1. Every being in existence is composed of infinite components. Since the true existence of everything comes from G‑dliness and since the Holy One, Blessed be He, formed the world in a manner which reveals the Hand of the Creator, it follows that His handiwork must also reflect His limitlessness. Therefore, all matter is comprised of countless components (molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, sub-subatomic particles and forces, et. al.).

Maimonides put it this way:

All existing things, whether celestial, terrestrial or belonging to an intermediate class, exist only through His true Essence. (Laws of Basic Principles of Torah 1:1)

Some beings will clearly reveal their G‑dly origins, while others tend to hide their spirituality. These varying degrees of G‑dly revelations will be evident from different examples in time, space and person.

“Space.” All the lands of the world exist because “the whole earth is full of His glory” (Yeshayahu 6:3), but their G‑dly life-force remains concealed. In Eretz Yisrael however it is revealed.

As Scripture says:

It is a land constantly under G‑d your L‑rd’s scrutiny: the eyes of G‑d your L‑rd are on it at all times from the beginning of the year until the end of the year. (Devarim 11:12)

In Eretz Yisrael the creative force is always evident.

In the realm of the “person” there are also levels. Every Jew is a member of the “holy nation” (Shmos 19:6), yet there are levels in this holiness, as the Zohar states:

Their body is holy, their soul (nefesh) is holy...their super-soul (neshamah) is holy of holies. (Zohar II p. 70b)

In the body there is a difference between the heel and the head, and in the soul (nefesh) there is a difference between the power of action and the power of the intellect. Even more so, the power of the “Yechidah” level, which expresses the power of “the one people to affirm Your Oneness” (Siddur, Hosha’anos prayer) is surely much loftier. Now extrapolate the distance from the heel to the lofty level of Yechidah!

In “time,” too, there will be a distinction between Shabbos and the six workdays, a difference which is clearly described in Scripture at the start of creation:

Heaven and earth and all their components were thus completed. With the seventh day G‑d finished all the work that He had done. He rested on the seventh day...G‑d blessed the seventh day and He declared it to be holy.... (Bereishis 2:1-3)

The Gemara explains that “the Shabbos has already been sanctified and so continues,” indicating that on Shabbos, G‑dliness radiates in a revealed manner. Consequently, the facets of Shabbos which reflect the infinity of the Creator in the created will also radiate in a revealed way. When a particular Shabbos has many obvious themes this principle is greatly enhanced.

Let us first discuss the general theme of Shabbos, which may be divided into two broad subjects:

A) The existence of Shabbos for itself, sanctified and separated from the other days of the week, beyond the limitations of time.

B) Its influence on the other days of the week. By keeping Shabbos,

We set in our hearts the belief in the creation of the world, that G‑d made the world in six days” (Chinuch Pos. Comm. 31). “So that we shall remember the act of creation at all times and admit that all the world has a Creator. (Ramban, Shmos 20:8)

In other words, the aspect of time which reveals G‑dliness can influence those aspects of time which conceal G‑dliness that they too should recognize and project their spiritual source. And similarly, in the realm of “person” and “place” the goal is that the G‑d-revealing entities will influence the rest of the corporeal reality to reveal G‑dliness. This is actually realized by the Divine service of the Jewish people which incorporates the “time, space and person,” through the presence of the Jew, in whose merit the world was created. For the Jews are the ones who reveal G‑dliness in the world, and the revelation comes from the world itself.

The Talmud relates:

This question was asked by Turnusrufus of R. Akiva... “Who tells you that this day is the Shabbos?” — He answered: Let the River Sambation prove it. (The strong currents of the Sambation carried stones and rubble all week but rested on Shabbos). (Sanhedrin 65b)

R. Akiva’s proof, that in fact, this day was Shabbos came from a natural phenomenon — the River Sambation. In its natural course there was a drastic difference between its rushing course during the week and its halcyon calmness on Shabbos. For some reason this analysis and obvious explanation of its strange nature had never previously been realized. And it was necessary that a Jew, R. Akiva, should reveal this obvious fact to the world. The reason? The Jew sees G‑dliness revealed and can reveal it to others! But it must be noted that he was not revealing something that was a secret before, he merely pointed out an obvious phenomenon and focused their attention to realize the cause — so that after he made the point — the river itself proved that the day was Shabbos (not R. Akiva), something which the non-Jew could also see and accept.

