This Shabbat marks a day in the Hebrew calendar known affectionately as “Chai Elul.” This day, the 18th of the Hebrew month of Elul, is the birthday of both the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism and Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first leader of the branch of Chabad Chassidism. These two great Rabbis brought new direction to the Jewish world and the dramatic effects of their efforts can be felt in full force today. One of the main campaigns of the Baal Shem Tov was that of unconditional Ahavas Yisroel – love of one’s fellow Jew.
This theme is very well expressed in this weeks Torah portion. We are commanded to bring up fruit of thanksgiving to the Temple. Interestingly, this particular commandment of thanks is only able to be fulfilled when the entire Israel is conquered and settled. This teaches us that although thankfulness is a personal thing, we can never be completely thankful and joyful when our brother is suffering. And with this sense of unity and connection, G-d will surely accept our prayers.