1. Among the Chassidic discourses recited by the Rebbeim on Lag BaOmer are several which are based on the story related in the Zohar: “Once the world required rain...” which relates how in a year of drought the people approached Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and he responded by reciting Torah which brought rain.

This story is amplified in the Chabad manner so that one may “derive sustenance” from the Zohar’s teaching, allowing us to comprehend it, not only with the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of the G‑dly soul, but also with those faculties of the animal soul and furthermore, internalize it to the point where it effects our physical nature as implied by the verse, “Your Torah is in my intestines.” We find a parallel concept in the story of Rebbe Nachum of Chernobyl who became fat from the pleasure he experienced when reciting, “Amen. Yehai Shmai Rabbah...

In general, the Zohar emphasizes the unique level attained by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in contrast to that of the other Tannaim (Sages of the Mishnah). Though the Tannaim were all on a high level, described as “Aisanim — The mighty ones, the foundation of the earth,” in particular, Rabbi Shimon was on a higher rung. Thus, Rabbi Akiva told him: “It is sufficient for you that your Creator and I appreciate your power.”

The unique aspect of Rabbi Shimon’s service is expressed by the fact that, in contrast to other sages, he caused rain to descend by reciting Torah. In addition, Rabbi Shimon was distinguished as unique in regard to Ahavas Yisrael and, therefore, the Jewish people turned to him when they needed rain. Furthermore, he was a student of Rabbi Akiva and describes his qualities (Gittin 67a) as being derived from those of his master. Hence, he surely emulated the quality of Ahavas Yisrael which Rabbi Akiva described as “a great general principle of the Torah.”

The fullest expression of Ahavas Yisrael is “loving a colleague as oneself” — actually as oneself. This, in turn, leads to Achdus Yisrael — Jewish unity. The Talmud Yerushalmi explains the reason for Ahavas Yisrael with a metaphor comparing two Jews to two limbs of the same body. Thus, the reason for Ahavas Yisrael is that, in truth, the entire Jewish people are one single entity.

Nevertheless, the limbs of the body, though part of a single entity, are different because of the different functions they have to perform. Similarly, the Jewish people, though a single entity, have different elements for each person is charged with a unique mission. The fulfillment of these individual missions adds a greater degree of perfection to the entire people as a whole.

This concept is brought out by the Alter Rebbe in Likkutei Torah where he explains that the Jewish people can be compared to one body containing a head, hands, and feet. Though the head directs the functioning of the entire body, in a certain regard, the feet possess an advantage over the head. Similarly, each person can contribute a unique quality that another does not possess.

The above also relates to another story related by the Talmud (Shabbos 33b) about Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. After Rabbi Shimon left the cave where he had hidden together with his son Rabbi Eliezer for thirteen (numerically equivalent to echad) years, the first thing he did was approach the people and ask: “Is there any problem I can help correct?” They replied that there was a particular path whose status in regard to ritual purity was questionable and, hence, the priests were forced to always take a circular route so they would not pass through there. Rabbi Shimon instructed the people how to clarify the situation and thus, enabled the priests to walk in a direct manner. Thus, Rabbi Shimon’s first activity after leaving the cave was an act of Ahavas Yisrael.

Homiletically, there is a further dimension to this story: Priests can be interpreted as a reference to the entire Jewish people as the Torah declares: “You shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests.” A “path” is a metaphor for “the paths of G‑d” as the prophet declares, “Straight are the paths of G‑d.” The prophet mentions many paths for there are many different routes in the service of G‑d. All of them lead to the same destination, the center, the center point of the entire creation. A path serves as a means to connect the furthest point of a country to its capital, and more particularly, to the inner chamber of the King. There “Israel and the King are alone.”

In general, there are two types of paths: paths leading from above to below; this refers to the service of Torah, and paths leading from below upward; the service of prayer. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was distinguished in both these types of service. Thus, when there is a question concerning a path and “the priests,” the Jewish people are forced to take a circuitous route. Rabbi Shimon forgets about his own individual matters and helps clarify the situation to enable every Jew to proceed directly to his essential core, the Yechidah, the point of soul where a Jew is continually at one with G‑d.

