1. This Farbrengen is connected with Lag B’Omer. Even though the evening service has been recited and the thirty-fourth day of the Omer counted, there is still a connection between tonight and Lag B’Omer. As in all holy matters, for example, in regard to the pilgrimage for the festivals, one was required to remain in Yerushalayim the night after the festival. The explanation given by the Medrash in regard to the institution of Shemini Atzeres — ”It is difficult for Me (G‑d) to part from you,” applies to this case as well. Because of the dearness of the occasion, it is difficult to separate one from another, and we are asked to remain a little longer. While in mundane matters including even the creation of the world,1 the day begins at night; in holy matters, the night follows the day. In regard to prayer, since it is connected to the material aspects of the world (and is therefore called temporal life), the evening is connected to the following day. However, in regard to Torah, the night follows the day. Therefore, if for some reason one has not completed his daily schedule of Torah study during the day, he can conclude it at night.

In the present case, the connection between the present occasion and Lag B’Omer is intensified. A number of texts mention that the AriZal would journey with his family to celebrate Lag B’Omer in Meron, remaining there three days. The importance of this custom is reinforced by the adage “Anything that is written down is relevant for generations, anything that is printed is relevant for generations upon generations.” Therefore, although it is not explicitly stated whether the three days began on, before, or after Lag B’Omer, since the AriZal began the practice of celebrating Lag B’Omer, not only with great rejoicing as was the desire of R. Shimon bar Yochai, but also for three days, we should emulate his example. Therefore, three farbrengens have been held in connection with Lag B’Omer; the first on Shabbos, another Sunday, and the third tonight, the eve of Monday. Thus, we have an additional opportunity to be together with R. Shimon, to learn his teachings and accept upon ourselves resolutions in the spirit which R. Shimon would have desired. We should try to include in this celebration all whom we can: “our youth and our elders, our sons and our daughters.” R. Shimon cared about all of them, declaring “I can free the entire world from judgment.” Therefore, everyone who is here, and everyone whom these words reach, should use the day following Lag B’Omer to spread matters in which R. Shimon himself was involved.

When this time is utilized in this manner, R. Shimon sends his holy assistance to each individual wherever he is, even to a distant corner of the world. Through connecting his thought and will with R. Shimon he is together, and remains with R. Shimon for three days; as the Baal Shem Tov declares “wherever a person’s thought and will is there he is found.” Thus, those days are filled with great success; success in Torah and Mitzvos in general and particularly in spreading the teachings of R. Shimon, especially as they are explained in a comprehensible manner according to the teachings of the Rebbeim, who have ordered those teachings to be spread fully, to Jews in every country and in every language.2 Therefore, with as much enthusiasm as possible, according to the directive “always proceed higher in holy matters,” tomorrow should be used to spread the teachings of R. Shimon. Surely, care should be taken not to overstep any restrictions that are present in the Omer period. (On Lag B’Omer, these restrictions are relaxed. However, from the following day on they must be heeded.) However, there is no restriction against spreading R. Shimon’s teachings. This should be done in such a way that the teachings will be applied and expressed in deed.

R. Shimon’s basic approach is expressed through his first act upon emerging from seclusion for thirteen years in a cave. Immediately, upon emerging, without waiting for people to approach him, he asked “Is there something I can correct?” When he was told of a problem — a particular path which had a questionable status in regard to ritual purity — he personally went, rather than send someone else, and resolved the issue, declaring the path pure (Shabbos 33b). Despite the high levels in Torah scholarship that he had achieved in the cave,3 his first action was to search for something to correct in the world and thus enable a Jew to serve G‑d more easily.

Hence, tomorrow should be used to spread R. Shimon’s teachings. Furthermore, if someone decides to do so for the next three days, may he be blessed. Through spreading R. Shimon’s teachings we will bring the redemption as the Zohar declares: “With this text of yours Israel will leave exile with mercy.”

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2. The Ma’amarim of Lag B’Omer relate the different qualities of R. Shimon. One of the most frequently quoted stories4 describes how once in a time of drought, R. Shimon’s students appealed to him to bring rain. He expounded upon the verse, “Behold, how good and how sweet it is for brothers to sit together” and rain came. Generally, in similar situations, other sages were able to bring rain through prayer. In fact, Shulchan Aruch states that in a time of drought, we should pray for rain. However, instead of praying R. Shimon was able to accomplish the same goal through Torah, achieving greater results than those brought about through prayer. The Talmud relates the story of Choni HaMagel as an example of the highest level of prayer. However, Choni had to pray a number of times, each time clarifying his request, before the rain fell in a beneficial manner. In contrast, after R. Shimon’s discourse, the rain immediately began to fall in a desirable manner. R. Shimon gave an explanation of a verse in Torah, interpreting a mystic concept. Just as G‑d looked into Torah and created the world, similarly R. Shimon’s teaching had an effect on the world and brought rain.

