1. The blessing for the month of Sivan, in which the Jews received the Torah, comes from Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan. This blessing is that the month shall be a successful one, as we say in the Blessing for the New Month: “May the Holy One, Blessed be He, renew it for joy, for deliverance and for consolation.” We conclude this blessing with the words, “and let us say, Amen,” meaning these blessings should be translated into reality.

Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan differs from all other Shabbos Mevarchims, in that Av Harachamim” (said before the Mussaf prayer), which is omitted on all other Shabbos Mevarchims, is said on Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan. The reason for this, writes the Alter Rebbe in his Shulchan Aruch, is “because of the decrees [against Jews] which occurred in those days.”

However, these decrees occurred many years before the Alter Rebbe’s times, and the Mitteler Rebbe writes that in our times the decrees have been abolished, and such tragedies (conversions, etc.) will not occur again. Thus, when the Alter Rebbe writes in his Siddur that we say “Av Harachamim” on Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan, those decrees of a previous era did not apply anymore. In general we find that at certain times, special customs and enactments were made. When the situation which produced those customs changed, the customs and enactments were abolished. In our case, since the Alter Rebbe writes that we say “Av Harachamim” on Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan (although the original reason, the decrees, no longer applies), we must conclude that there is a positive reason for saying it.

That reason is that we thereby transform the tragedies and decrees to good, similar to the future era, of which it states (Yeshayahu 12:1) “I will thank You, O’ G‑d, that You were angry with me.” G‑d’s anger refers to the darkness of the times of exile, and the obstacles to fulfilling Torah and mitzvos. We will thank G‑d for the opportunity given us to reveal G‑dliness specifically in such conditions — for the G‑dliness thereby produced is infinitely loftier than if there were no darkness in the first place — “the superiority of light which comes (specifically) from previous darkness.” Greater satisfaction (to G‑d) is derived from transforming something which was previously evil to good, than from something which was always good.

So, too, in our case: By reciting “Av Harachamim” we transform the tragic events of that time into good. “Av Harachamim” means “Father of Mercy,” which is a loftier level than “Av Harachamon,” which means “Merciful Father.” The latter means that the Father (G‑d) is merciful. The former means the Father is the fount and source of all mercies — which transcends all and any limits.

Although the idea of, “I will thank You ‘O G‑d, that You were angry with me,” does not apply in the exile, for the actual transformation of the darkness into light will be revealed only in the Messianic era, something similar to it does happen in exile — at special times. Such a time is when we recite “Av Harachamim” on Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan.

2. Although “Av Harachamim” is recited on every Shabbos (except on Shabbos Mevarchim and when Tachanun is not said), the “Av Harachamim” recited on Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan is unique. There are two levels in the recital of this prayer, and its recital on Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan is the higher level.

To clarify: The Rambam writes in the beginning of the Laws of Fasts that Jews must know that a tragic occurrence does not just happen, but “the evil happened because of their bad ways” — and therefore they should be inspired to repent. This is the reason why we fast on days on which tragic events occurred. At the end of the Laws of Fasts, the Rambam writes that “all these fasts will be abolished in the Messianic era, and are furthermore destined to be Yomim Tovim, and days of joy and happiness ...” — the idea of transforming darkness into light.

We see, then, that there are two levels or steps to a fast: 1) It serves as a source of inspiration to repent; 2) The ultimate purpose — that the tragic event be transformed into good.

So, too, there are two levels in the recital of “Av Harachamim:” 1) As a source of inspiration to repent. When we see that the “Father of Mercy” (G‑d) is dealing harshly with His children (Jews), a Jew should realize it is for the purpose of cleansing His children of their sins — which inspires repentance. However, although this indicates G‑d’s great love for His children, it is still not an evident good — for while G‑d’s deals harshly for a good purpose (to cleanse), the behavior itself is still harsh. 2) The ultimate level in saying “Av Harachamim” is in transforming the undesirable events to good — that there is only evident good, “the superiority of light which comes (specifically) from previous darkness.”

This second, ultimate level in reciting “Av Harachamim” is specifically on Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan. Sivan is the “third month,” which follows Nissan and Iyar. Nissan, the first month, represents the first step in service to G‑d, when evil, darkness, is fought. Iyar, the second month, represents the second step in service, of transforming the darkness into light. Sivan, the third month, is a level which transcends the other two; it is the ultimate in the service of transforming darkness.

This is alluded to in the number three (the third month). The number “one” indicates the absence of any antagonist, similar to the first day of creation when G‑d was one and alone in His world. “Two” indicates there are two things antagonistic to each other. “Three” indicates a level higher than both, through which the antagonist is transformed into good.

