1. It is customary, that having spent time together during the holidays, days of inspiration and farbrengens, when the time comes to part, we gather one more time in order to reemphasize our unity.

The purpose? to indicate that even when everyone will travel home it will not diminish our unity. The distance between us could sometimes weaken the feelings and thoughts that unite us. This gathering reiterates our continuing unity in thought, speech and even action. The Holy One, Blessed be He, gives every Jew the power to continue doing good deeds which unite Jews in action, in feelings as expressed in speech, and also in thought, which engenders true unity.

When someone sets out on a trip to a place where there will be no food available, he stocks up on food before he leaves. Similarly, when we travel apart we must stock up on Jewish unity, by gathering together and emphasizing our unity even more strongly than usual. It will then be easier for us to actually express our unity and increase our good acts.

We are in a house of Torah learning and:

The purpose for which the whole Torah was given is to bring peace upon the world. (Rambam, Laws of Chanukah 4:14)

Among Jews, it will be not only peace, but also true unity.

This is also a place of prayer, a synagogue, and the basic theme of prayer is associated with unity, for we pray to the One G‑d:

Hear, O Israel, the L‑rd is our G‑d, the L‑rd is One. (Devarim 8:4)

The AriZal explained that before one can approach the Holy One, Blessed be He, to pray for his own needs, he must first connect himself with the Jewish people, by saying at the outset of the daily prayers:

I hereby take upon myself to fulfill the mitzvah, “Love your fellow man as yourself.” (Siddur)

This expression of love and unity is not affected by distance, as the previous Rebbe explained that one must love a fellow Jew who lives on the other side of the globe — even if they have never met!

It is also not dependent on spiritual distance, from the heads of the community to the water carriers, all are united and one.

This is also a place of tzedakah where we speak and encourage people to give charity and we also fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah in practice. And tzedakah is an expression of Ahavas Yisrael.

Therefore we have a three-ply cord, representing the three pillars on which the world stands. Being connected to the theme of unity, makes this place a propitious place, with special powers to effect true unity which will penetrate the essence of every Jew in thought, speech and deed from the smallest to the greatest. Small children, from birth, must be trained and educated in the ways of Yiddishkeit to be filled with faith in “G‑d is One,” and to live with the “One Torah.” By doing the mitzvos of life — living with the mitzvos — this brings unity.

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Every day brings with it special insights in concert with Providential circumstances, for each day has a unique Divine service, unique potential and a unique fortune (mazal).

Let us first look to Torah in the section pertaining to this day. The portion of this week is Kedoshim and the section for today is the second reading section of Kedoshim.

Being called Kedoshim, “You shall be holy,” in the plural form, indicates two general states of Jewish holiness, the holiness of the soul and the holiness of the body. The Zohar describes it this way:

Their body is holy, their soul is holy.... (Zohar III, 70b)

The Torah continues, “for I am Holy.” This means that the two states of holiness are bound up with the holiness of G‑d. After all, the source of Jewish holiness is G‑d’s holiness, “You shall be holy because I am holy”; our holiness is an evolving holiness. In fact it forms a three-ply cord. The holiness of G‑d which effects the two states of holiness of the Jew.

More specifically, we may relate to the “part of G‑d” which is in every Jew that causes the soul and body to be holy. Just as there is no change in G‑d’s state of holiness, similarly there will be no modification in the essential holiness of the Jew — it will not be affected by the vicissitudes of time and place.

Therefore, even when Jews must take leave of the Torah center and proceed away from the place (and time) of unity and togetherness, no change is effected in their essential holiness. In fact, their activities will lead to an increase of holiness, for just as G‑d is Ein Sof (infinite) so, too, must the holiness of the Jew increase from time to time, advancing towards the infinite.

This thought may be associated with a verse in the psalm which we concluded during the period that you were all here together:

They stride from strength to strength, to appear before G‑d in Tziyun. (Tehillim 84:8)

A Jew’s Divine service in the theme of “You shall be holy,” can never be satisfied with the present state — he must always in-crease from “strength to strength.” To the point of cleaving to G‑d as He is revealed on the loftiest level — way beyond the state attainable through normal human achievements.

It is in consequence of this activity that we find in the following psalm:

O, let us behold Your lovingkindness O L‑rd, and Your salvation, O grant it to us. (Ibid. 85:8)

“Let us behold Your kindness,” may the initial stages always be benevolent in a manner that we can “see” the goodness which comes from the name Havayah, the supernal attribute of mercy, which is also the Ineffable Name and the Intrinsic Name.

