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Parshat Bechukotai, 5763

Iyar 21, 5763
May 23, 2003

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Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12


Click here, to see pictures of the Rebbe
The Daily Sicha (in Real Audio) - Listen to selected excerpts of the Rebbe's Sichos
[talks] which are relevant to the particular day.


We are pleased to present, to the visually impaired and the blind, the 343rd issue of our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.


In this week's issue we focus on Lag B'Omer, the 18th of Iyar.


Our sincere appreciation to L'Chaim weekly publication, published by the Lubavitch Youth Organization, for allowing us to use their material.

Also, many thanks to our copy editor, Reb Mordechai Staiman, for his tireless efforts.


It is our fervent hope that our learning about Moshiach and the Redemption will hasten the coming of Moshiach, NOW!

Rabbi Yosef Y. Shagalov,
Committee for the Blind

14 Iyar, 5763
Brooklyn, New York

Reb Menachem Mendel ben Reb Dovid Noach Scheiner
Passed away on 2 Iyar, 5757

Mrs. Esther Elka bas Reb Yosef Scheiner
Passed away on 2 Iyar, 5763

Dedicated by their Children & Grandchildren
Mrs. Sarah and Dr. Leib Meyer Lovitch
and family

Adapted from the Works of the Rebbe

Parshat Bechukotai

The opening verse of this week's Torah portion, Bechukotai, "If you will walk in my statutes," is explained to mean that a Jew must labor hard in his study of Torah.

A question is asked: Why does the Torah connect the commandment to study Torah diligently with G-d's statutes? The answer is found when we take a closer look at the Hebrew word for "statutes" itself.

The phrase "In my statutes," "Bechukotai," comes from the Hebrew word meaning "to engrave."

There are two ways in which letters may be written. One way is with ink applied to parchment (or any other material); another way is to inscribe them in stone. When letters are written, the ink and the parchment remain two separate entities, even though the act of writing unites them, to a certain degree, on the same page. Nonetheless, the letters do not become part and parcel of the material on which they are written.

When letters are carved into stone, by contrast, the letters and the stone are inseparable. Each letter comes into being at the exact moment it is inscribed and can never be erased or obliterated.

The Torah commands us to learn Torah in a manner of "inscription." A Jew who studies Torah must be so connected to what he is learning that he and Torah unite and form a single entity, just like an engraved letter does not exist prior to its inscription and can never be erased. We must learn Torah so diligently that its holy words become permanently chiseled into our souls.

The Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch and the founder of Chabad Chasidic philosophy and the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty, in his Chasidic work, Likutei Torah, explains that the literal translation of "Im bechukotai teileichu" is "If in My statutes you will walk." When a Jew studies Torah in a manner of "engraving," he merits a reward--that he "will walk." G-d promises that if we truly apply ourselves to learning Torah we will never be immobile and stationary, but will progress and ascend ever upward, perpetually increasing our understanding and connection to G-d. A Jew whose soul is united with the Torah is thus ensured that he will always rise up the ladder of spiritual achievement.


The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of Lubavitch, issued a call that "The time of our Redemption has arrived!" and "Moshiach is on his way!"

The Rebbe stressed that he is saying this as a prophecy, and asks us all to prepare ourselves for the Redemption, through increasing acts of goodness and kindness.

Let us all heed the Rebbe's call.

Adapted from a Letter of the Rebbe

On the third day -- twice blessed with "It was good" -- of the weekly
portion of [Parshat Emor] Counting the Omer, 5735 [1975]

To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere

G-d bless you --

The auspicious day of Lag B'Omer is approaching, the day of Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai's [known as "Rashbi"] simchah [rejoicing]; the day of which it is said: "On this day it is a mitzvah to celebrate Rashbi's simchah, and for those living in the Holy Land -- to go to his grave and rejoice there greatly."

This year [5735/1975] Lag B'Omer significantly occurs on (Tuesday) the day on which the Creator expressed His special satisfaction by repeating "It was good" twice -- an allusion to two "goods": good to Heaven and good to the creatures.

