1. Today is the Shabbos on which the month of Sivan is blessed and which follows Lag B’Omer. As Lag B’Omer occurs on Sunday its connection with Shabbos is intensified; a closer bond is created between the two according to the principle “the end is implanted in the beginning and the beginning is implanted in the end.”1

These two elements are connected through Torah. The blessing of the month is linked with the first of the month, the day on which the Jewish people encamped before Mt. Sinai in order to receive the Torah. Shabbos Mevorchim Sivan adds power to Rosh Chodesh through blessing it, for the one who blesses is higher than the one who is blessed. (Thus, this Shabbos is higher than Rosh Chodesh.) Rosh Chodesh, the “Head” of the month, includes within itself all the days of the month; for just as the head contains the life-energy and controls the functions of all the limbs of the body, Rosh Chodesh includes and controls all the days of the month. Therefore, Rosh Chodesh Sivan also includes the sixth of Sivan, the day on which the Torah was given. Through blessing Rosh Chodesh Sivan, this Shabbos also blesses the sixth of Sivan.2

Lag B’Omer is also connected with Torah, for it is the Yahrzeit of R. Shimon bar Yochai of whom it is said, “Torah is his profession.” On the day of his passing, a Tzaddik’s life-work is culminated; it ascends to its source and subsequently revealed in the lower worlds “causing salvation in the depths of the earth.” R. Shimon’s level of having Torah as “his profession” is revealed on Lag B’Omer (as well as his qualities of being a superior man and a Tzaddik who is “the foundation of the world.”) This quality is elevated further on the following Shabbos3 and then drawn down into the world in a manner of pleasure.4 Thus, the heights attained on Lag B’Omer through the service of R. Shimon’s ascension to its source are superseded on the succeeding Shabbos.5

This year, because Lag B’Omer falls on Sunday, there is a further connection between Lag B’Omer and Shabbos. Both Sunday and Shabbos emphasize the concept of unity. Although the proper Hebrew for the first day would be Yom Rishon the Torah calls Sunday Yom Echod. The Medrash explains that Yom Echod can be interpreted to mean “the day of one.” On that day, G‑d was the Only One in this world; although the entire creation already existed, the world was at one with G‑d.

The concept of unity is also expressed on Shabbos, for it is “a Shabbos unto G‑d.” During the week, a Jew is involved with the refinement and elevated of the world. Before Shabbos, however, the physical nature of the world becomes elevated and it is not necessary to refine the world. This is exemplified in the manner in which a Jew eats. During the week, the purpose for eating is the elevation of the sparks of G‑dliness present in the food. On Shabbos “a Tzaddik eats for the satisfaction of his soul,” in order to derive pleasure, not for the purpose of refinement. This concept is emphasized by the Zohar’s comment on the verse “I will spread the dung of your festivals,” which explains that eating on festivals produces dung while eating on Shabbos does not.

This concept can be understood in connection with the obligation of ‘Hachnosas Orchim’ (offering hospitality to guests). Our sages declare that “Hachnosas Orchim is greater than receiving the Shechinah (Divine Presence),” but there are degrees of obligation in the Mitzvah. On Yom Tov, if a guest does not come by himself, we are obligated to go and search for one. The festival meal must include “You, your son, and the stranger in your gate.” The Rambam gives a severely worded warning to those who do not do so. On Shabbos, however, the obligation is not to search for guests, but invite only those guests who come of their own accord.6 Having guests at one’s table elevates the nature of the meal. Since the physical nature of the food is elevated on Shabbos,7 there is no need to search for guests. However, Yom Tov alone does not elevate the nature of the food. Having guests is necessary to accomplish that goal.

