1. You have now just ended your stay in summer camp, in which you were together with men (and women) dedicated heart and soul, with true self-sacrifice, to the education of Jewish children.

Because each Jewish child is a son of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov, and a daughter of Sarah, Rivkah, Rochel and Leah, there is no doubt that you were successful in fully attaining the goal of camp, which is to show G‑d that you are “fruits” in G‑d’s garden — “Gan Israel” (“the garden of Israel”) or “Emunah” (“faith”), and other summer camps throughout the world which are run in the true Jewish spirit and whose goal is to educate children to be “fruits” worthy of G‑d.

You will surely continue in this spirit throughout the school year which follows your stay in summer camp, for the purpose of a summer camp is to gather physical, and certainly spiritual strength, so that the coming school year will be a proper one.

It is natural to test to what extent the education you received in camp had an influence upon yourselves. In this way, you will be able to confirm how deeply you are immersed in conduct commensurate to G‑d ‘s will.

In what area should this test take place? G‑d’s will is transmitted to us in His Torah, the Torah of life and light, which gives clear and illuminating instructions for daily life. And, as you recited just previously, “The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Yaakov” — everyone who belongs to the “congregation of Yaakov” receives the Torah as a heritage.

In Torah itself there are many mitzvos, some general ones which encompass a number of mitzvos, and others which are particular mitzvos. Of the former category, the mitzvah of “You shall love your fellow as yourself” is not just a general mitzvah, but a “great principle.” In the words of our Sages on this mitzvah: “Rabbi Akivah says, This is a great principle in the Torah.”

A proper test of how successful was your education in camp, therefore, must first and foremost be expressed in the mitzvah which is a “great principle in the Torah.” And because “one mitzvah leads to another,” the fulfillment of this mitzvah will lead to the fulfillment of other general principles in Torah, and also the particular mitzvos.

The lesson in actual deed, then, is that you shall increase in the fulfillment of the mitzvah, “Love your fellow as yourself.” This means that you should convince your friends (boys influencing boys, and girls influencing girls) that they too should be immersed in understanding that the goal of their creation is that “G‑d rejoices with His works” — meaning, that G‑d rejoices when Jews live according to the Torah’s directives, beginning with the command, “Love your fellow as yourself,” which is a “Great principle in Torah.”

The mitzvah, “Love your fellow as yourself” is emphasized particularly today, Tuesday, the third day of creation, of which “It is good” is said twice — “good for heaven and good for creatures.” In other words, this day itself teaches that one can be engaged in the two aspects of “good” — concerning oneself (“good for heaven”) and concerning others, especially Jewish children (“good for creatures”).

However, a special directive is needed to teach how one should influence a child, who wasn’t as lucky as you to spend nine weeks in an authentically Jewish summer camp, to acquire the elements of Judaism that you gained in these nine weeks.

Rambam, who is the “Guide for the Perplexed,” showed the way to whoever is perplexed over something — including the above problem of how to inculcate matters of Judaism into a child who didn’t spend time in an authentically Jewish summer camp. [And as you are surely aware, it has recently become the practice for all Jews, including small children, to regularly study Rambam’s works.]

In his Commentary on the Mishnah, Rambam writes (Sanhedrin 10:1): “Know, that a small child is brought to the teacher to be taught Torah, and this is the greatest good for him ... But because of his young years and immature intellect he does not understand the greatness of that good ... Therefore, the teacher ... must of necessity encourage him to learn with things that, because of his young years, he loves. He should say to him, ‘Read, and I will give you nuts or dates, and will give you a little honey’ ... When he matures, the teacher should say to him, ‘Read and I will buy nice shoes or clothes for you.’ Through this he will endeavor to read ... “ Eventually, the student will reach the ultimate in perfection, and learn Torah only out of love.

We learn from this that every child should learn Torah and mitzvos, even before he reaches the level of comprehension attained after nine weeks of education in camp (to the level where he obtains a “gold star”). For this to be successful, something which attracts him — nuts, dates, candy, shoes, etc — should be found, and the child told:

“Know that all the good things which you desire, G‑d gives them, for He created them (as said, “In the beginning G‑d created the heavens and the earth”). It is therefore worth your while to learn Torah and fulfill mitzvos — for as a reward, G‑d will give you everything your heart desires.”

This, Rambam says, is the way to get a child to engage in Torah and mitzvos. Although at the moment he does so not for its own sake but to receive a reward, eventually he will reach the ultimate level of experiencing feelings of love to Judaism, since he will know and understand that thereby he gives G‑d great joy (“G‑d rejoices with His works”).

Each of you may be assured that when you will truly work hard in the above, you will be success in carrying out the “great principle in the Torah” — “You shall love your fellow as yourself.” This will elicit further blessings from G‑d for your Torah study and observance of mitzvos — and all with joy and a good heart.