And this is “Your lovingkindness” directly from the Holy One, Blessed be He, who sustains us with His kindness — above measure and regulations — eternal and infinite. “For His kindness is everlasting” (Tehillim 136).

The verse ends: “And Your salvation, grant it to us.” Since we are bound by the physical limitations of soul in body, we await G‑d to give salvation to each and every one of us, including the ultimate salvation — the true and complete redemption — which will come with unstoppable momentum, the kindness of “Havayah,” speedily and immediately.

Having spent time together in a loftier state of holiness you now approach the time of leave-taking so as to return home and continue the important work of refining the world. At this point you must take the lesson of Kedoshim, to increase holiness. The Jew is unified with G‑d and he is filled with the thought that “there is none besides Him — G‑d.” Yet, he also is aware that it is by fiat of the Divine will, that from the true existence of G‑d there should emerge the created world in all its multifariousness. This includes, of course, the Jewish people, whose role it is to make the world a dwelling place for G‑dliness.

Consequently, when a Jew goes out into the world and has dealings with non-Jews, his prime thought must be not to be embarrassed or intimidated, for he must remember that he is the master of the world which was created for his sake.

Coming from Pesach, the Season of Our Freedom, we have true freedom, from any non-conforming forces to the Jewish spirit. At the exodus every Jew’s nature assumed the characteristic that it can never condone slavery or servitude. We are servants only to G‑d and we find pleasure only in G‑dly things and act only according to G‑d’s will.

To be under the control or influence of worldly powers is completely foreign to us by nature. In this capacity the Jew creates a dwelling place for G‑d in the lower worlds and motivates the gentiles to observe the Seven Noachide Laws. All this speeds up and draws closer the promise:

..and kingship will be the L‑rd’s. (Ovadiah 1:21)

Then all will see in a revealed way that the true existence of the world is only spiritual.

And the glory of the L‑rd shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.... (Yeshayahu 40:5)

In today’s reading section we have the verse “Love your neighbor as yourself” of which Rabbi Akiva said “this is a basic principle of the Torah,” which lays the foundation for the principle of Jewishunity. It must also be an important rule in the life of every Jew, not only in Torah. For man may be compared to Torah. So that Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity must permeate his entire essence and all his powers, including thought, speech and deed.

As a result, after taking leave of one another and being far apart — all thought, speech and action are infused with the feelings of “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

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In the Rambam study section for today we learn the laws of half-shekel. The Rambam writes that the mitzvah of half-shekel applied only when the Beis HaMikdash stood. When we have no Beis HaMikdash we are not able to fulfill the mitzvah of the half-shekel, but we can carry out the spiritual intent of this mitzvah connected with the Temple even though we do not have a Holy Temple.

This principle of spiritual observance is especially appropriate in the case of the half-shekel, for we know the halachah that erev Purim we donate a half-shekel or half the standard monetary unit to charity as a remembrance of the mitzvah of the half-shekel (See Orach Chaim 694). Although we now are leaving the holiday of Pesach, still there is a connection between Purim and Pesach, for one redemption was brought close to the other redemption (Purim to Pesach).

What was the theme of the half-shekel? to count the Jewish people and to serve as atonement for their souls. This donation of half-shekels had three aspects. As we know, the term “Terumah” (an offering) is mentioned three times in connection with the half-shekel, which is why today, too, we give three “half” coins when we fulfill the symbolic half-shekel donations of Purim eve.

The half-shekel established the count of the Jewish people; in that sense it represents the unity of the people. Likewise, in a spiritual sense by effecting atonement in the place of sin it brings spiritual unity in the place of dissent.

Two additional functions were attributed to the half-shekels. (1) The silver bases for the walls of the Mishkan were made out of the half-shekels; and (2) after the Sanctuary was built the communal sacrifices were brought with the money of the half-shekels.

What would these signify in the spiritual sanctuary of the Jewish heart, relative to the Divine service of a Jew?

The Torah says “Make Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell among them” this means that in the heart of each Jew there is an inner spiritual sanctuary which provides a dwelling place for the Shechinah. When the individual spiritual sanctuaries function properly, then G‑d also dwells in the communal Tabernacle, and then we have the potential to make the whole world a dwelling place for G‑dliness. All this is connected with the half-shekel which provided the foundation of the Sanctuary and the sacrifices of the Sanctuary.

The sacrifices symbolize the attitude of drawing close to G‑d — especially the daily morning and afternoon sacrifices.

By carrying out the spiritual aspects of the half-shekel — we effect also the atonement of the half-shekel and bring the unity of the Jewish people.