Thus, even the physical activities of Shabbos are connected with G‑d; both Sunday and Shabbos stress the unity of G‑d with the world. This concept of oneness is connected with R. Shimon, who remarked about himself: “I have seen superior men (lit. men of ascent) and they are few... and if there is only one of them it is I.” He shared a unique connection with G‑d as he exclaimed “With one bond, I am bound to Him, my soul is one with Him.” Similarly, oneness is also a quality of the month of Sivan, for Shavuos, its most significant aspect, is celebrated (according to Torah law) for only one day. In Torah Or, the Alter Rebbe explains how G‑d’s unity is revealed on Shavuos.

We must derive the practical lesson inherent in the above; as our sages declared: “Deed is most essential.” Since Lag B’Omer has passed,8 we must see to it that the resolutions taken upon ourselves at that time are fulfilled. We must also make new resolutions concerning the month of Sivan, resolutions which we begin to implement as of this Shabbos, the day on which Rosh Chodesh Sivan is blessed. These resolutions should be connected with Torah, and should exemplify the behavior displayed by R. Shimon bar Yochai in the following story. Upon emerging from the cave after thirteen years, his first action was to ask, “is there something which I can correct?” Similarly, each of us must go into the world and find something which he can correct. Furthermore, one must attract others, encouraging them to also try to correct their portion of the world.

Then, through “spreading the wellsprings of your teachings outwards,” we will hasten the coming of Moshiach, who will teach the entire nation the secrets of Torah, speedily in our days.

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2. This Shabbos the portion Behar-Bechukosai was read. While Behar and Bechukosai are two separate portions, (and in other years are read as such) this year they are combined in one portion.9 Hence, we must learn a separate lesson from each portion and a third lesson from the fusion of both portions.

Behar (meaning the mountain) refers to Mt. Sinai. Sometimes, it is called Mt. Sinai (as in the first verse of this portion); sometimes Sinai — as the opening Mishnah in Pirkei Avos declares: “Moshe received the Torah from Sinai,” and sometimes “the mountain” as in the name of this portion.10 Each of these three terms refers to a different level. As the Medrash explains, G‑d chose Mt. Sinai because it was the lowest of all mountains. Hence, Mt. Sinai refers to a blending of humility with pride. When the term “Sinai” is used, the emphasis is on the quality of humility; when the term Behar — the mountain — is used, the quality of pride is emphasized.

Each of these three levels is applicable at a different time. Generally, our service must include both elements. While humility is necessary, we must also possess “an eighth of an eighth of pride,” ensuring that one is treated by others with proper esteem. There are other times when humility should be emphasized. For example, in order to receive the Torah, absolute self-nullification was necessary. Similarly, Moshe was “more humble than any man11 on the face of the earth.”

There are times however, when our approach must stress pride. Although the Talmud writes in regard to a proud person, “G‑d says ‘I and he cannot dwell in the same world’,” pride is useful at specific times. The Talmud declares that “all the children of Israel are the children of Kings,” the Zohar also refers to them as “Kings.” A King cannot forego the honor due him; — “our Kings, our sages” (and the entire Jewish people) cannot forego this honor.

This principle applies to our relationship with gentiles. Although we are told “Do not provoke even a small gentile” and “the law of the country is law,” this is valid only when no contradiction to Torah and Mitzvos is involved. If such a contradiction arises, we must realize that “our souls never went into Golus,” standing firm, with all the strength possible, to ensure that no concession is made. When a Jew is challenged by something which could weaken his connection with Yiddishkeit and with G‑d, “even the most frivolous and the sinners of Israel” will sacrifice their lives, showing strength and pride in Yiddishkeit.

This type of pride does not contradict humility. A king was not allowed to honor any man in public,12 while in private it is proper for him to honor the sages. The Rambam praises King Yehoshaphot who would rise from his throne when a sage entered his private chambers, kissing him, and calling him “my master, my teacher.”