This same principle will apply to the aforementioned role of Shabbos, “that we shall admit at all times that the world has a Creator.” This knowledge will emerge from the physical existence itself, and although it will not be self-evident (if it were obvious, there would be no framework of free choice), after a bit of contemplation, and with some help from one who is not limited by the concealed world — it will become obvious.

Once revealed, it will not seem to be so revolutionary, but will be acceptable to all who are ready to admit that there is a Creator for the world.

Using the story of Sambation as the analogy, we will also project that just as the proof of the Sambation was accepted as a universal demonstration of the truth of Shabbos, so, too, when one reveals G‑dliness in one area it will serve as a positive verification of creation in all areas.

The prime example of revealing G‑d in nature is the system of nature itself. More precisely the “laws of nature” — the immutable and irrefutable laws of nature. If you study the laws of nature you will realize that they were created by G‑d, for there is no logic which can rationalistically say why the laws of nature exist and function in a particular way.

Take for example the law of gravity.

There is no logical explanation, in the discipline of physics, for the law of gravity or for its characteristics. The only explanation is that this was created and set by G‑d to function in such a manner. If G‑d had desired, the rules of gravity would be different.

Do you wonder at this statement? “How is it possible” you may ask, “that the laws of nature have no intellectual explanation or logic? So many scientists have written so many books about the laws of nature. There must be some axiomatic truth.”

But the simple answer is: science studies and investigates, measures and explains the rules of nature, its perceived laws, and how they interact and influence each other — but science does not begin to fathom the underlying principles and reasons for the natural laws. Scientists have not, cannot and will not reach such understanding, because there is no logical or rational explanation. The only reason they exist at all and in such form is because G‑d created them the way they are.

The more science studies and investigates the natural world and its phenomena, the more it becomes obvious that the mind is limited and will not fathom the underlying reasons. It is G‑d’s will! full stop!

This leads us to another point.

If a scientist approaches the reaches beyond the scope of scientific hypothesis, observation and experimentation and endeavors to theorize about that esoteric realm, he must honestly state that his hypothesis is pure conjecture, just guess-work. A medical doctor would not dare give an expert opinion on astronomy, just as an astronomer would stay away from diagnosing a medical problem. You ask a doctor about medicine and an astronomer about the sky.

Similarly, for any scientist to approach the area of the reasons for natural law would be overstepping his legitimate scientific scope. It does not depend on scientific knowledge or rationale — but on G‑d’s will and actions.

In the structure of the laws of nature themselves we may also perceive the creative Hand of G‑d. For example: Science has discovered in recent times that all matter is composed of many microscopic particles: molecules, atoms and subatomic particles. In every atom the particles orbit about a central point, a nucleus. In this manner all physical matter functions in a wondrously harmonious and complete way.

The existence of these multitudinous variables presupposes a Creator. And the fact that even in the smallest molecule there suddenly is revealed an array of subatomic particles reaching astronomical if not infinite amounts, is an additional proof of Divine origin.

And, perhaps most amazing, and most convincing, the structure of the atom, with a nucleus and innumerable orbiting atomic particles is a replica of the universe, where the planets and stars and the sun etc., in their orbits revolve around the nucleus, the center point, of the universe, which is the earth, where the Beis HaMikdash stands. Thus, the rule whereby the Holy One, Blessed be He, established the orbits of the celestial bodies in the cosmos is the same rule which applies to the particles of the atom in their orbits about the nucleus of the microcosm.

Here we see how G‑d equalizes the small and large, the great and the puny. On the one hand, the enormous celestial bodies — stars and the sun — and on the other hand the subatomic particles. As the Rambam describes it:

All beings...from the highest form to the tiniest insect that is in the interior of the earth exist by the power of G‑d’s essential existence. (Ibid. 2:9)

All are equal!

Back to the subject of Shabbos, which reveals the G‑dly force in creation.

Shabbos incorporates an aspect which raises it above worldly corporeality; on Shabbos all of the worlds are elevated. This elevation comes by degrees, beginning with the eve of Shabbos and culminating with the loftiest state, at the time of “greatest delight,” during Minchah and Shalosh Seudos.

