The world is realizing the old Talmudic idea "according to the effort is the reward" (Avot 5:21), or in a colloquial version "no pain - no gain". Personal change requires effort, so don't rely on quick fixes. One of the classic Jewish methods of personal change is the idea of making a periodic spiritual inventory. Chassidic lifestyle requires that this inventory be done daily, before sleep; monthly, at the end of a month; and twice yearly, on a birthday and before Rosh Hashanah.

Once, the Lubavitcher Rebbe suggested making this self-evaluation at the beginning of the month of Iyar! Have we taken in the full impact of last month, Nissan, the month of redemption? By the end of Nissan we should have absorbed all the miracles of the month and be living in a redemptive state of mind!

Our own personal redemption and the final universal redemption are dependent on how we act…

Have we focused our perspective to see that both our own personal redemption and the final universal redemption are dependent on how we act? Are we ready to take this consciousness into the new month? Now that it is Iyar, if each of us will take the next step towards truly living Judaism, we will undoubtedly accomplish our goal. This idea is reflected in the first word of this week's Torah portion: "Kedoshim" - meaning "sanctified" and "separate". The message is not to remove ourselves from the world, but rather to utilize our "Nissan" ability to elevate it and help it attain its full potential in this era of Mashiach! Jews are supposed to impact their environment - not the other way around. This Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat are a rare opportunity. Make the effort.

Rabbi Yechiel Michel of Zlotchov had certain important principles he felt should guide a person's life: First, we must search within our Torah learning for divine messages of better ways of serving G‑d. Second, we must be mindful of the power of speech; Reb Michel was careful that his words not harm anyone, and he always emphasized that whatever he said to someone else was meant first for himself - if it did not apply to "Michel", then he questioned whether it applied to others at all.

The source of all speech is in the supernal worlds…

He explained and asked us to picture that the source of all speech is in the supernal worlds, which descends to us via divine vessels. Humans are the final vessel and vehicle for the expression of speech. As custodians of this divine element, it is our important responsibility not to harm or taint the divine gift of speech. Furthermore, speech used for Torah study, and prayer can transform us for the better. Therefore, rather than being abused, our faculty of speech must be protected. If mistreated below, speech is affected in its source above.

"A person should be in awe of his mother and father." (Lev. 19:3)

Now, just as in the physical worlds our father and mother are our source in that they grant us life and provide for our needs, so too exist spiritual worlds (partzufim) called "father" (Abba) and "mother" (Imma). These are the spiritual sources of all other worlds, including the source of speech, which is subsequently actualized in our world when we talk.

'Chodesh Iyar tov!