* * *

2. The Baal Shem Tov taught that everything in the world happens by Divine Providence, and a lesson for service to G‑d can be derived from it. Thus, in addition to the above lesson from the fact that this rally is being held on Tuesday — a lesson which is relevant to every rally held on a Tuesday, as they usually are — there are additional lessons to be derived from Tuesday of this week — Tuesday of parshas Shoftim, and from today’s date, the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul. Also, we shall explain the directive to be taken from today’s portion of Rambam. Let us now analyze each of the above.

Tuesday of Parshas Shoftim

We said above that Tuesday, when it is “good for heaven and good for creatures,” teaches that one must influence one’s friends in Torah and mitzvos. The Yetzer (Evil Inclination), however, may mislead a child, who as yet does not understand the Torah’s wisdom, into thinking that it is enough for him to influence his friend to follow G‑d’s wishes, while he himself need not be so punctilious in adhering to the Torah.

Parshas Shoftim teaches otherwise. The beginning words of the parshah are, “You shall appoint judges and police in all your gates.” The first thing you must do is to appoint “judges” — a Jew’s intellect and heart, his teacher’s words, whose task — is to judge and ensure that your thoughts, speech and deeds are consonant to G‑d’s will. These “judges should be appointed in “all your gates” — the Bate of your house, the “gate” of your personal domain, and the “gates” to your whole body. And if for some reason the judges are insufficient, “police” must be appointed — spiritual police, who, realizing that the “judge’s” opinion is based on G‑d’s directives, reminds and inspires a Jew time and again to follow the judge’s words.

When a Jew appoints such “judges” and “police” upon himself, he will surely feel the obligation to work hard at all matters of Judaism, and with joy and a good heart.

First day of Rosh Chodesh Elul

The Alter Rebbe gave a parable to the nature of Elul. “The citizens of a city, before the king enters it, go forth to meet him and to greet him in the field; then all who wish are permitted [and are able] to go forth to greet him, and he receives all of them graciously and shows a benign countenance to them all ... So too the month of Elul: We go forth to greet G‑d in the field ... ‘The L‑rd make His countenance shine upon you.”‘

What does this mean? G‑d is with a Jew all year around. But in the month of Elul He is especially close, for then the king (G‑d) is in the field, receiving everyone graciously and with a benign countenance. Hence everyone can then request their needs from the king, and He will surely fulfill them.

That the king is in the field is especially important. When people come to see the king in his palace, they dress in fine clothes worthy of approaching the king. In the field, the people are dressed in ordinary work clothes. The former, the fine clothes with which it is proper to approach the king, corresponds to the time when a Jew engages in Torah and mitzvos. Work clothes corresponds to the times when a Jew is occupied in mundane matters, eating and drinking, for example. At such a time, the Yetzer claims, there is no difference between a Jew and non-Jew, for both are in the “field.” In Elul, however, G‑d is together with a Jew even when he is in the field, dressed in his work clothes. Moreover, G‑d, the King, receives him graciously, enabling him to request all his needs which will surely be fulfilled.

This special status of the month of Elul starts from the first day of Rosh Chodesh, today, when we begin saying the psalm, “By David: The L‑rd is my light and my salvation”, “light” corresponding to the idea of G‑d’s countenance shining upon a Jew — which is the idea of the king in the field.

The daily portion of Rambam

Children of pre Bar/Bas Mitzvah age learn Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos. Today’s portion of Sefer HaMitzvos deals with the mitzvos of shatnez and peah. [Shatnez is the prohibition against wearing a mixture of wool and linen; peah is the commandment that, when harvesting a crop, part of it should be left unharvested, and it belongs to the poor.]

Before we explain the lessons to be derived from shatnez and peah, a word to the adults present at this rally. Although we are addressing children, the concepts spoken about here apply also to adults; we have but presented them in language appropriate to children. Indeed, would it be that the adults know the matters spoken about here the children!

In the prohibition of shatnez, for example, everyone must be most careful to avoid the following misconception. Some people mistakenly believe shatnez applies only to males — when in reality, it applies equally to women as well. Further, commentators discuss whether it is permissible to dress small children in clothes that contain shatnez. The Minchas Chinuch (mitzvah 551), after a discussion of the arguments for and against, concludes that one may not dress a small child in shatnez not just because one is obligated to educate children in mitzvos, but also because Torah law forbids it. Certainly when the child is of mature mind it is prohibited to dress him or her in clothes made of shatnez.

3. We now proceed to derive the lesson from the prohibition of “You shall not wear a forbidden mixture, wool and linen together.” One of the reasons for the prohibition of shatnez is that wool comes from an animal and linen from a plant. Because animal life and plant life are two separate categories in creation, each with its own independent purpose and goal, they should not be mixed together.

