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Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12
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We are pleased to present, to the visually impaired and the blind, our weekly publication, Living With Moshiach.
In this week's issue we once again focus on Lag B'Omer, the 18th of Iyar.
This Jewish year, is the year 5758 since Creation. The Hebrew letters are Hei-Taf-Shin-Nun-Ches. Over a decade ago, in the year 5742, the Rebbe stated that the Hebrew letters for that year were an acronym for "This should be the year of the coming of Moshiach."
Since that time, the Rebbe has publicized a phrase describing the year according to the acronym of its Hebrew letters. This year has been designated by the Rebbe's followers as "Hoyo Tihei Shnas Niflaos Cheiruseinu" meaning "It surely will be a year of wondrous miracles liberating us (from the material and spiritual problems of our exile)."
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
Lag B'Omer, 5758
Brooklyn, New York
The opening verse of the second of this week's two Torah portions, 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.
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 Thursday, May 14, 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.
This Shabbat we bless the new month of Sivan. The theme of the month of Sivan is intertwined with the main festival of the month, Shavuot.
On the first day of Sivan the Children of Israel encamped in the wilderness of Sinai ready to receive the Torah. Concerning this the Torah states, "And Israel encamped there..." using the singular form of the verb "encamped" regarding which our Sages teach us that this means that the people were like one person with one heart.
Though many other times when the Jews made camp there was strife and contention, when they encamped to receive the Torah they were totally united.
Thus, it is clear that one of the prerequisites for receiving the Torah--and every year at this time we prepare to receive the Torah once again--is to enhance and foster unity amongst the Jewish people.
The "easy way" to become more united with other Jews is to follow two essential teachings of our Sages: "Love your fellow as yourself; Judge every person favorably."
Where is the place to start? The place to start is with ourselves and our own families. This, of course, doesn't mean that we have to perfect these relationships before we can extend the teachings to others, but it is certainly the correct place to start as "charity begins at home."
If we keep these fundamental teachings in mind we will certainly foster Jewish unity in our own little world, which will ultimately impact on the entire world.
Vacation time is drawing near. Will you opt for a relaxing summer in a quiet cabin in a secluded spot, or something more exotic and interesting?
Whatever our vacation plans might include, most of us put much time and thought into making sure that the "time off" will be a success. We consider which clothing to take, what food to bring along (and what can be purchased locally), cost, accommodations, and much, much more.
While you're making your vacation plans, consider the following: Summertime brings with it a more relaxed, laid-back atmosphere. This special ambiance creates the perfect opportunity to give children and young people, in particular, a positive Jewish experience.
The huge network of day and overnight camps sponsored by Chabad-Lubavitch centers around the world are expert in creating just such a positive, warm, authentic Jewish environment.
Undoubtedly, in nearly every city where you might find yourself this summer, there will be a Chabad camp to which you can send your child(ren). Whether for a week or an entire summer, the Jewish experience the children will have cannot be duplicated.
So, when you're writing to the Chamber of Commerce in city X, or telephoning the visitors' information center in city Y, make sure to get in touch with the Chabad-Lubavitch representative in city X or Y and find out about their camp program. It's one part of your summer plans you'll never regret.
The Rebbe's slogan is: "The main thing is the deed." Hence, we present suggestions from the Rebbe's talks of what we can do to complete the Rebbe's work of bringing the Redemption.
Get Ready for Shavuot
"The coming days must be used in preparation for 'the season of the giving of our Torah.'
"In particular, based on the concept that our children are the 'guarantors of the Torah,' efforts should be made to bring all Jewish children, even those of a very young age, to shul on Shavuot(1) to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments. Even though the children may not appreciate what they hear, their presence has an influence on the source of their souls."
(The Rebbe, 24 Iyar, 5750/1990)
1. This year, on Sunday morning, May 31.
Jewish Women and Girls Light Shabbat Candles
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 22, Erev Shabbat Parshat Behar-Bechukotai:
Saturday, May 23, Shabbat Parshat Behar-Bechukotai:
2. 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.
3. Rosh Chodesh Sivan is on Tuesday, May 26.
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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