And yet another aspect of Shabbos is its fundamental power to foster the “faith in the Creator of the world,” which, in a sense, is more important than rising to a sublime level above worldly corporeality. This brings us to the theme of this Shabbos, when we read the portion of Behar, which states:

The land must be given a rest period, a Shabbos to G‑d. (Vayikra 25:2)

Here we refer to the power of revealing “G‑d’s Shabbos” in the “land” — in the revelation of G‑dliness in creation.

What lesson do we take for our Divine service?

The differentiation between Shabbos and weekday may be symbolically transposed to the difference between scholars and laymen. The scholar is compared to “Shabbos,” while the layman is represented by the weekdays.

Generally, intellect is removed from action; when a person wishes to be involved in intellectual pursuits he must be aloof from practical work so that his mind can be clear and reach the proper conclusions.

The Rambam mentions that a person will not be able to understand some profound thought if he is hungry. Similarly, one who is overly involved in eating and drinking will not have a clear mind for studying. So, too, in all things outside of the mind, they must be suspended and ignored in order to properly engage the mind and the contemplative powers. This condition is analogous to Shabbos which is aloof from worldly matters. Chassidus also explains that on Shabbos the world rises to the state of thought — a close analogy to Torah learning.

On the other hand, business people deal with worldly matters and are compared to the weekdays.

Now, by Divine Providence certain people find themselves in the yeshivah world of scholars, either studying or as teachers and educators, who derive their livelihood from the Torah world.

At the same time, there are others who, by Divine Providence, are business people or professionals who must devote the main part of the week to mundane matters of earning a living in whatever field they may be.

These laymen may feel deprived of the opportunity to study Torah and they might argue: “Why should we lose out...?” Why did Divine Providence put the others in the Torah world (similar to the world to come) and us in the business world?”

The answer to these troubled souls:

Take a lesson from Shabbos. The goal is not to rise above the world and remain aloof. The true goal is to raise the mundane weekdays to a level where G‑dliness is revealed. Shabbos says that you must see G‑dliness even in the weekdays! “The River Sambation will prove it” — not only are the business people equal to scholars, but they also possess a loftier quality — to be able to reveal the spiritual side of the material (weekday) world!

Yesterday was Pesach Sheni which prepared for and led into this Shabbos — and in fact the Korban Pesach Sheni would have been eaten during the night following the fourteenth which was Friday night — thus, there is a clear connection between Pesach Sheni and this Shabbos.

Pesach Sheni was given to the Jewish people only after those who were impure pleaded with Moshe and demanded, “Why should we be deprived?” During Pesach Sheni the chametz may be in the house of the celebrant — as opposed to the first Pesach when all chametz must be cleaned out. Why? The level of Pesach Sheni is much higher than the first Pesach and one can even refine the “evil” of the chametz.

Practically speaking, don’t be complacent by just calling out, “Why should we be deprived?” The answer is that you have certain special qualities. You must actually accomplish your role to uncover G‑dliness. Just as they actually sacrificed the Korban Pesach Sheni.

Going out to be involved in worldly matters involves a measure of risk, for you have the choice to choose one of two ways: to reveal the G‑dliness of the world — or to remain aloof. It takes determination and devotion to carry out the true purpose and goal: and there is the reassurance of Torah which reminds us that our goal is not in the heaven or across the sea, but “very close” to us, in our speech, thought and action.

Add to this the support and assistance which the Holy One, Blessed be He, has promised us! As the Alter Rebbe adds on the title page of Tanya, “with the help of Hashem, may He be blessed.” G‑d’s assistance is extended to us in our attainment of our goals in a manner of a blessing, which draws down the essence of G‑d’s benediction, not just the effect.

We are presently in the period of “Sefiras HaOmer”: and the “counting of the Omer” similarly adds strength in this aspect of revealing G‑dliness in the world. The Omer is “counted” at night after dark, yet, the Jew can “count” or “shine,” to the point that:

May abundant bounty thereby be bestowed upon all the worlds. (Siddur, Sefirah prayer)

Our counting generates blessing and bounty in all the worlds and irradiates the darkness. In the darkness we reveal that G‑d is One — in the heavens, and the four corners of the earth. May this bring the true redemption through our righteous Mashiach, speedily and truly in our times.