Rabbi Shimon is also associated with the Messianic redemption as the Rahya Mehemnah states: “With this composition of yours, Israel will be redeemed from exile with mercy.” Though Rabbi Shimon himself was on a spiritual level above the destruction of the Temple — being able to experience this level despite the fact that he and his son were forced to hide from the Romans for thirteen years — nevertheless, he provided the key to the redemption of the entire people.

The above comes to greater expression on Lag BaOmer, Rabbi Shimon’s Yahrzeit, for then the highest source of his soul is revealed.” Furthermore, as the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya, this revelation “brings about salvation in the depths of the earth,” i.e. in the lowest and darkest points of exile and there, hastens the time when we will “be redeemed from exile with mercy” with the coming of the Messianic redemption, may it be speedily in our days.

2. There is an intrinsic connection between Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and thus, Lag BaOmer, and the concept of Shabbos. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s essential quality was Torah study which is associated with Shabbos as our Sages declared: “Everyone agrees the Torah was given on the Sabbath.” On Torah, a person rests from all work and has the potential to devote himself fully, amid an atmosphere of rest, to Torah study. Accordingly, the Talmud relates that a Torah Sage is called “Shabbos.” Surely, this applies to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who studied Torah in a manner where “Torah was his occupation.”

Based on the above, we can explain the custom of associating Lag BaOmer with activities with Jewish children. On Lag BaOmer, it is customary take Jewish children out to the fields, to play with a bow and arrow, alluding to the fact that during Rabbi Shimon’s lifetime, the rainbow was never seen. There was no need for it.

This custom is also related to Shabbos and Torah. Children are not at all involved with material things — as are people on the Shabbos. They have one concern and, according to Halachah, one obligation — the study of Torah.

In this context, it is proper to mention the activities with Jewish children associated with Lag BaOmer. Surely, many took part in such activities, nevertheless, there is always room to increase as our Sages taught, “Always ascend higher in holy matters.” How much more so, in those places where no such activities or only a small amount of activities were organized, the opportunity should be used to gather children together and teach them about Lag BaOmer in the days that are close to Lag BaOmer.

Since it is Chabad custom to follow the restrictions against celebration throughout Sefiras HaOmer, even after Lag BaOmer, an effort must be made to find a permissible manner of conducting such a gathering, by holding a Siyum on a tractate or the like. However, surely, if an effort is made it will be possible to find a permissible manner of holding such a gathering.

This is particularly relevant in the present year when we saw how certain people took wild actions against Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

How could such things happen? They know (or at least their souls feel) that soon Mashiach is coming and he will introduce an era where there is “no war, no envy, and no competition.” Therefore, since they derive all their energy and satisfaction from these qualities, from hatred and division, they want to use the few remaining moments of the exile to spread dissension.

This should spur those who follow Rabbi Shimon’s path, who study Pnimiyus HaTorah and spread Ahavas Yisrael and Achdus Yisrael to strengthen their activities; to magnify and broaden their efforts to spread Ahavas Yisrael and to spread “the wellsprings of Torah outward” so that through studying Rabbi Shimon’s teachings we will “leave the exile with mercy.”

The latter surely question: Since everything a Jew sees or hears is a lesson for him in the service of G‑d, why were they forced to hear statements opposing their activities? What could it possibly teach them? They must realize the lesson — no matter how much they have done till now, despite their entire service and giving full credit to their fine intentions — something is lacking. What’s the proof? Mashiach has not come yet. On the contrary, we are found in the darkness of exile.

Thus, each person must realize that everything is dependent on him. He must utilize every opportunity, without wasting a moment, to spread Ahavas Yisrael and spread the teachings of Rabbi Shimon outward. The fact that actions have been taken against Rabbi Shimon should be interpreted as a sign that it is necessary to increase in the opposite activities; spreading the teachings of Rabbi Shimon.

First and foremost in the above, must be the spreading of Rabbi Shimon’s celebration to children. This, in turn, will spread rejoicing in their homes and causes their teachers as well to join in this happiness. This will then draw happiness down throughout the entire year and nullify all the forces of concealment, transforming the darkness of exile into light.

The celebration of Rabbi Shimon is also connected to the negation of the exile. A well-known story relates that a Rabbi who would each day recite the prayer, Nachaim, mourning the destruction of the Temple suffered drastic consequences for saying that prayer on Lag BaOmer. This occurred because, as explained above, Rabbi Shimon transcends the entire concept of exile.

