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Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12
Click here, to see pictures of the Rebbe
We are pleased to present, to the visually impaired and the blind, the 111th issue of our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.
This week's issue focuses on Lag B'Omer, the 18th of Iyar.
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
9 Iyar, 5757
Brooklyn, New York
This week's Torah portion, Behar, contains the mitzvah of Shemita, the commandment to allow the holy land of Israel to lie fallow every seventh year. "When you come into the land which I give you . . . six years shall you sow your field . . . but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of rest for the land, a Sabbath for the L-rd: your field you shall not sow, and your vineyard you shall not prune."
As reward for this mitzvah, G-d promises to provide the Jewish people with sustenance in overwhelming abundance, more than enough to compensate for their cessation of labor for an entire year. "And if you should say, 'What will we eat in the seventh year? For behold, we are not permitted to sow, and we cannot gather in our harvest,' then will I command My blessing to you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth a harvest for three years." During the sixth year, sufficient crops will be harvested to last throughout the sixth, seventh, and even eighth year of the cycle.
Symbolically, the sixth year of the Shemita cycle alludes to the six thousand years of the world's existence; the seventh year alludes to the Messianic Era. The service of the Jewish people throughout the first six thousand years has served to ready the world for the ultimate Sabbath of the seventh millennium, when peace and tranquillity will reign triumphant.
We find ourselves now at the end of the six thousand year period. "What will we eat during the seventh year?" we ask. How can our lowly generation, which is on an infinitely lower spiritual level than that of our forefathers, possibly bring about the Final Redemption?
G-d reassures us that we need not worry: "I will command My blessing to you in the sixth year," we are promised. G-d has endowed our generation with special strengths and abilities, for despite our spiritual poverty, we have a merit previous generations did not--that extra measure of self-sacrifice necessary for preserving the spark of Jewishness throughout the darkness of the exile. This special power has been granted precisely to our generation, the last generation of exile and the first of Redemption, in order to prepare the world and sow the seeds of the great revelation of G-dliness about to begin.
When Moshiach comes, speedily in our day, G-d's promise to "bring forth a harvest for three years" will find ultimate fulfillment in the three distinct phases of the Final Redemption millennium itself: the Messianic Era, the Resurrection of the Dead, and the seventh millennium itself.
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.
On the third day--twice blessed with "It was good"--
of the weekly portion of(1) Counting the Omer, 5735 
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(2) 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."
Tzedakah 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. Parshat Emor. Ed.
2. 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.
Sunday, Iyar 18 (May 25), 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.
As in previous years, parades and outdoor events in honor of Lag B'Omer will take place Sunday, May 25, 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 Center. For a listing of the Centers in your area: http://www.chabad.org/chabadir-access.html. In the USA, call: 1-800-Lubavitch (1-800-582-2848).
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,' conceal-ment), 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!
13 Iyar, 5730 
The story of Lag B'Omer, as related in the Talmud, is well known. Our Sages tell us that the disciples of Rabbi Akiva were stricken by a plague because they were not respectful toward one another. But on the 33rd day of the Sefirah - Lag B'Omer - the plague stopped.
The story of Rabbi Akiva's students contains a lesson for every one of us. The Talmud testifies that the students who died in the plague were "disciples of Rabbi Akiva." It is clear that they were worthy of this title, which implies that they were dedicated to Torah and mitzvot with devotion, diligence and self-sacrifice, as their teacher, Rabbi Akiva, had taught them.
It follows that their lack of respect for one another could not have been due to trivial matters, 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, that people generally have different opinions and different personalities. Each individual has, therefore, his own approach in serving G-d, studying the Torah and observing the mitzvot. For example, one person may do it primarily out of love of 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 mitzvot in their daily lives.
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 beings. Thus, it seemed to each one of them that his particular approach was the right one, and any one who had not attained his level was lacking in perfection. Moreover, being disciples of Rabbi Akiva, who taught, "You shall love your fellow Jew as yourself; 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 also 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 Talmud teaches us what should be the correct conduct of each and every one of us, and the instruction is threefold:
a) Serving G-d, studying the Torah and observing the mitzvot, both the mitzvot between one individual and another, and the mitzvot between an individual and G-d, must be performed with true inspiration and vitality, which permeate the whole of the person and his daily conduct.
b) The above includes, of course, the great mitzvah of "Love your fellow Jew as yourself," which must also be fulfilled with the utmost vitality and in the fullest measure.
c) Together with the above, a person must look kindly and most respectfully upon every Jew, who 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 of our Sages, "Judge every person favorably."
Let the great Sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who considered Lag B'Omer his day of personal joy, be an example and inspiration to all of us. For Rabbi Shimon said that he was prepared to give up all his merits in order to save the world from judgment. In other words, he was prepared to give himself completely to a person who has no merits of his own, whom he never met, and who may be at the other end of the world. How much more so should one be ready to give of himself for the benefit of near and dear ones and all his friends.
May G-d bless each one of you that you live and act in accordance with the spirit of Lag B'Omer and that you do so with the utmost measure of true ahavat Yisrael (love of a fellow Jew), with joy and gladness of heart, to hasten the realization of the words of the Lag B'Omer week's Torah portion, "I will break the bars of your yoke (in exile) and make you go upright"--in fulfillment of the true and complete Redemption through Moshiach.
The(3) 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."
3. Adapted from Hilulai D'Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai--the author of which witnessed the scene 52 years ago with his own eyes.
For local candle lighting times:
consult your local Rabbi, Chabad-Lubavitch Center, or call: (718) 774-3000.
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).
Friday, May 23, Erev Shabbat Parshat Behar:
Saturday, May 24, Shabbat Parshat Behar:
4. 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.
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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