3. The lesson that can be learned from Bechukosai is as follows: Bechukosai refers to the Mitzvos that are called Chukkim — statutes. There are three categories of Mitzvos. Eidos — testimonies; Mishpotim — judgments; and Chukkim. The Mishpotim consist of those Mitzvos that are understood by our intellect; as the Talmud states, “if the Torah was not given (heaven forbid), we would learn modesty from a cat, etc.” The Eidos are those Mitzvos which commemorate a certain miracle or historical event. They are commands from G‑d that are above our intellect, but we can understand the need for them as an expression of gratitude. The Chukkim are those Mitzvos of which it is said, “you have no permission to think about them;”13 the Mitzvos that are totally beyond our intellectual grasp.

This explanation raises a question: Directly following the phrase “If you walk in My Chukkim” is G‑d’s promise of material blessing; “I will give you rains in due seasons,” and “the land shall yield its produce,” and spiritual blessing “I will be your G‑d, and you will be My people.” How do these promises coincide with the superrational nature of Chukkim? From these promises it appears that the reason we should fulfill the Chukkim is to receive the reward.

The commitment stressed in the Mitzvos that are Chukkim however, should be extended to the other categories of Mitzvos. The Eidos and Mishpotim should be fulfilled, not because we understand them, but because “G‑d sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us.” Therefore, despite the reward promised in this portion, we should show the commitment required by Chukkim. While we must realize that we will receive a reward14 for fulfilling Mitzvos, and be punished if we do not, our intention in fulfilling the Mitzvos should not be for the sake of the reward or to escape the punishment. We should not even desire spiritual rewards. Rather, our motive should be only to fulfill G‑d’s will no matter what the commandment, as the Rebbe Rashab remarked, “even if we were commanded to chop down trees.” Each Mitzvah establishes a bond of connection between the Jew and G‑d. However, we should not seek that connection, but merely try to fulfill G‑d’s will. This commitment must extend beyond the limits not only of our animal soul, but of our G‑dly soul as well. The G‑dly soul must be connected to G‑d, it seeking this connection at all times. As the Alter Rebbe declares, it is not possible for a Jew to consciously break away from G‑d. Nevertheless, Bechukosai teaches us that there is a higher goal than personal connection in our service — the fulfillment of Mitzvos because they are G‑d’s will.

Through the service of “walking in My Chukkim,” proceeding from strength to strength, we will merit to proceed to Eretz Yisroel in the future redemption, speedily in our days.

4. The lesson to be learned from the fusion of Behar and Bechukosai into one portion is as follows:

On the surface the two portions seem opposite in nature. Behar stresses the quality of pride. Each Jew must act as a king, knowing “his soul never went into Golus.” Bechukosai on the other hand stresses self-nullification — “you have no permission to think about them,”15 the transcendence of one’s powers of intellect. However, each one of these services must be stressed in a different time. Before prayer one must meditate on “the humility of man” — this is the time for the service of Bechukosai. After prayer, one must proceed, “from the synagogue to the house of study” — the study of Torah. In this sphere “the meek one does not learn.” Although meekness is considered one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Jewish people, when it comes to “the wars of Torah,” a Jew must adopt a position of strength — the service of Behar.

Because these services are different and appropriate for different times, the portions are usually read separately. However, there are specific times at which they can be combined together. This concept can be understood in terms of the Sifri which writes that the combination of fear and love is “measure of the Holy One blessed be He” but a human being must fulfill the Mitzvos of “Love the L‑rd, your G‑d,” and “Fear the L‑rd, your G‑d” in two different times. Similarly, the Zohar comments that the combination of “smiting the Egyptians and healing Israel” in one moment is a phenomenon which only G‑d is capable of.

Nevertheless, “Tzaddikim are like the Creator.” Just as G‑d can combine both attributes, a Jew can join both services together in the worship of G‑d. The Sefer HaChinuch declares that the Mitzvos of love and fear of G‑d must be fulfilled at every moment. Hence, a Jew must combine both services at all times. Similarly, the observance of Shabbos is bound to both a positive and a negative commandment, but it is through the single activity of resting on Shabbos that both commands are fulfilled.

The combination of these two qualities are applied to our relationship with our fellow man. We must love each Jew “as ourselves,” but at the same time being careful “to draw them close to Torah”16 i.e. to maintain a strong position and not lowering Torah to their level.