In other words: “Three” is a level which reveals the inner aspect of the antagonist — that inside, he too is good. This is why the idea of “Yisrael camped there opposite the mountain” — “as one man with one heart” — took place in Sivan specifically: for the unity of Jews was effected through revealing their inner selves — in which all are equal.

Because Sivan emphasizes the idea of transforming the bad, revealing that in its inner aspect even the bad is good, the second positive level in “Av Harachamim” is on Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan specifically. And it is on Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan, for Shabbos is loftier even than the concept of “three.” Shabbos elevates and completes all the days of the preceding week, including the third day. Thus the distinction of the “third month” (the ultimate in transforming evil) is revealed on Shabbos specifically. Moreover, Shabbos is a “taste” of, and similar to, “the day which will be all Shabbos and rest for life everlasting.” Because the second level in the recital of Av Harachamim is similar to the idea of, “I will thank You, O’ G‑d that You were angry with me” — which will be in the future era — the appropriate time for its revelation is on Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan.

The Mitteler Rebbe, in writing that the decrees of the past will be no more, associates it with the revelation of the esoteric: “In the time of the AriZal...to whom was revealed the true teachings of Kabbalah...the conversions were abolished, and will be no more.” It follows that the greater the revelation of Chassidus, the more of the tragic and undesirable events associated with reciting “Av Harachamim” which will be abolished — and the greater the revelation of the positive aspect of reciting “Av Harachamim” (transformation of evil).

Therefore, although the Alter Rebbe does not explicitly write in his Siddur that reciting Av Harachamim on Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan is for a positive reason, nevertheless, in our times, when we have merited the immense dissemination of Chassidus through the Previous Rebbe, it is obvious that the positive aspect of reciting “Av Harachamim” is emphatically revealed.

Indeed, we see that as the generations progress, the revelations of Chassidus have become greater. The Zohar states that in the 600th year of the 6th millennium, the gates of wisdom will be opened.” Yet, we find that the revelation of the esoteric began even earlier: The times of the AriZal, which from then “it became a mitzvah to reveal this wisdom” — the years 5331-2; a still greater revelation — when the Baal Shem Tov was revealed in 5494; greater still — the revelation of Chabad Chassidus by the Alter Rebbe in 5540.

All this took place before the year 5600. Until then, however, the revelation was not in the manner of “your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside,” which, the Rebbe Rashab said, began after the Alter Rebbe was liberated from imprisonment in Petersburg on Yud-Tes Kislev, 5559.

This too was some years before 5600. Likewise, the Or HaChayim writes that the year 5500 is the time when “the morning comes” — and “morning” is light (Chassidus). We must therefore conclude that the year 5500 — which is the beginning of the 600th year of the sixth millennium — was an auspicious time for when “the morning comes,” but, for some reason, the idea of “your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside” only began on Yud-Tes Kislev, 5559.

Even then, it was only a beginning. As time passed, the revelation increased, until in the year 5600 all the wellsprings burst forth. This continued until the previous Rebbe — through whom Chassidus was spread in the broadest fashion — which is the last preparation to the coming of Mashiach.

We see, then, that after such revelations of Chassidus, the positive aspect in the recital of “Av Harachamim” on Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan is certainly highly emphasized.

The above serves as special inspiration and encouragement to the service of the month of Sivan, since special strength is given from the recital of “Av Harachamim” in its positive aspect. Increased efforts must therefore be made in the service of Sivan, first and foremost in the preparation to Mattan Torah including the unity of all Jews. Likewise, special efforts should be invested in spreading Chassidus, for through it the inner aspect of “Av Harachamim” is revealed.

3. The above applies to Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan of every year. In addition, there are lessons to be learned from 1) the parshah read on Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan this year — Behar-Bechukosai; and 2) the fact that it is the Shabbos which follows — and therefore elevates — Lag BaOmer. And because everything occurs by Divine Providence, we can also learn a lesson from the coincidence of these events occurring on the same Shabbos.

“Behar-Bechukosai” is the name of the parshah, indicating that it is one entity synthesized from “Behar” and “Bechukosai.” “Behar,” which means “on the mountain,” indicates growth, as Chassidus explains, that a mountain represents the aspect of plant life within the mineral kingdom. For a mountain is higher (“grown”) than level ground (a plain).

Parenthetically, scientists say that mountains come into existence as a result of upheavals and gaseous disturbances in the earth’s bowels. They consider this a new discovery. Torah, however, has already revealed this — that a “mountain” is the aspect of growth in inanimate objects.

“Bechukosai” is the idea of “Chakikah,” which means engraving. Something which is engraved (as opposed to written) is enduring and unchanging — which is the exact opposite of the idea of “growth” symbolized by a mountain. “Behar-Bechukosai,” then, which is one concept, is a combination of opposites! This can be achieved only by G‑d, because He is omnipotent.