The above is particularly true when an association is made with Jewish children. The connection of the latter with the Mashiach is evident to the extent that the Talmud refers to them with the name Mishichoi. They can bring about the redemption for, in truth, they are the masters of the world, for the very existence of the world is dependent upon them since they study Torah with a voice that is not tainted by sin.

This is particularly true when they are aware that they are studying G‑d’s Torah and this study leads them to the knowledge of G‑d. This also relates to a statement of Rabbi Shimon’s: In the Messianic age, even children will know hidden wisdom.

3. The previous Shabbos, though related to Lag BaOmer as explained above, also shares a connection with Pesach Sheni. Indeed, this year that connection is more apparent since Pesach Sheni fell on a Friday. Firstly, Friday is always associated with Shabbos for the preparations for the Shabbos meals must be carried out beforehand. Furthermore, if the Pesach Sheni sacrifice was offered on Friday, it was to be eaten on the night of the 15th — the night of Shabbos.

There is also a connection between Pesach Sheni and Lag BaOmer. The Previous Rebbe explained that the lesson to be derived from Pesach Sheni is that “nothing is ever lost.” Provision is made for a person who was impure, or far away from the Temple, to correct his situation. He is even given this opportunity if he willingly brought himself to these circumstances. This also relates to Lag BaOmer for Lag BaOmer is also associated with aiding individuals on a low level as obvious from Rabbi Shimon’s statements: “I have the potential to free the entire world from judgment.”

There is an obvious question regarding the story of Pesach Sheni. The commandment to bring this sacrifice was given in response to a question which Moshe asked of G‑d. Moshe, in turn, was prompted to ask this question by a number of individuals who were ritually impure and who came to him with the complaint: Why should we not be allowed to bring the Paschal sacrifice?

The question is: These individuals did not approach Moshe until the day the Paschal sacrifice was brought. This was on the seventh day of their purification process. Why didn’t they approach Moshe earlier? Why did they wait until the last moment possible?

This question is reinforced by the Talmud’s statements which identify these individuals as the bearers of Joseph’s coffin, or, according to another opinion, Mishael and Eltzapen, who dealt with the burial of Nadav and Avihu. These individuals willingly brought themselves to a state of ritual impurity. They knew that the Paschal sacrifice would be offered and that they would be unable to offer it if they were ritually impure. Why didn’t they ask Moshe what to do beforehand?

However, their behavior serves as a lesson to us. When a person has to perform a favor — particularly “a true favor,” one performed for the sake of the deceased — he should not wait to ask about the possible repercussions, even if, as a result, questions will arise regarding the performance of a mitzvah. Rather, one must act immediately without hesitation, fulfilling the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael. What will happen in the future? In this regard, one can confidently trust in G‑d, and trust in Moshe, that helping another Jew will not bring about any negative consequences.

When it comes to helping another Jew; be it an individual who is needy in a simple sense and requires charity; or one who is “spiritually needy,” it is impossible to procrastinate. Particularly now, in the last moments before Mashiach comes, it is impossible to postpone performing the favor until “the next reincarnation.” One must act immediately and with that act, one may, to quote the Rambam, “tip the balance in one’s own favor and... in the favor of the entire world and bring redemption and salvation.”

This is also related to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who desired that all Jews, without differentiation, celebrate on his day of rejoicing with open and revealed happiness. Thus, these efforts must involve Jewish children for it is their nature to express their happiness with clapping and dancing.

These activities with children are connected with Ahavas Yisrael as the verse states: “Israel is a youth, therefore I [G‑d] love him.” Indeed, the love of G‑d and the love of one’s fellow Jew become one for loving a fellow Jew is an expression of the love of G‑d, loving one who is loved by one’s beloved.

This also relates to the study of the Torah for, in the words of Hillel, “the entire Torah” is merely “an explanation” of the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael. Thus, Rabbi Shimon’s service of “Torah is his occupation,” a total involvement in Torah study is also dependent on Ahavas Yisrael.

May these activities bring about blessing throughout the world including the most complete, the Messianic redemption. May it be speedily in our days.