Although R. Shimon’s discourse on the above mentioned verse brought rain, we must realize that R. Shimon approached the verse as a verse in Torah. He focused first on its simple meaning, then on its deeper meanings, until finally he reached its mystic explanation. This process, in turn, brought about rain. However, R. Shimon’s teachings were true and are relevant, independent of the effect they caused. From this, we understand that the concept of Ahavas Yisroel which is the main intent of the verse “Behold how good...”5 is intrinsically connected with R. Shimon’s service; for the study that reveals his greatness is bound to that verse.

In this context, may those who conducted the Lag B’Omer parades in Eretz Yisroel be blessed. They entitled the campaign for the parade “The campaign for Ahavas Yisroel” and used the slogan “Together all the children of Israel.” Such a program is praiseworthy. It is customary and proper to celebrate Lag B’Omer with parades and parties, reciting verses of Torah and teachings of our sages, praying together and giving Tzedakah.

Even though R. Shimon’s most outstanding quality was Toraso Umanoso — his profession was Torah,6 nevertheless his service was also intrinsically connected with Ahavas Yisroel. An example of the combination of both services can be seen in a story related in the Talmud Yerushalmi. R. Shimon and six of his other colleagues met in Bikkas Rimon to debate whether or not it was necessary to make the coming year a leap year. Their debate was bitter to the point where the Talmud describes it as an example of “the wars of Torah.” However, at the conclusion, they departed with kisses. The “wars of Torah” are fierce7 for the object at stake is more precious than the objective of actual wars. In the latter, whatever the object be: gold, silver, territory, etc., one realizes that his life is worth more. However, in this case, Torah is “our lives,” and hence one’s dedication is greater. For this reason, the Talmud stresses that they shared feelings of love among themselves. When they objected and argued, it was not their personal feelings, but the Torah which burned within them.8 At the end of the debate, when their personal feelings could be shown, they departed with kisses.

Furthermore, the Talmud Yerushalmi (Chagigah 3:1) continues, some of the sages did not have a garment. (They surely were wearing garments because one is forbidden to walk around naked. The statement means they did not have fine garments worthy of being worn by a sage.) Their colleagues took their garments, cut them in half and gave that portion to the others who were lacking. The garments of a sage are very important; R. Yochanan would call his garments “those who honor me.”9 Yet, sages were willing to give the other halves of their garments because of their great love for their colleagues.10 For since the sages were engaged in interpreting a verse from the Torah, it was not proper to do so without the fitting garments. Of all the seven sages, the Talmud tells us, it was R. Shimon who contributed the most to this gathering which was marked by so much love. Thus, we see that R. Shimon’s service was permeated by love.

This concept is also expressed by R. Shimon’s statement “I can free the entire world from judgment.11 R. Shimon’s love extended even to those against whom there was a judgment. The reason behind his love for them is expressed in the verse (Isaiah 5:1) “Yedidyah (a reference to G‑d)12 had a vineyard.” Since the grapes (i.e. the Jewish people) grow in G‑d’s vineyard, even if, at first they appear sour, they will eventually be good. Every Jew will eventually do Teshuvah, for Teshuvah means return (not regret or repentance as it is generally translated). When a Jew does Teshuvah, he returns to his essential self and his true will. As the Rambam declares, whatever a Jew’s situation, his true desire is to fulfill Torah and Mitzvos.13 If one does not do so, it is because his Yetzer Hora, an essentially external factor, forces him not to. In truth, as the Alter Rebbe declared “no Jew can, and no Jew wants, to become separated from G‑d.”

The above applies to ourselves as well. Although the level of Toraso Umanoso, in its literal sense, does not apply to us, we all, even those involved in business, have fixed time of Torah study each day. During those times, we must devote ourselves to Torah in a fixed manner. If so, as our sages declared, “The importance of something fixed can never be negated” and these hours of Torah will have an effect on the entire day. Also, this study must be connected with Ahavas Yisroel, a service which R. Shimon has already “opened the way” of access to us.