This is associated with Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan. We explained previously that saying “Av Harachamim” on Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan is similar to the idea of “I will thank You, O’ G‑d, that You were angry with me” which will take place in the future. And we find the synthesis of Behar and Bechukosai also in the future.

In the Messianic era, there will be continuous growth and progress in holy matters, for since they are connected with G‑d Who is infinite, one can always continue to grow in these matters. This is also expressed in Torah study, for in the future, Mashiach will teach all Jews, including our forefathers and Moshe Rabbeinu, the inner aspect of Torah, the esoteric. In regard to the exoteric aspect, it is possible to learn the entire Torah — as Moshe, who “received the Torah from Sinai,” certainly did. Thus Mashiach will not be able to teach Moshe Rabbeinu the exoteric aspect of Torah. The esoteric aspect, however, is infinite. Thus, the infinite progress in the Messianic era is similar to the idea of “Behar,” a “mountain,” which symbolizes growth.

Simultaneously, study in the future era will be with vision. Everyone sees equally, similar to the idea of Bechukosai, which symbolizes unchangeability. Thus Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan, on which the recital of “Av Harachamim” is similar to the future era, is associated with Behar-Bechukosai which is also similar to the future era.

The lesson from this in man’s service to G‑d: On Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan, Jews are in the situation of having transformed darkness into light (as discussed previously). A Jew may therefore think that he has finished his service to G‑d, he has reached the peak of perfection, and has nothing more to do.

“Behar” teaches that a Jew must always grow and advance to a higher level — no matter how good one’s spiritual situation is. Even in the future, when evil and impurity will be removed, a Jew will still progress — in holy matters. And, simultaneously, the idea of “Bechukosai” must also be present.

All of the above is associated with Lag BaOmer, which is Rashbi’s Yahrzeit. Rashbi abolished the division between the exoteric and esoteric aspects of Torah, thereby synthesizing the two. And thus Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan, which is associated with the revelation of the esoteric, is associated with Rashbi. Lag BaOmer is also associated with Behar-Bechukosai, for the synthesis of the exoteric and the esoteric is similar to the synthesis of Behar and Bechukosai.

Thus, when Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan is the Shabbos following Lag BaOmer, extra strength is bestowed for the disseminating of Chassidus — since this Shabbos completes and elevates Lag BaOmer, the Yahrzeit of Rashbi — the esoteric aspect of Torah.

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4. One of the mitzvos in parshas Behar is Yovel (Jubilee). Every fiftieth year is sanctified, with special laws. One of those laws states: (25:10) “You shall sanctify the fiftieth year, and you shall proclaim ‘deror’ (liberty) throughout the land for all its inhabitants....” Rashi, on the words, “and you shall proclaim liberty,” comments: “For slaves, both for him who has had his ear bored through and for him whose six years have not ended since he was sold. Rabbi Yehudah said: “What is the etymology of the term ‘deror’? — ‘As one who dwells (medayer) in a dwelling’, etc — i.e. he dwells in any place which he desires, and is not under the authority of others.”

Rashi is explaining that in the Yovel year slaves are given their liberty. There are two types of slaves: 1) A person who becomes a slave either because he is sold by the courts to pay his debts or because he sells himself. In either case, Jewish laws provides he is set free after six years. 2) A slave who, after the above six years have ended, refuses to be set free and wants to stay as a slave to his master. Jewish law instructs that such a slave have his ear bored through — and then he may remain with his master. When the Yovel year comes, explains Rashi, both these categories of slaves are given their liberty.

Rashi, in explaining this, says, “For slaves, both for him who has had his ear bored through and for him whose six years have not ended since he was sold.” Rashi mentions the slave with a bored era before the six-year slave. This is perplexing. Timewise, the order should be reversed, for the concept of a slave with a bored ear comes into being only after he has served six years. Why, then, does Rashi first mention the slave with a bored ear?

Furthermore, the slave with a bored ear is obviously on a lower level than the six-year slave. Rashi (Shemos 21:6) says that his ear is bored because “the ear which heard on Mt. Sinai, ‘The children of Israel are My servants,’ yet he went and acquired a master for himself — let it be bored.” Thus, when the Torah tells us that slaves must be set free in Yovel, it should be in ascending order. First, the obvious case — the six-year slave who is not so bad. Then it should tell us that even the slave with a bored ear is to be set free. Why does Rashi write it in reverse order?

Moreover, we find in Tehillim (84:4) a bird with the name of “deror” — “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the deror (swallow) a nest for herself.” The Talmud (Shabbos 106b) explains that a deror “does not accept subjugation ... for it dwells in the house as in the field.” According to this, the term “You shall proclaim deror,” fits a six-year slave more than a slave with a bored ear, for the latter did not wish to go free after six years, when he had the opportunity. His nature is totally unlike the deror’s, which “does not accept subjugation.” A slave whose six-year term has not ended, however, does wish to go free, and he does not accept subjugation. He is a slave only because the courts sold him, or because he sold himself out of financial distress. Why, then, does Rashi place the slave with the bored ear before the six-year slave?