2. In addition to the aspect of Shabbos which radiates limitless blessings and which reveals the infinite power of G‑dliness in the world, we may also find matters of vital meaning and import from the obvious and revealed aspects of this Shabbos which are not infinite, and not esoteric.

The revealed aspects of this Shabbos include:

A. — The Torah portion which we read in public, the portion of Behar.

B. — The date is the 15th of Iyar when the moon reaches its full phase. (You do not have to be a scholar or astronomer — just look up at the sky!) A Jew has the added ability to reveal an esoteric aspect of the full moon related to his Divine service.

C. — The day on which preparations were made for this Shabbos — Friday — was the 14th of Iyar, “Pesach Sheni.”

D. — This Shabbos blesses the days of the coming week. In our case this week includes the special day of Lag BaOmer. While it is true that during his lifetime his peers did not recognize the true greatness of R. Shimon b. Yochai, and Rabbi Akiva told him, “It is enough that I and your Creator know your power” (Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 1:2), nevertheless, when Rashbi died, he commanded his followers to designate his day of passing as an “Hillula,” a day of public rejoicing. In fact, it has been so accepted among all Jews, in all generations, and the joy of Rashbi in his Hillula has been shared through the centuries even among the simple, unlearned Jews.

Chronologically, erev Shabbos should be discussed first, as it also provides the preparation for Shabbos, and as yesterday was Pesach Sheni, we will analyze its theme of Divine service. The previous Rebbe used a short adage to describe the theme of Pesach Sheni — “Nothing is irretrievable.” No matter what your condition or position, even if you have lost something in your Divine service, it is not irretrievable, for a person always has the opportunity and potential to repair and complete whatever is missing.

It would seem that this philosophy applies to one who has actually lost something and despite the loss he can make it up. There may however be a situation where a person never lost anything. Furthermore, we generally place all Jews in the presumption of qualification (acceptability), and in fact we must consider each Jew as righteous, not having “missed” or “lost” anything — if so, does this message of Pesach Sheni also apply to them?

We may draw an analogy from teshuvah, as explained in Tanya:

Although he has sincerely repented already, yet the essence of repentance is in the heart, and in the heart are found many distinctions and gradations.... (Tanya ch. 29)

Therefore although he has done proper teshuvah for the past, on his present level, he may need a loftier level of repentance when he rises to a more sublime level of Divine service.

Similarly, the person who does not sin, and fulfills his duties and responsibilities to the best of his capabilities, has not actually lost anything, yet when he rises to a higher level he now looks back and realizes that his past accomplishments compared to his present position and capabilities are not up to par — so he works harder now to fill the gap. Here the advice to such an individual is, “Nothing is irretrievable!” The lesson of Pesach Sheni applies also in this case.

If, on the other hand, you had not thought that this outlook pertained to you, then the mere fact that you hear this directive indicates that by Divine Providence it is applicable to you! You are receiving the call to upgrade your past actions relative to your loftier present level!

Relying on past presumptions of acceptability is not pertinent here — for when it comes to actually doing something more we must judge the present action!

On the Shabbos after Pesach Sheni, and when Pesach Sheni prepared for this Shabbos, one has the opportunity to rise to a loftier plane not only by improving the past, but also relative to the Shabbos after Pesach Sheni itself.

In more specific terms the message of Pesach Sheni is that there may be Jews who are:

Tameh (ritually impure) from contact with the dead, or on a distant journey.... (They) shall still have the opportunity to prepare G‑d’s Passover offering. (Bamidbar 9:10)

There are Jews who are “spiritually tameh” on a “distant journey” and although they may be ignorant of their imperfection or distance, it is incumbent on us to go out and reach out to them, and speak pleasantly and peacefully, to remind them that although they are far away they should not despair. “Nothing is irretrievable,” and, to the contrary, they should demand, “Why should we be deprived?!” As a result they will accomplish their goal and serve as a living example for all to emulate.