It is, therefore, surely an auspicious time -- the day of Lag B'Omer itself, as well as the days immediately preceding and following it, which respectively serve as preparation for, and first-fruits of, Lag B'Omer -- to rejoice greatly with the simchah of mitzvot, especially mitzvot that combine both "goods," good to Heaven (man's duties to G-d) and good to the creatures (man's duties to man). This includes, of course, the mitzvah of encouraging Jews to do mitzvot (or do them more devoutly), as this effort of spreading the observance of any mitzvah is also an act of loving-kindness.

And since influence in this direction generally -- indeed, inevitably -- involves quoting words of Torah and instructing in the laws of the particular mitzvah, it comes under the mitzvah of Torah-learning and teachings.

Thus both -- the effort to encourage Jews to do mitzvot, and the manner of this effort
-- are mitzvot of "good to the creatures."

Hence it is an opportune occasion to remind everyone, again and again, that which has been urged for some time now, in regard to active promotion of the observance of mitzvot. Indeed, in light of the relevancy to Rashbi and Lag B'Omer, the special Mitzvah Campaigns that have been stressed lately(1)assume an added significance, as follows:

Torah Campaign -- since the Torah was the vocation of Rashbi and his colleagues;

Tefillin Campaign -- concerning which it is said in Rashbi's Book, the Zohar, that tefillin is a G-dly crown, and one who adorns himself with this "Supernal Sacred Crown" is given the title of King of the Earth, companion to the King in Heaven, the Holy One blessed be He.

Mezuzah Campaign -- the Zohar says: "When a person affixes a mezuzah at the entrance to his house... he adorns himself with his Master's crown and keeps evil things away from his door."

Tzeddakah Campaign -- of which it is said in the Zohar: "Whoever shows heartfelt compassion for the poor... rules over all creatures of the world."

House Filled with Sacred Books -- of Torah and Tefillah (Prayer) -- of which it is said in the Zohar: "That studying Torah and worshipping G-d, command everybody's respect and awe."

Candle-lighting to usher in the holy Shabbat -- of which Rashbi declares that it is a sublime honor for her (who lights the candles)... to be blessed with children... who will foster peace on earth, etc.

May G-d grant that through the said activities, in the spirit of all that has been said above, and within the framework of commitment to Torah and mitzvot in the daily life, beginning with the Torah Campaign (both the Revealed and Inner Torah), thereby removing the cause of the protracted Exile, namely, bitul Torah (neglect of Torah) -- we will see the realization of "G-d is my King since the days of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth."

And will soon merit the true and complete Redemption through the Melech HaMoshiach.

Then it will come to pass that "None shall any more have to teach the other... for all will know Me," as Rashbi explains, since everyone will be filled with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and valor, knowledge and fear of G-d.


1. In subsequent years the Rebbe added the following Mitzvah Campaigns: Family Purity and Kashrut, in 1975; Love of a Fellow Jew and Jewish Education for Children, in 1976; Letter in a Torah Scroll, in 1981; Study of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, in 1984; and Intensification of the Moshiach Campaign, in 1991. Ed.


Tuesday, Iyar 18 (May 20), is Lag B'Omer. Lag B'Omer is the 33rd (lamed-gimel, hence lag in Hebrew) day of the Omer period (between Passover and Shavuot), is the anniversary of the passing -- yahrtzeit -- of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (commonly known by the acronym of his name, Rashbi), author of the Zohar.

Rashbi lived in the 2nd century b.c.e. He openly criticized the Roman government and was forced to go into hiding. He and his son hid in a cave and immersed themselves in Torah. Emerging after 13 years he founded an academy in the Gallilee. His esoteric teachings were recorded by his disciples in the Zohar, the most fundamental work of Kabbalah. On his yahtrzeit on Lag B'Omer, tens of thousands gather at his tomb in Meron, in northern Gallilee.


Before his death, Rashbi instructed his students to rejoice on the day of his yahrtzeit. The Holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchok Luria -- one of the greatest scholars in the mystical aspects of the Torah -- taught the great virtue of rejoicing on that day. Later the Baal Shem Tov and his followers strengthened the custom of rejoicing on the yahrtzeit.


According to tradition, rainbows (a symbol of G-d's promise to never send another flood) were not seen while Rashbi was alive because his merit alone was enough to protect the world against the calamity of a flood. Since "rainbow" and "bow" are both called keshet in Hebrew, the custom developed for children to play with bows and arrows on Lag B'Omer.