Rashi only mentions the name of the author he quotes in his commentary if it will help resolve a difficulty that crops up. It is not a difficulty that the ordinary student perceives, but one that an exceptional student will catch. Rashi therefore does not explicitly answer the difficulty (for most students do not even know there is one), but rather alludes to the answer by mentioning the name of the author (and the exceptional student, by studying the author’s philosophy, will gain the answer to his difficulty). In our case, what is Rashi alluding to by mentioning Rabbi Yehudah’s name?

A further problem lies in Rashi’s words, that Rabbi Yehudah said, “What is the etymology of the term ‘deror’? — ‘As one who dwells in a dwelling,’ etc.” The “etc” which Rashi writes refers to the continuation of R. Yehudah’s words, which are: “and carries on trade in the whole country.” If Rashi considers the words, “and carries on trade in the whole country,” as relevant to understanding the plain meaning of the verse, why does he not articulate them instead of merely alluding to them with an “etc”? And if they are not relevant to understanding the verse, why add “etc”?

The explanation:

Rashi mentions the slave with the bored ear before the six-year slave because Rashi arranges these two categories of slaves in escalating order of logic. That is, Rashi first mentions the category of slave which is not so surprising that he is to be freed on Yovel; and then says that even the second category — for which there is good reason to think he should not be freed — is also set at liberty.

The reason why it is more logical that a slave with a bored ear be set free is based on an elementary idea of justice, and a student knows that Torah is just. When Scripture states that a slave is set free on Yovel, a simple question arises: The owner paid for the slave (both in the case when he was sold by the courts or when he sold himself). Is it then just that he be forced to free him on Yovel?

Rashi therefore first mentions the case of the slave with the bored ear. This slave already served a full six years, completely recompensing the owner for the purchase price. He is still a slave only because he did not wish to leave. Thus, because for the rest of the years (following the first six) the owner did not pay any additional money, it is no wonder the Torah commands he be set free at Yovel.

Rashi then continues to tell us a more startling law — that even a slave who has not finished his first six years of slavery goes free on Yovel!

Then Rashi says, “Rabbi Yehudah said: ‘What is the etymology of the term ‘deror?’ — ‘As one who dwells in a dwelling, etc.’ — i.e., he dwells in any place which he desires, and is not under the authority of others.” An exceptional student will ask: Is the only difference between a slave and a free man that a free man “dwells in any place which he desires?” There are many other aspects in which they differ — dress, food, privileges, etc. Why then does Rashi mention only the difference in freedom of residence?

Rashi answers this question by adding the word “etc” — thereby alluding to the rest of Rabbi Yehudah’s words, “and carries on trade in the whole country.” Rashi tells the exceptional student that yes, there are other differences, such as those alluded to in the “etc” (carries on trade). Nevertheless, the principal difference between a slave and a free man is the ability to live “in any place which he desires, and is not under the authority of others.”

But, continues the exceptional student to ask, why is freedom of residence the principal difference between a slave and a free man. And this question Rashi answers by citing the name of the author — Rabbi Yehudah.

The Talmud relates (Nedarim 49b) that R. Yehudah lived in abject poverty, to the extent that he and his wife shared the same cloak — “R. Yehudah’s wife went out [to the market], bought wool, and made an embroidered robe. When she went to market, she wore it; and when R. Yehudah went [to synagogue] to pray, he wore it. When he donned it, he uttered the blessing, ‘Blessed be He who has clothed me with a robe.’” Rashi explains that he made this blessing because the cloak was so precious to them (since they had no other).

We see how poor R. Yehudah was: Not only did his wife have to make the cloak herself, but they didn’t even have the means to make two cloaks, one for each!

This poverty affected R. Yehudah’s spiritual life. The Talmud continues to relate that, “It happened once that R. Shimon ben Gamliel proclaimed a fast, but R. Yehudah did not attend the special fast service. They told him [R. Shimon ben Gamliel, that R. Yehudah did not attend because] he had nothing to wear [for his wife was wearing it at that time].”

Yet, despite his great poverty, R. Yehudah said: (Pesachim 114a) “Reduce your food and drink and increase [your expenditure] on your dwelling place (house).” That is, R. Yehudah counsels a person to reduce expenditure on food not for the purpose of purchasing clothes (which R. Yehudah was lacking) — but to be able to increase expenditure on one’s house.

Because R. Yehudah emphasizes so highly the importance of a dwelling place, he therefore emphasizes that the principal difference between a slave and a free man is that “he dwells in any place which he desires.”