And even those who see themselves as near the Beis HaMikdash relative to others, should also be told in a nice way that relative to their ownpotential they are really “far away” and must make that journey back. Words from the heart will penetrate the heart and accomplish their goal.

And in order to forewarn the retort, “How can you tell me to improve, when you have much to be desired?” — it is obvious that the first improvement must be made in yourself!

This is the theme of Pesach Sheni, to complete the outreach and bring others closer to Torah and Yiddishkeit.

When Shabbos falls on the 15th of the month, when the moon is full, it reflects on the Jewish people, who not only count a lunar year, but are also compared to the moon. The full moon, metaphorically, represents the lofty state of the Jewish people. Therefore, on this day we can bring those who were far away to carry out all of the acts of Pesach and even to reach the perfection of the fullness of the moon.

The work must be carried out to perfection in all areas of spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit with the central theme of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is followed by G‑d’s declaration “I am G‑d,” Who gives just reward.

May G‑d give us all our needs and fulfill all the prayers which we utter when we beseech G‑d. May it radiate to us from His full, open and blessed Hand, in this physical world, in the spiritual and material.

* * *

In explaining the Hillula of a tzaddik the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya:

All his doings, his Torah, and the Divine service which he served all the days of his life... (Iggeres Hakodesh 27)

rise to the loftiest plane on the day of his passing. And then this lofty spirit radiates to his disciples!

..when we walk in the right way that he has shown us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths forever more (Netzach, Selah, Va’ed). (Ibid.)

This path which we will walk eternally — is following his way and his path. But there is something about a tzaddik which represents his intrinsic self even more than his path. This is the “profession” i.e., “occupation,” or involvement. A person’s essential nature is more revealed in his “occupation” than in his “path.”

What was the Rashbi’s “occupation”? His profession was Torah! Consequently, our lesson from Lag BaOmer must express itself in the area of “Torah as profession”!

Tell that to a Jew, and he responds: “So what? the whole existence of a Jew is Torah.” But we are discussing actualoccupation! Of course, a Jew’s essence is Torah, but what is he doing all day? Is he involved 24 hours a day in Torah, or is he involved in his other professions and occupations and devotes only a tokenperiod of time to Torah?

The Rashbi however really did not occupy himself with anything other than Torah! This sentiment was expressed by R. Nehorai who said:

I abandon every trade in the world and teach my son only Torah. (Kiddushin 4:14)

We do not find this extreme position in the case of any of the other Tannaim, just R. Nahorai.

On Lag BaOmer each and every Jew enjoys a radiance from Above which gives him the potential to reach the level of Rashbi, that his entireoccupation” will be only Torah.

Shabbos also has a connection to Torah. The Torah was given to the Jewish people on Shabbos and a Torah scholar is compared to Shabbos.

Normally, when the blessing of Shabbos extends to the rest of the week it takes the form of one state of holiness empowering a different state to be blessed — but in this case there emerges a “sympathetic resonance,” since Shabbos and Lag BaOmer have the common intrinsic theme of Torah, the blesser and the blessed are the same, and the aspect of the “profession of Torah” is enhanced. One state of “Shabbos” is added to another state of “Shabbos,” and the aspect of delight is also introduced.

Just as in mundane work there are levels of interest and enthusiasm, so, too, metaphorically, in the profession of Torah there are levels, to the loftiest state of greatest delight — Shabbos accomplishes that state.

In reality this means Torah study with devotion and determination. What about other occupations? Well, there, too, Rashbi can have influence, as we know Rashbi once took his disciple to a valley and said, “Valley, valley be filled with golden dinarii.” Without any trouble his words were fulfilled. He then told his disciples that if they took the dinars they would be taking a share of their world to come — they drew back. However, we see that the Rashbi was able to draw down physical, golden dinarii from Gan Eden — Paradise!!

Today being the 15th of Iyar we can find a connection to this story of Rashbi.

Rashi tells us:

On the fifteenth day...on that day there came to an end the provisions that they had brought with them from Egypt and they now needed the Manna...the Manna fell for them on the 16th day of Iyar. (Rashi, Shmos 16:1)

Hence they received bread from Heaven similar to the golden dinarii of the world to come. When we receive such benevolence we can surely occupy ourselves with Torah in a manner of “Torah as a profession.”