"It is recorded in the holy Zohar that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was told, "With your book [the Zohar] the Jewish people will go out of exile with mercy." This means that by studying the Zohar, along with the explanations of Chasidus, we will merit the true and final Redemption, very very soon."

(The Rebbe in a talk at the Lag B'Omer Parade, 5750)


As in previous years, parades and outdoor events in honor of Lag B'Omer will take place on Tuesday, Iyar 18 (May 20), around the world. Organized by local Chabad-Lubavitch Centers, programs usually include live family entertainment, bonfires and an all-around good time for all.

For a Lag B'Omer program in your area, contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.


Lag B'Omer 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, even non-Jews, as Rabbi Shimon stated: "I can free the entire world from judgment..." -- "the entire world" includes non-Jews as well. He was able to do this because, as Chasidus teaches, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was one of those unique individuals who were actually above the exile, and immune to 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. It is also 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 'helam,' concealment), a Jew must serve G-d in a way that reveals that everything within the world has G-dliness within it.

We must use everything in our world for its ultimate G-dly purpose, whether that be receiving Torah thoughts over the fax machine or enhancing our Jewish education via e-mail or jogging with a walkman that is playing a Torah tape.

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!


Respect. Self-respect. Respect for other people. Respect for other's property and opinions.

Respect never goes out of style, it's always politically correct, and it does not become obsolete as technology catapults us toward the next millennium.

The revered and venerated Sage, Rabbi Akiva, is renown for his teaching, "Love your fellow 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; when we remember that every person is a Divine creation can we do anything less than respect him or her?

* * *

On Tuesday, Iyar 18 (May 20), we 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 not displaying enough 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 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 was not able to give his colleague "space." He loved his friend so much that he wanted to not only share his insights, opinions and interpretations, but also to convince his peer of their validity until the peer adopted them as his own.

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, otherwise G-d would have created us that way.

* * *

Most of us don't have to worry that our lack of respect for another 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.


The(2) outer yard surrounding the room where the graves of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son were buried was jammed with Jews from all over Israel. They had come to Meron on Lag B'Omer -- the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and the 33rd day of the counting of the omer with their whole family. Today, they would cut their three-year-old sons' long hair for the first time -- leaving only the side-locks.

The voices of thousands of Jews could be heard as they recited Psalms. There were Jews of all types, whose ancestors came from all over the world. All were praying and begging G-d to help them raise their children in Torah and good deeds in the merit of Rabbi Shimon.

It was already after midday on Friday and time to get ready for Shabbat. The visitors from Tiberias, Tzfat, Haifa and the residents from other cities and towns in the Galilee started to leave for their homes in order to arrive before Shabbat.

Many of the visitors, though, especially the ones from far away Jerusalem, remained for Shabbat.

On Friday night, the beautiful melodies of the various groups praying reached the heights of the nearby mountains. Their hearts were overflowing as thousands of Jews joined together to dance and sing.

Shabbat morning arrived and the men gathered in large groups to descend the valley to the small Meggido Lake where they immersed themselves to prepare for the morning prayers. The last minyan had finished the morning prayers when a scream pierced the Sabbath atmosphere. A woman who had brought her son just yesterday for his first haircut was crying hysterically.

Her son had suddenly become sick and died. Doctors who were sent from the British government to the area immediately put the entire section under quarantine. No one could come and no one could leave.

Suddenly, the mother gathered the boy in her arms and went into the room where Rabbi Shimon was buried. She placed the dead child on the Rabbi's grave and started crying, "Oh great tzaddik, Rabbi Shimon. I, your servant, came in your honor to cut the hair of my child. I came to make my son, my first and only child, into a good Jew. I kept my promise to come here on Lag B'Omer. Only yesterday I held him here and cut his hair in song and joy. Now, great tzaddik, how shall I return home in great pain without my child? How can I bear to go on?"

In the midst of her prayers, the mother arose and said, "Tzaddik, Rabbi Shimon, I am laying my child on your grave as he is. I beg of you, with tears, do not shame me. Give me back my child just as I brought him here. Let the great name of G-d be exalted along with the name of the great tzaddik. Let everyone know that there is a G-d ruling over this world."