4. This year Lag BaOmer falls on the third day of Parshas Bechukosai and hence, there is obviously a connection between the Torah portion of that day and Lag BaOmer. One aspect of the connection is the verse: “I will break the bonds of your yoke” which relates to the promise that through the study of Rabbi Shimon’s composition, the Zohar, the Jews will “be redeemed from exile with mercy.”

Nevertheless, the majority of the Torah portion connected with the present day deals with the Tochechah, a collection of prophecies that are, seemingly the very opposite of blessing. What is their connection with Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai?

This can be explained on the basis of the principle that every aspect of Torah contains a revealed and apparent meaning, “the body of Torah,” and, beyond that, an inner, hidden meaning, Torah’s “soul.”

Similar levels exist within G‑d and the Jewish people. There is a revealed, apparent manifestation of G‑dliness, the aspect of G‑dliness which “fills up the worlds,” and deeper, hidden levels, the aspect of G‑dliness which “transcends the worlds.” Similarly, within the Jewish people, these two levels exist.

The Zohar states that “three bonds are connected one with each other, Israel, the Torah, and the Holy One, blessed be He, all have levels upon levels, hidden and revealed.” The unity between the three is explained in two ways:

a) The revealed aspects of the Jews unite with the revealed aspects of the Torah and through this medium, unite with the revealed aspects of G‑d; the hidden aspects of the Jews unite with the hidden aspects of the Torah and through this medium, unite with the hidden aspects of G‑d.

b) The revealed aspects of the Jews unite with the hidden aspects of the Jews which, in turn, unite with the revealed aspects of the Torah. They, in turn, unite with the hidden aspects of the Torah and through this medium, unite with the revealed aspects of G‑d; which are united with hidden aspects of G‑d.

Both these paths are found in the service of G‑d. To return to our subject, the resolution of the above question is found in the teachings of Pnimiyus HaTorah, Torah’s inner truths. In Likkutei Torah, the Alter Rebbe explains how from an inner perspective, this entire passage, though seemingly curses, in truth, is blessings.

In his notes to that discourse, the Tzemach Tzedek quotes a story from the Talmud (Moed Katan 9b) which illustrates this principle. Rabbi Shimon sent his son, Rabbi Eliezer, to receive the blessings of other Sages. They “blessed” him with expressions which superficially appeared to be the very opposite of blessing, nevertheless, when he returned to his father, Rabbi Shimon explained to him how “they are all blessings.”

Thus, it is Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his approach to studying Torah which can reveal how every aspect of the Tochechah is, in fact, a quality of blessing. Indeed, the reason they are recited in a manner which looks otherwise is because their source is in G‑d’s hidden kindnesses which are on a higher level than those kindnesses which are open and revealed.

Torah is called “the Torah of kindness.” Thus, it is impossible that it will contain any undesirable aspects. If something appears undesirable, it is only because G‑d desires to grant us, after carrying out a service of refinement, “a reward that is equivalent to the difficulties.” Because these blessings are from such a high source, it is impossible for them to be openly revealed.

There is another point to be derived from the story: Rabbi Eliezer declared: “Instead of blessing me, they caused me pain.” Rabbi Eliezer surely trusted that the Sages did not curse him. Why did he suffer pain? because he did not understand how their statements were blessings. This pain itself motivates G‑d to help him and reveal the positive aspects contained within, transforming the darkness into light.

This is also related to Tuesday, the third day of the week. Tuesday is the day on which the expression “and G‑d saw that it was good,” is repeated twice. This reveals a higher dimension of good relating to the number three which represents a quality above all boundaries and limitations. Nevertheless, this quality is drawn down and revealed on the lowest planes, “bringing about salvation in the midst of the earth.”

This is also related to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Our Sages relate that once Rabbi Shimon took his students out to a valley. He declared: “Valley, valley, fill up with golden coins,” and the valley did so. This demonstrates how a valley, the lowest point of the world, could be filled with golden coins.

Similarly, Rabbi Shimon maintained that everyone should follow the approach of “Torah is their occupation.” When asked what would happen regarding the Jews’ livelihood? He responded: “Their work will be performed by others;” i.e. the Jews themselves will not have to perform these tasks, however, through the gentiles’ fulfillment of them, the Jews will receive abundant blessings.