The above must begin with Jewish children, including those boys and girls who are behind the iron curtain and those children who live in a country which allows free choice — and they of course should choose Torah and Mitzvos. The Zohar declares “wherever the Jews went into exile the Shechinah is with them.” Not only has G‑d promised to take the Jews out of exile, but He rests within them even while they are in exile.14 G‑d does not sit above in a palace and look down at the Jews; rather He goes with them into Golus. Afterwards, as the Zohar continues, “when they leave Golus, the Shechinah leaves with them.” The Shechinah does not go out of Golus, before the Jews, but it waits, protecting the Jewish people in Golus. When every Jew is ready and prepared to greet Moshiach — (and likewise the nations in the world at large are prepared that their “kings will become your foster fathers, and queens your nursemaids”) — only then will the Shechinah go out with them. The Shechinah will remain in Golus until the last moment and then go, together with the Jews, to greet Moshiach in the complete and true redemption, speedily in our days.

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3. This week’s portion, Parshas Behar, describes the Mitzvah of Yoval, a Mitzvah which parallels the counting of the Omer. The latter includes 49 days, the fiftieth being the holiday of Shavuos. Similarly, after an interval of 49 years, the Yoval is declared.

The same reading also describes the seventh year, the year of Shemittah. This is particularly relevant in the present year which is a Shemittah year. The passage begins “when you come into the land... the land shall keep a Shabbos unto G‑d.” One might think the passage should begin with the following verse: “Six years shall you sow your field and six years shall you prune your vineyard” and then convey the command to rest during the seventh year. However, the intent of the verse is to show that the Jew is above the natural order; that the entire purpose of his work should be to enable him to bring the land to a state where it “shall keep a Shabbos unto G‑d.”

The above is particularly relevant to the parades of children held today. These children must be educated according to the Torah. It is natural for their parents to wonder: how will they earn a livelihood? Torah itself teaches that a father must teach his son a profession; yet a Jew must realize that his income is not dependent upon natural means.

This concept is dealt with later in the same portion of the Torah. The Torah declares “And if you shall say: What will we eat in the seventh year.” G‑d answers “I will command My blessing upon you.”15 The question is legitimate. Since in that year, we will “not sow seed or gather our crops,” it is natural to wonder what the source of our income will be.

This question is relevant today as well. When we approach parents and ask them to give their children a Jewish education, to train them to lead their daily lives in a Jewish manner, the parents immediately ask “What will they eat? How will it be possible for them to make a living?” The Previous Rebbe answered these questions, explaining “Who makes a living? G‑d!” G‑d gives live and sustenance to every man. It is “the blessing of G‑d that brings wealth.” There is no other source besides his blessing.

To receive those blessings, it is necessary to prepare a vessel, which must be clean and pure so that G‑d can fill it with His blessing. It cannot be fashioned through doing the opposite of G‑d’s will. Surely, our sages warn “One should not rely on miracles” as the verse declares “G‑d will bless you in all that you do,” i.e. we must do something. However, our efforts to earn a living must be secondary, with our main efforts devoted to Torah and Mitzvos. Hence, although the child must later find a profession, he will have enough time to do so when he is twenty years old and over; as Pirkei Avos declares “At twenty pursue (a livelihood).” But while he is young he should devote his energies to Torah study, the path which will lead him to being blessed with wealth.

For this reason, as mentioned above, the passage begins “When you come into the land... the land shall keep a Shabbos unto G‑d.” The first step in a child’s education must be directed towards its goal, teaching him from the very beginning that “the land will keep a Shabbos unto G‑d;” i.e. that every aspect of existence belongs to G‑d. Then, even in the midst of his everyday existence, “all of his deeds will be for the sake of heaven.” The child must know that although it is necessary to act within the context of the natural order, he must also understand “the earth and its fullness are G‑d’s.” This path will lead to the fulfillment of G‑d’s blessings “I will be your G‑d and you will be My people... and I will lead you upright.”

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4. The Book of Psalms declares “Out of the mouths of the babes and sucklings, You have established the strength to destroy the enemies and those who seek revenge.” The gatherings of children all over the world have “established strength” — “for there is no strength but Torah” — by reciting verses from the Torah. Furthermore, they have combined these efforts with the recitation of blessings which is similar to prayer, the giving of Tzedakah, and taking upon themselves good resolutions for the future. Hence, we can surely demand from G‑d that He fulfill the rest of the verse and “destroy the enemies and those who seek revenge” in whatever form they exist.

It is proper to continue the momentum of Lag B’Omer at least until tomorrow and if possible longer, until the work of strengthening the impression and the joy experienced by the children in the parades and meetings can be completed. Those individuals who took responsibility for heading the Lag B’Omer Parade should also take a leadership role in this project. May their efforts be successful and may they lead to an increase in the study of Torah by Jewish children.