he had become totally blind while studying, Rabbi Medini asked if he remembered the last words he had been able to see. "Of course I remember!" Shmuel responded. "They were in Tractate Chulin, on the first side of page 36: 'On whom can we count? Come, let us rely on the words of Rabbi Shimon [Bar Yochai]' "
The two Rabbis became very excited. "If that is the case," they said almost simultaneously, "then you can certainly rely on the holy Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai to help you. Go to his grave in Meron, ask for his blessing, and G-d will surely heal you."
The next morning Shmuel returned to Jerusalem, and the very same day he and his uncle set off for Meron. It was a difficult journey, but after several days they arrived safely. Even before they approached the holy gravesite they were filled with a feeling of confidence. For days they remained at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, praying steadily to G-d for a miraculous recovery.
The miracle occurred exactly one week later. Rabbi Horodner was reading aloud from the Gemara when all of sudden Shmuel let out a yelp. "Uncle! I can see your shadow!"
Over the course of the next few days Shmuel's vision improved steadily, until 13 days later it was restored completely. Still camped out at the holy gravesite, uncle and nephew broke out into a spontaneous dance, as they sang the verses that are traditionally sung on the anniversary of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's passing:
"His teachings are our protection; they are the light of our eyes. He is our advocate for good, Rabban Shimon Bar Yochai..."
In Moshiach's times, "the world will be filled with knowledge of G-d, as the waters cover the ocean bed." Today, it may be difficult to imagine how our perceptions will change in Moshiach's times. However, the change will be only of perspective and priority. Currently, we connect to G-d volitionally: in thought, speech and action we attempt to fulfill G-d's commands. In the times of Moshiach, the connection will be innate and automatic: as a matter of course we will be aware of and fulfill G-d's Will, because the commandments will express not just the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people, but their unified essence.
(From Reflections of Redemption based on Likutei Sichot 17, by Rabbi Dovid Yisroel Ber Kaufmann a"h)