5. It is also appropriate to discuss the portion of Rambam studied today which contains the law: “It is forbidden to marry a woman if one intends to divorce her.”

A question can be asked based on the comparison of the relationship between G‑d and the Jews to that of a man and wife. Since the Torah itself proclaims: “This nation will arise and act waywardly and I will forsake them...”, it would thus appear that, at the Giving of the Torah, the marriage between G‑d and the Jewish people, G‑d violated a point of Torah law, for He knew that ultimately, He would “forsake” the Jews.

On the verse, “He tells His words to Yaakov, His statutes and ordinances to Israel,” our Sages emphasize that the Torah is “His words” — what G‑d commands the Jews, He fulfills Himself. Accordingly, we can be sure that there is no divorce as the prophet declares, “Where is the bill of your mother’s divorce?” Surely, there is no divorce. To all appearances’ sake, it may look like divorce, but that is only the outward appearance or perhaps, Mashiach will resolve this question as well.

If this is so — who is stopping Him? At times, the evil inclination will prevent a Jew from performing a mitzvah, but that surely cannot be said about G‑d. If so, the need to cry out and shout “Ad Masai — Till When” becomes even stronger.

Just as a man is obligated to provide his wife with three things; he must give her food, clothing, and fulfill his conjugal duties. The same applies regarding the husband and wife relationship between G‑d and the Jewish people. Hence, we must cry out, raise a genuine clamor....

If we would bang on the tables to the degree necessary, the tables would break — the tables are useful, we lean on them, we put food on them — but is what happens to the tables really important? What’s important is to bring Mashiach, here, in this world!

[At this point, the Chassidim sang “We Want Mashiach Now” for over an hour and half, the Rebbe continued...]

Even during Hakkafos, it is customary to call out, “This concludes the first Hakafah,” “This concludes the second Hakafah,” as the Previous Rebbe once stated: “Unless someone declares, `This concludes the first Hakafah,’ no one will know when the second Hakafah begins.” Hence, someone should call out, “This concludes the first Hakafah.” May the above prepare the way for the coming of Mashiach and may he soon make the most essential proclamation, calling on everyone to proceed to our Holy Land, to Jerusalem, and to the Temple. May it be speedily in our days.

6. In order to hasten the realization of the above, we must add to our deeds and activities. Thus, it is appropriate to mention two other campaigns related to Jewish children:

a) The campaign to bring all Jewish children to hear the ten commandments as they are read from the Torah on the holiday of Shavuos.

b) The campaign to ensure that all Jewish children are enrolled in summer camps which teach Yiras Shamayim — the fear of heaven, Ahavas Yisrael — the love of their fellow Jew, and which contribute to their study of Torah and fulfillment of the mitzvos in the most complete way.

In general, these campaigns should come in addition to the three fundamental activities that should be carried out in every place:

a) Tzivos HaShem — an organization for Jewish children;

b) Kollellim Tiferes Zekanim and Chochmas Noshim — Study centers for the elderly;

c) Chabad Houses — centers of Jewish activity for the ages in between.

At the end of the farbrengen, dollars will be given out by the Mitzvah tankists for the recipients to distribute to charity tomorrow morning. In this regard, the quantity each one takes is not important. Hence, taking one dollar is enough. In contrast, in regard to giving to tzedakah, whoever increases his support both in the form of activities or money for Tzivos HaShem, Kollel Tiferes Zekanim, and the Chabad Houses will be given increased blessings by G‑d.

Also, it is appropriate at this time to stress how all those places which have begun construction of Chabad Houses — also called Beis Oholei Yosef Yitzchok Lubavitch — should complete their construction by Yud-Beis Tammuz. In particular, this applies to the Chabad HouseBeis Oholei Yosef Yitzchok Lubavitch — being constructed for the Previous Rebbe in Eretz Yisrael. No further delays should be allowed. The financial burdens will be met from here and the building should be completed by Yud-Beis Tammuz.

Here, it is also appropriate to mention the study of ChitasChumash, Tehillim and Tanya. May these activities all contribute to the time when the Shechinah which, in Rabbi Shimon’s words, accompanies the Jews wherever they go in exile, will be redeemed from exile together with each and every Jew, with the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days.