Through the love of our fellow Jews, drawing them close to Torah, and doing so with true joy, we will proceed to the Messianic redemption.

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5. In certain segments of the Jewish community, the expression ‘Kiruv Richokim’ — drawing close those who are far — is used to describe the efforts to reach out to Jews who are presently estranged from Torah and Mitzvos. This expression is improper. Our sages tell us that it is forbidden to tell a convert “Remember your initial deeds.” Similarly, it is forbidden to remind a Baal Teshuvah of his previous behavior by calling him a Richuk — someone who is (or was) far away. It is true that the Talmud comments on the verse “Peace, Peace to the close and to the far,” stating “to the far who drew close.” However, it is improper to address those whom we wish to draw to Torah with that expression. For this reason, the Rebbeim never used such phraseology. They stressed the importance of loving all Jews — even one whom we never saw, — but they never used the expression ‘Kiruv Richokim.’

No Jew is ever Rochok — far away — from Yiddishkeit. The only reason the aforementioned text of the Talmud uses the terminology is because “Torah speaks in the language of men.” From the perspective of man, such an individual may be a Richuk, but from the perspective of Torah, Yiddishkeit is close to him.

Hence, there can be no condescension in the attitude with which we reach out to our fellow Jews. We must realize that “more than the rich does for the poor, the poor does for the rich.” When giving charity, the rich must give with a pleasant disposition, without letting the poor man feel that he is poor. The same principle applies in spiritual Tzedakah. In such a case, we are reinforced by G‑d’s promise, “Since you gave life to the poor man... I will remember the Mitzvah you have done... and repay you soul for soul.”

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6. On the verse “even then, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not abhor them nor spurn them so as to destroy them.” The Zohar notes that the spelling of the Hebrew word for “destroy them” — ‘Lechalosum’ — is unusual, allowing it to be interpreted as a reference to a bride (Kallah in Hebrew). G‑d declared “I will not abhor them nor spurn them because she (Israel) is the love of my soul.” The Zohar continues, giving the example of a man who loves his wife and lives in the market of tanners (which has a very bad smell) in order to be close to her. The “market of tanners” refers to the “land of your enemies.” Even when the Jews are in exile there, G‑d’s presence accompanies them.

This concept was explained by R. Eliezer, the son of R. Shimon bar Yochai. After he recited it, R. Yosi, one of his colleagues, told him that his statement caused honor to R. Shimon. At this point, the question arises: R. Eliezer was among the followers of his father “whose profession was Torah.” Furthermore, his level was surpassed by his father alone. He had authored many other statements in the Zohar. Why, after this particular statement, did R. Yosi say he was causing his honor to his father?

This question can be answered in the context of a story of R. Shimon and R. Eliezer. When they emerged from the cave after studying for thirteen years, R. Eliezer destroyed whatever he saw. He could not comprehend how people could abandon eternal life — Torah — for temporary life — worldly matters. R. Shimon however, healed what had been destroyed.

By stressing the love G‑d haves for the Jewish people and how He descends into “a market of tanners,” R. Eliezer departs from his position, that of destruction, and adopts his father’s. For this reason, R. Yosi offered him special praise.

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6. Our sages state that one may “make announcements concerning the need of the public on Shabbos.” This applies even if those “needs” take place a number of days after Shabbos. Hence, it is proper to announce the public fast (for a half-day) declared because of the situation of the world in general and the land of Israel in particular by Agudas HaRabonim that will take place Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan. There (also) has been, as we say in our prayers, “a scheme contrived” and “a plot conspired;” and G‑d’s help is needed to “foil it” and ensure that “it will not materialize.”

The Erev (eve) of any occasion, for example Erev Shabbos or Erev Yom Tov, is a time of preparation so that the Shabbos or Yom Tov can be celebrated in a complete manner. Similarly, Erev Rosh Chodesh prepares for Rosh Chodesh. Fasting on Erev Rosh Chodesh is one of the preparations which will cause all aspects of Rosh Chodesh Sivan to be good and complete.