May G‑d grant that while we are still in the galus we will receive G‑d’s blessings for all our needs, in a manner of bread from Heaven. And from the wilderness of the diaspora may we enter Eretz Yisrael, just as we left Egypt, when no one remained, so, too, now — may it all come speedily with the “clouds of heaven,” truly, speedily in our time.

* * *

3. Several questions have been submitted on various sections of Rashi and I will discuss two Rashis at the end of today’s portion and the questions raised.

(1) On the verse:

[All this] is because the Israelites are [actually] My slaves. They are My slaves because I brought them out of Egypt. I am G‑d your L‑rd. (Vayikra 25:55)

Rashi quotes the words:

Because the Israelites are My slaves: My document (deed of purchase) is of an earlier date. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

(A) Rashi’s comment seems a bit strange, because a few verses back (25:42), Rashi had cited the words: “They are my servants” and commented, “My document is of an earlier date.” Why must Rashi repeat the exact same words?

Actually the question applies not only to Rashi but to the Torah itself in which case we really have a “klotz-kashe.”

Why does the Torah repeat itself? Having stated:

This is because I brought the Israelites out of Egypt and they are My slaves, they shall not be sold as slaves. (Ibid.:42)

Why state again:

Because the Israelites are My slaves...out of Egypt. (Ibid.:55)

Moreover, why does the second verse elaborate more than the first verse? If there are things which need to be said — they should be said in the earlier verse!

(B) The first time Rashi comments “My documents came first,” he does so after citing the words “they are My slaves” whereas the second time he does not quote the words “they are My slaves,” rather: “All this is because the Israelites are My slaves.” What is the reason for this?

(2) On the next verse:

[Therefore] do not make yourselves false gods.

Rashi explains:

The command is repeated here with reference to one who sold himself as a slave to a heathen — in order that he should not say: “Since my master is a libertine (immoral) I will be like him; since my master worships idols I will be like him; since my master desecrates the Shabbos I will be like him,” on this account have these verses (1 and 2) been stated. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

Why does Rashi change the order of the Toras Kohanim where it lists idols first? And even if you will respond that the five-year-old Chumash student did not learn Toras Kohanim — the order of Toras Kohanim is actually self-evident from the verses themselves:

Do not make yourselves false gods...etc. (idols),

followed by “Keep My Shabbos” (Shabbos desecration) and then “revere My Sanctuary.” (Kedushah — “sanctity” is associated with morality — as Rashi learned in Kedoshim.)

If so, why does Rashi change the order of the verse and start with “immorality”?

Certainly an explanation must be clear even for the five-year-old Chumash student.

Let us introduce the explanation by first pondering over another “klotz-kashe,” a very perplexing problem.

When G‑d tells us that we are His servants, because He brought us out of Egypt, we are stuck with a puzzling question — “What about all the other peoples of the world — are they not also G‑d’s possessions — despite the fact that they were not redeemed from Egypt?”

The answer to this question is so elementary that Rashi need not mention it.

The five-year-old Chumash student knows that a person possesses servants, livestock and also inanimate possessions. He also knows that people relate to their servants and other possessions differently.

Even servants are treated with basic human respect, they must not be shamed, humiliated or mistreated. Animals must not be hurt or tortured, while in the case of inanimate objects we only have the restriction of not being wastefullydestructive.

Thus, when the five-year-old Chumash student learns this verse, that because G‑d “brought us out of Egypt” we are His servants, he realized that we have the quality of being G‑d’s servants — a quality which the other nations (not having been slaves in Egypt) do not have. This does not mean that they are out of G‑d’s purview, or that He does not want them to act in a certain way — it just means that they do not have the quality of being G‑d’s servants. Possessions, yes!

We may now understand why the Torah needed two verses to teach this principle. In the first case we are dealing with a Jew who becomes poor and is forced to sell himself to another Jew:

If your brother becomes impoverished and is sold to you. (Ibid. 25:39)

The second verse speaks of a Jew who is sold as a slave to a gentile!