The woman concluded her prayers and left the room, leaving her dead son on the grave of Rabbi Shimon. The doors of the room were closed as everyone left the room.

A few moments later a child's scream was heard from behind the closed door. The mother ran into the room and in shock and disbelief she saw her son standing on his feet and crying for a glass of water. Happiness and commotion filled the room. The local doctors examining the child announced in wonder that this was not a natural or normal incident, but rather a miracle that must have happened in the merit of the great tzaddik Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

The governmental agents immediately reopened the gates and the masses once again poured inside. Everyone seeing the revived child pronounced the blessing "Blessed be G-d who revives the dead."


2. Adapted from Hilulai D'Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai -- the author of which witnessed the scene 58 years ago with his own eyes.


The most important principle in the Torah is the protection of Jewish life.

It's more important than Shabbat, more important than holidays, even fasting on Yom Kippur.

Right now, in Israel, and everywhere, Jews must stand together in unity and do whatever possible to protect Jewish life.

The Rebbe taught that there are ten important Mitzvot we can do to protect life. See what you can do:

1) Ahavat Yisroel: Behave with love towards another Jew.

2) Learn Torah: Join a Torah class.

3) Make sure that Jewish children get a Torah true education.

4) Affix kosher Mezuzot on all doorways of the house.

5) For men and boys over 13: Put on Tefillin every weekday.

6) Give Charity.

7) Buy Jewish holy books and learn them.

8) Light Shabbat & Yom Tov candles. A Mitzvah for women and girls.

9) Eat and drink only Kosher Food.

10) Observe the laws of Jewish Family Purity.

In addition, the Rebbe also urged every man, woman and child to Purchase a Letter in a Sefer Torah. There are several Torah scrolls being written to unite Jewish people and protect Jewish life.

Letters for children can be purchased for only $1. Send your Hebrew name and your mother's Hebrew name plus $1 to:

"Children's Sefer Torah,"
P. O. Box 8,
Kfar Chabad, 72915, Israel

or via the Internet, at: http://www.kidstorah.org


The Rebbe's slogan is: "The main thing is the deed." We therefore present from the Rebbe's talks, suggestions what we can do to complete his work of bringing the Redemption.

Enroll your child in a Torah Summer Camp

The Rebbe spoke many times about the unique learning opportunity for Jewish children afforded by the months of summer vacation. Without the pressures of tests, homework, etc., children enrolled in camps permeated with a Torah atmosphere eagerly learn about their heritage and are instilled with pride in being Jewish. Creative methods are used to make Judaism come alive. The soul is nourished as the body and mind are strengthened through sports, crafts, etc.

If you don't have camp-age children, help sponsor a child in a Torah camp. Call your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center for more information.


Jewish Women and Girls Light Shabbat Candles

For local candle lighting times:
consult your local Rabbi, Chabad-Lubavitch Center, or call: (718) 774-3000.
or: http://www.candlelightingtimes.org/shabbos

For a free candle lighting kit:
contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch Center.

For a listing of the Centers in your area:
In the USA, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).

Times shown are for Metro NY - NJ

Friday, May 23, Erev Shabbat Parshat Bechukotai:

  • Light Shabbat Candless,(3) by 7:54 p.m.
  • After nightfall, after reciting the Shabbat evening prayer, count Omer 37.(4)

Saturday, May 24, Shabbat Parshat Bechukotai:

  • On Shabbat following the afternoon prayer, we read Chapter 5 of Pirkei Avot -- Ethics of the Fathers.
  • Shabbat ends at nightfall, at 9:02 p.m.
  • After nightfall, after reciting the evening prayer, count Omer 38.


3. The Shabbat candles must be lit 18 minutes before sunset. It is prohibited and is a desecration of the Shabbat to light the candles after sunset.

4. For this year's S'firat Ha'omer Calendar - See our publication: Living With Moshiach, Your S'firat Ha'omer Guide, 5763

Laws of Shabbat Candle Lighting for the Blind

Shabbat Candle Lighting Blessing

"Let There Be Light" - The Jewish Women's Guide to Lighting Shabbat Candles.

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