Here we find an interesting aspect pertaining to the law of half-shekel as expressed by the Rambam:

Moreover one was not allowed to pay the half-shekel in several installments, a little today and a little tomorrow, but he had to pay it all at once in a single payment. (Laws of Shekel Dues 1:1)

In a person’s Divine service this means that the bond between a Jew and Yiddishkeit and thereby with the Holy One, Blessed be He, comes about through the Holy Shechinah — and it cannot be piecemeal, but it must be all at once — at the first moment that one decides to unite with the Holy One, Blessed be He, he must dedicate his total existence, instantaneously — all at once.

Similarly, in dealing with another Jew, the half-shekel indicates that only when two Jews unite can there be a complete shekel. So when you speak to another Jew about Yiddishkeit — you must stress that the commitment to Judaism cannot be piecemeal — it must be a total dedication all and at once.

The half-shekel stresses the essential connection and unity of Jews and Yiddishkeit and thereby with the Holy One, Blessed be He — “G‑d is One,” to the point that all unite as one — “the Jews, the Torah and the Holy One, Blessed be He, are all one.”

There is another, more profound thought, which may be discussed in connection with this verse, that speaks of the atonement of the half-shekel.

Rashi explains that G‑d showed Moshe the image of a “coin of fire” and told him that the Jews must give a half-shekel similar to that one. The Midrash says that the Holy One, Blessed be He, took a coin of fire from “beneath the Throne of Glory” and showed it to Moshe as a sample of what the Jews should give. In Pirkei d’R. Eliezer this story is mentioned and it goes on to say that G‑d showed, as it were, the half-shekel to Moshe with the fourth finger of His right hand, to indicate what the Jews must give as atonement.

Moshe had wondered how we can achieve atonement by giving. All three answers (Rashi, Midrash, Pirkei d’R. Eliezer) contribute a level-by-level explanation. When a Jew gives a half-shekel with the fire of a Jewish soul, then the Holy One, Blessed be He, gives him the potential to transform the corporeal silver coin into a fiery medallion and it is the same coin which G‑d showed Moshe. On a higher level, the coin can be drawn from the Throne of Glory. The loftiest level would be when he gives with such fire that it is from G‑d’s right hand!

Thus, when a Jew gives money for tzedakah, Yiddishkeit, building a Mikdash — it is a fierymedallion from the ThroneofGlory given by the right hand of G‑d!

The three levels in giving the half-shekel are revealed to us in three different sources which we may analyze in descending order. Pirkei D’R. Eliezer represents the teachings of R. Eliezer the Great who attained the absolute loftiest levels of Torah. The Midrash relates that when Moshe ascended to the heavens he heard the Holy One, Blessed be He, say: “I will recite a halachah in the name of its author...R. Eliezer, My child, says, etc.” (Tanchuma, Chukas 8). Moshe prayed to G‑d that R. Eliezer should be of his progeny, to which the Holy One, Blessed be He, agreed.

Moshe, the source of Torah, was amazed by the teachings of R. Eliezer the Great. Thus, in his teachings we find the highest level of atonement from the hand of G‑d. Later, in the Midrash, the atonement is represented by the less awesome term “from the Throne of Glory” and finally when this teaching reaches the more commonplace level of Rashi’s “plain meaning of Torah” it is represented simply by the term “coin of fire.”

Our Divine service, however, must follow a path in ascending order: first a fiery coin, then from the Throne of Glory, and finally, the loftiest level of G‑d’s right hand.

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It is appropriate that we associate with the three-ply cord of Torah, prayer and tzedakah. We are in a place of Torah, prayer and charity and having spoken words of Torah let us express the prayer that “May it by Thy will...may the Beis HaMikdash be rebuilt speedily in our times.” And I will give each of you money for charity, thereby making you “messengers of a mitzvah.”

And may this three-pronged action bring success in all we have spoken of in the manner of chazakah, true accomplishment, eternal and powerful. May you all travel with success and reach your destinations to find everyone enthusiastically involved in matters of Yiddishkeit, with much success — and Chassidic warmth — happiness and glad hearts, health, etc. Mainly let us all prepare for the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash — the eternal house of G‑d — which will come with the third and ultimate redemption.

We will then attain true perfection — the complete nation, complete Torah and complete land.

May it come speedily and truly in our days.

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2. In addition to all the blessings and words of Torah expressed earlier, which also apply to all of you, I wish to express a special blessing to those who have reached the age of bar-mitzvah (and bas-mitzvah), when you reach the age of responsibility for mitzvos.