If a foreigner or resident alien gains the upper hand, while your brother loses his means of support and is sold to a foreigner.... (Ibid.:47)

When a Jew sells himself to a fellow Jew we might think that no negative occurrences will result. After all, the master himself is the servant of G‑d and the Torah also rules that there are cases when the Beis Din, the Jewish court, is directed to sell a Jew as a slave. Despite this, the Torah clearly spells out the manner of conduct for the master and the slave: “Do not work him like a slave (shameful work)” (Ibid.:39) and “they shall not be sold as slaves (public auction)” (Ibid.:42), all this because:

I brought them out of Egypt and they are My slaves — My document is of an earlier date.

However, although there is no restriction on the principle of selling a Jew to another Jew as a slave, being that G‑d’s document is first, He has designated certain conditions in the procedure of sale andtreatment of Jewish slaves by Jewish owners.

When, however, we deal with the case of a Jew who sells himself to a gentile the situation changes.

Being that the gentile is not seen as G‑d’s servant, only, metaphorically, as G‑d’s “possession” — it is incongruent that a Jew, who is G‑d’s servant, should come under the control of one who is merely alluded to as G‑d’s “possession”!

The case however did exist, and although it clearly was an exception to the rule, it did take place, when a Jew had fallen from his intrinsic level of holiness and emulated the unholy ways of the goyim, and thereby descended, degree by degree, to the nethermost level of selling himself to a non-Jew. As the process was not interrupted from Above, it would seem the Divine Providence condoned the descent. If so, we now assume that having fallen so far, this Jew will no longer be protected by the inalienable and intrinsic rights of every Jew who is rightfully the servant of G‑d. We might assume that in this case the non-Jewish owner mayact without fear of impingement.

Therefore the Torah tells us that in this case:

After he is sold he must be redeemed.... (Ibid.:48)


you may not let his master dominate him so as to break his spirit, (Ibid.:53)


If he is not redeemed through any of the above he and his children shall be freed in the jubilee year. (Ibid.:54)

Why? Because:

The Israelites are actually My slaves. They are My slaves because I brought them out of Egypt.

Here the explanation is more detailed than earlier, it must rationalize the restrictive approach, because G‑d’s document came first!

G‑d willed the sale, but only under certain conditions.

With this understanding we can see why Rashi states at the close of this chapter:

I am the L‑rd your G‑d — whosoever enslaves the Israelites on earth enslaves, as it were, Him in Heaven. (Rashi, loc. cit. v. 55)

When a Jew becomes the servant of a gentile he is truly enslaved by one who is not a servant of the Holy One, Blessed be He, as such, G‑d, too, in sympathy is enslaved with him.

“Give instruction to a wise man and he will be yet wiser” (Mishlei 9:9).

* * *

4. In today’s section of Rambam study we learn the well-known ruling:

If a person who may be legally compelled to divorce his wife refuses to do so, an Israelite court in any place and at any time may scourge him until he says “I consent...,” inasmuch as he desires to be of the Israelites, to abide by all the commandments and to keep away from transgressions, etc. (Laws of Divorce 2:20)

This concept may be applied in the general area of modifying moral and ethical conduct.

For we see here that every Jew, even one who is apparently in a condition that he must be forced to do a mitzvah, nevertheless, still possesses the true inner desire “to abide by all the commandments” and to conduct himself in accordance with the will of the Holy One, Blessed be He!

There is a congruity here with the theme of Pesach Sheni that “nothing is irretrievable.” For on any level, at every stage, no intrinsic change has occurred in the essence, it needs but a ray of light to reveal the inherent essence.

In studying this halachah we are amazed at the extreme precision of the Rambam’s choice of terms. The case of the person who does not want to write a divorce for his wife is usually referred to as a case of the “evil inclination induces him.” The Rambam also generalizes in that case and speaks of any case in Torah where one is “induced” by his yetzer hora.

As such, a problem comes to mind. In the “Laws concerning the Basic Principles of the Torah” the Rambam writes:

Where one is enjoined to suffer death rather than transgress, and commits a transgression and so escapes death, he has profaned the Name of G‑d.... Still as the transgression was committed under duress, he is not punished with stripes, and, needless to add, he is not sentenced by a court to be put to death, even if, under duress, he committed murder.... Then how much more so is this the rule in regard to the violation of the other precepts of the Torah. (5:4)

The paradox. Since the only time one will transgress and commit a sin is when he is induced (duress) by his evil inclination to sin — then how can he ever be liable for punishment — we do not mete out punishment when dealing with a sin done under duress!