Incidentally, there are some instances when two separate categories should be mixed together, as for example, the mitzvah of having delight on Shabbos which is to eat meat (animal life) with spices (plant life). The reason why sometimes it is forbidden and sometimes permitted is that while there is the command “In all your ways you shall know Him,” simultaneously there are some things in which the way to serve G‑d is not to have anything to do with them. Indeed, both these concepts can be present in the very same matter. For example, while it is forbidden to eat certain foods, one transgresses the prohibition against wasting if he destroys that food.

Torah, which gives instructions for everything, provides examples for everything — in our case, that sometimes it is forbidden and sometimes mandatory to mix different categories: the example of the former — not to mix animal life with plant life (shatnez); the example of the latter — the priestly garments, which had to be made of a mixture of wool and linen. This dichotomy is expressed by our Sages when they said, “Everything that Torah has forbidden us it has permitted us an equivalent.

What does the prohibition against mixing animal life with plant life teach us? It is written (Devarim 20:19), “For man is a tree of the field.” A Jew is first compared to a tree — plant life. As he progresses in Torah and Judaism — through the proper education — he rises to a higher level, that of animal life, until he reaches the level of “one who speaks” — intellectual man.

The prohibition against shatnez teaches that the mode of service of a Jew on the level of “plant life” should not be mixed with that of a Jew on the level of “animal life” or “intellectual man.” For example, we said above that to convince a child, who did not receive the education you did in summer camp, to keep Torah and mitzvos, he should be promised candy and other tempting things. This approach, however, is suitable only for a child who is on a low level, that of “plant life” — for the only way to convince him to observe Torah and mitzvos is to promise him or her candy. But you, who received a proper Torah education, should not have the attitude that you must receive candy before learning Torah. You have reached the level of “intellectual man,” and understand that Torah study and observance of mitzvos effects that “G‑d rejoices with His works.” You would not be so foolish as to think that you must be given candy before you will cause G‑d to rejoice with His works!

The lesson from shatnez, then, is that one should not mix together the levels of service of “plant life” and “animal life” and “intellectual man.” Each person must fulfill the service commensurate with his level.

The second mitzvah discussed in today’s portion of Sefer HaMitzvos is peah. In the words of Rambam: “He has commanded us to leave the corner of the grain [fields] and the tree [orchards] and things similar. G‑d has said ‘You shall leave them’ — “When you the harvest of your land, you shall not completely harvest the end of your field ... you shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger.

Parenthetically, this is particularly associated with Elul, which, we explained above, is the time when G‑d is found in the field with all Jews. When a Jew enters the “field,” the first thing he is reminded of is the mitzvah of peah.

This mitzvah, to leave some of the produce for the poor, those who do not own their own fields, has parallels in service to G‑d. There are some people who have not had the merit to be taught how to rise from the level of “plant life” to “animal life” and eventually to that of intellectual man — as every Jew should do. The mitzvah of peah teaches that one should care about these people too: They should be brought near to Torah and its mitzvos until they too will openly be on the level of “man.

There is another lesson to be derived from the mitzvos of shatnez and peah. The mitzvos in general are divided into two categories: 1) Positive mitzvos — matters to which a person should be brought near to enable him to do a positive action, such as the mitzvah of peah, which is the idea of Ahavas Yisrael, helping the poor; 2) Prohibitive mitzvos — matters from which a person should be kept far away so that he should not be in contact with them, such as the prohibition against shatnez.

While one must be occupied in both these types of service, they should not be mixed together. There are aspects of service to G‑d which fall into the category of drawing near, such as Ahavas Yisrael, tzedakah, peah etc; in general, positive acts, beginning with the recital of Modeh Ani first thing in the morning — “I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is Great.” Then there are things from which one must keep far away, such as not touching food in the morning before washing one’s hands.

Each thing, then, has its appropriate type of service. When dealing with other Jews, for example, it should be in the manner of drawing near, with kindness — with love of a Jew. One must therefore be extremely careful not to speak harshly against a Jew, but instead to seek out his good qualities and to bless him with all types of blessings and success.

That the two general categories of service — drawing near and keeping afar — should be kept separate is also stressed in the idea of shatnez. Besides the fact that wool represents “animal life” and linen “plant life,” Chassidus explains that wool corresponds to the idea of loving-kindness and linen to the concept of severity. The prohibition against mixing wool and linen together means that one should not mix together the two types of service of loving-kindness and severity, which are the equivalent of drawing near and repelling.

May it be G‑d’s will that through the proper conduct in all of the above we speedily merit the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach. Then all Jews will go to our holy land, and each Jew will receive his portion of the land, thereby enabling him to fulfill the mitzvah of peah.