This responsibility brings great merit, as the Mishnah states:

The Holy One, Blessed be He, wanted to make the people of Israel meritorious; therefore He gave them Torah and mitzvos in abundant measure. (Makkos 23b)

May G‑d assist you and grant you success to study Torah and fulfill mitzvos as one who is commanded and observes, with enthusiasm, joy and glad hearts, especially in keeping with the teachings and empowerment of the portion Kedoshim, that holiness can penetrate the utter essence of the Jew, by studying Torah and doing mitzvos with joy and gladness.

In the blessings I include also those who have educated you to this point — the teachers and counselors as well as the education given by the fathers and mothers who raise their children to Torah, chuppah and good deeds from the time of formal education and even from the time of birth, as Jewish custom designates.

Here we see how much one must increase his Torah and mitzvos after bar-mitzvah.

Before bar-mitzvah you also carried out mitzvos with enthusiasm and the spirit of the G‑dly soul which always wanted to fulfill all the mitzvos. The Alter Rebbe explained on the verse, “Hear, O Israel, the L‑rd is our G‑d, the L‑rd is One,” that a Jew does not want to, nor can he be cut off from G‑dliness, G‑d forbid.

Now, how much more so, when the boy becomes bar-mitzvah, he must fulfill Torah and mitzvos with even greater enthusiasm, and with greater strength than he had shown before becoming responsible for Torah and mitzvos.

Now, being bar-mitzvah, he must increase and add to the illumination of the world, and the increase must be as one who is commanded to do. More attention, too, must be given to beautify the mitzvos, with Chassidic enthusiasm. Through this activity we will merit the true and complete redemption.

This is hinted at in the first Mishnah of the Talmud: “From what time may one recite the Shema in the evening?” (Berachos 2a). By uniting with G‑d in the darkness of the evening, the galus, we will merit to read the Shema in the morning, at the time of redemption — the time of light and daybreak, speedily and truly in our days through our righteous Mashiach.

Tzedakah brings the redemption closer. I will give each of you, the parents who educated you, and the bar-mitzvah boys (as well as the girls of bas-mitzvah) a dollar bill for Tzedakah which will make you “messengers of a mitzvah.”

It should be reiterated that there is a custom to give charity on the day of bar-mitzvah — if it occurs on Shabbos or Yom-Tov the tzedakah should be given before or after Shabbos. Better still, before and after. It is also customary to recite and to study Psalm 14 in Tehillim.

May it be the will of G‑d that all the preparations for the bar-mitzvah should be with great success in the spirit of Yiddishkeit and Chassidus. The main point being that you (parents) have merited to set up Tzivos Hashem, Jewish children, especially those who have reached the responsibility of mitzvos.

And may we all leave the galus with a raised arm — for in the galus we already had light. So may it be for us:

As in the days of your coming out of the land of Mitzrayim I will show you marvelous things. (Michah 7:15)

With the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach, speedily and truly in our time.

* * *

3. In addition to all the earlier blessings which included all Jews, when a special theme is added in Jewish life, especially one so basic and fundamental as marriage, then the blessings are also increased and special blessings are bestowed upon the groom and bride and all matters connected with the wedding.

May all the preparations for the wedding take place in a good and auspicious time, and with great success. Even more so, may the wedding and the seven days of celebration be blessed. May you have many long years together and be blessed with children and grandchildren involved in Torah and mitzvos: “The generation of the upright will be blessed” (Tehillim 112:2).

May you merit that your homes will be open for abundant blessings: “Let your house be a meeting place for sages” (Avos 1:4). And the term a “mini-sanctuary” for the indwelling of the Shechinah, should truly apply to your homes. This will serve as a preparation for the true great Temple — the Third Beis HaMikdash, which will come with the true and complete redemption which is associated with every marriage as we say in the Seven Benedictions:

Let there speedily be heard in the cities of Yehudah and the streets of Yerushalayim the sound of joy and the sound of rejoicing, the sound of a groom and the sound of a bride. (Siddur)

May it come speedily with the true and complete redemption.

It is customary that the groom and bride give charity on the day of the wedding — more than on an average day. Great is charity in that it brings the redemption nearer (B. Basra 10a). It would be beneficial that the parents and relatives should also donate to charity for the merit of the groom and bride.

May these good actions increase G‑d’s blessings in all areas and bring the ultimate blessing — the true salvation, through our righteous Mashiach. Then we will truly hear “the sound of joy... groom and...bride.”

Until then may we be blessed with “light,” even in the diaspora, and with this light and joy we will prepare for Mashiach even as we prepare for the weddings — including all who will participate in the wedding and the seven days of rejoicing.

May all the blessings be in overabundance, till the true and complete redemption — with joy and glad hearts.