The Rambam discusses this point and directs us to the answer in the Laws of Repentance:

Free will is bestowed on every human being. If one desires to turn towards the good way and be righteous, he has the power to do so. If one wishes to turn towards the evil way and be wicked...there is no one who can prevent him from doing.... There is no one that coerces him or decrees what he is to do, or draws him to either of the two ways; but every person turns to the way which he desires spontaneously and of his own volition.... This doctrine is an important principle, the pillar of the Torah and the commandments,... if G‑d had decreed that a person should be either righteous or wicked, or if there were some force inherent in his nature. Which irresistibly drew him to a particular course...what room would there be for the whole Torah? By what right or justice could G‑d punish the wicked or reward the righteous? (5:1-4)

Thus, the Rambam states unequivocally that being induced by the evil inclination is not tantamount to being coerced or committing a crime under duress of some fiend, and everyone makes the choice of good or evil by his own knowledge and will. He is not coerced.

Here we see the specific precision of the terms used by the Rambam. In speaking of the person whose yetzer hora induces him the Rambam used the term “yitzro tokfo” (his evil inclination induced him) but the Rambam does not say “yitzro anso” — “coerced” him — for his free will is above being coerced by his yetzer hora — if the Rambam had used the term anso we would ask, “How can a Jew be punished — it is possible that he was coerced (anso) by his yetzer hora?” The answer is: read the words of the Rambam carefully: “tokfo yitzro” — not “anso” — and so, ultimately his free will reigns supreme.

* * *

While on the subject of “coercion,” the worst coercion that the Jewish people sustain is the diaspora. Being in galus for nearly 2000 years — what duress could be worse than that!!

The fact that there are Jews who think that the galus is acceptable — for they may do what they wish — only emphasizes the darkness and utter despair of the diaspora. They see the darkness as light! How can a Jew feel good when we are all in galus? The Shechinah is in galus, as the Rashbi taught:

To every place to where they were exiled the Shechinah went with them. (Megillah 29a)

Yet, there are those who do not care, so long as they remain in their positions — they don’t mind if the galus continues! And so they instruct and influence their disciples — likewise. When you are climbing a steep cliff if you don’t continually climb higher — you will fall back!

May G‑d grant that the promise will be fulfilled — “for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the L‑rd,” with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach — the redemption of all Jews and the redemption of the Shechinah as the Rashbi continues:

Then the L‑rd your G‑d will return with your captivity.... It does not say “He will bring back” but “He shall return” this teaches us that the Holy One, Blessed be He, will return with them from the places of their exile. (Ibid.)

And we will all return to our Holy Land to Yerushalayim the Holy City and the Beis HaMikdash which will be built speedily in our days.

* * *

5. It is appropriate now to speak about Lag BaOmer.

Jewish custom teaches that on Lag BaOmer special emphasis is placed on programs and activities for children. Parties, outings, rallies are organized and we tell the children of the history and important meaning of the day of Lag BaOmer.

It is also an opportunity to speak of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his teachings and customs and especially his directives regarding children.

It is therefore important to encourage such programs in many different places and in a manner that the children themselves should influence other children to attend; every boy should bring another boy — every girl should bring another girl to join and participate in the joy of Rashbi.

At this opportunity I want to mention another subject pertaining to Jewish children.

At Matan Torah the quality and preciousness of Jewish children were emphasized. It was through the “guarantee” of the Jewish children that the Holy One, Blessed be He, gave the Torah to the Jewish people. “Our children will be guarantors for us.”

Therefore all efforts must be expended to see to it that every Jewish child, toddler and infant will be present in the synagogues on Shavuos, at the time of the Torah reading of the “Ten Commandments.”

Certainly this will be publicized all over.

May all this speed the true and complete redemption. This Shabbos bestows its blessings on Lag BaOmer, the holiday of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, and through our good actions, Divine service, and Torah study, it will bring all the blessings of G‑d.

And may we proceed “walking upright,” and with an outstretched arm, to greet Mashiach, with the true and complete redemption, speedily and truly now.