2. Now, I am announcing my participation in the half-day fast. [The world situation requires fasting. This is particularly true at present.] Since the fast was first announced by Agudas HaRabonim even more undesirable events occurred. It is understood that all those present will participate and the message will be spread as far as possible. Those who cannot fast should redeem their fast by giving money, as the Book of Daniel declares, “Redeem your sins with charity.”

[Although it is only a half-day fast, it will be considered as if one has fasted the entire amount of the time necessary to correct the situation.] This is derived from a similar idea regarding the study of Torah. It is customary to divide the study of the ,Talmud or the Mishnah among different people. If it is impossible for any one individual to finish the study of the Talmud alone, a number of people can join together, each one studying one part; it is then considered as if each had completed the study of the entire Talmud. A similar concept is found in a statement of Talmudic law regarding the laws of Shabbos. If the efforts of two people are necessary in order to complete a certain task, each one is considered as if he had completed the entire task alone. Similarly, in the present instance, our half-day fast will be considered sufficient to correct all that is necessary.

The Agudas HaRobonim have linked the fast with the recitation of certain chapters of Tehillim: 1,20,22,35,38,69,79,83,87, 130,142,150. It is also proper to accompany the fast with an increase in Tzedakah (as is done in regard to other aspects of Torah and Mitzvos). The increase in prayer (our requests to G‑d concerning the world situation) on that day should be coupled with an increase in Tzedakah as the Talmud states, “Give a penny to a poor person and then pray;” as well as an increase in the study of Torah.

May it be G‑d’s will that, as it is stated in Shulchan Aruch, as soon as a fast is accepted, even before it actually begins, the very acceptance has effects that produce obvious, revealed good; surely, the fast itself will bring about positive results.

This is particularly true since a fast causes a Jew suffering and a “loss of fat and blood,” which also causes G‑d to suffer, as our sages commented, “When a Jew suffers, what does the Shechinah say? ‘My head is heavy, My arm is heavy’.”

Surely, all the “schemes contrived” will be “foiled.” Furthermore, the Hebrew word for foiled ‘Tufor’ implies a retroactive effect, correcting the situation at its source. They will “conspire a plot but it will not materialize because G‑d is with us,” for we are one with G‑d.

Particularly, since the fast involves a community, the unified efforts will have an effect. On the verse “Ephraim is joined to idols let him be,” our sages commented: because Ephraim is joined i.e. there is unity among them, then despite the nations’ worship of idols, “let him be.” Furthermore, “they go out to war and are victorious.” How much greater will the effects of unity be when they are connected with Torah and Mitzvos; with prayers, a fast, and Tzedakah. This is particularly true since there will be “Tzibbur” — communities — involved both from the land of Israel and the Diaspora. [Although in regard to many matters, we say “there is no Tzibbur in Bavel” — the center of the Diaspora at that time. However,] (in regard to certain matters, and especially in regard to prayer, the concept of community exists even in the Diaspora.)

[And they will all be united] in a manner of “You all stand. .. before the L‑rd, your G‑d” “together as one.” In such an instance the prayer (and similarly the fast and the Tzedakah) will have effects as our sages commented on the verse “Behold, G‑d is mighty, and He will not despise,” G‑d will not reject the prayers of the many.

All the undesirable influences, those conceived by an individual and those conceived by many, will be negated and there will be “only good for Israel,” always; and may we never have to resort to fasts and similar actions. May we merit the blessing which we have just recited in the communal Torah reading “and I will bring the rains in their seasons” (rain including within it all physical blessings) and “I will be your G‑d and you will be My nation” (which includes within it all spiritual blessings) and “I will bring peace to the land” and “I will walk you upright” even while in Golus, and then “a great congregation will return there” with the coming of Moshiach. May he come and redeem us and lead us upright to our land speedily in our days.