Our Sages tell us that the destruction of Jerusalem, the Holy Temple that stood on temple mount and the subsequent exile of our people from the land of Israel came about because of unwarranted hatred.
If we are to achieve the dream world our saintly prophets speak of, known also as the Messianic era, we must take actions to become more loving.
Rarely will you meet a person who thinks of themselves as “hate filled”. We humans are wired to be very forgiving when it comes to ourselves.
Warning: If you are not in the mood of judging yourself then you may want to stop reading right here.
For the rest of us, perhaps some important questions can assist us in shedding light on our character and help us achieve a state of true love for our fellow.
1. Do you say hurtful words to others that make them feel bad about themselves?
2. Does your opinion leave room for someone else’s?
3. Do you ever truly agree to disagree and put your differences aside?
4. Do you judge yourself with the same severity that you judge others?
5. Do you speak gossip?
6. Do you listen to gossip?
7. Do you think in gossip?
8. Do ever feel agitated by people around you because they “just don’t get it”?
9. Are you kind and generous to people who you think are inferior to you?
10. If your challenger were to be asked about you what do you think would be said?
Is there room for hate? Absolutely! We must hate acts of evil. We must hate speech of evil. We must hate any expression of evil. We must do everything within our power to rid this planet of evil behavior, but our premise and foundation must be one of love.
If we want a world of love we must become a nation of love. We have been suffering the consequences of hatred for more than 2000 years! Is that not enough???
“Love your fellow like yourself.” Right. Like that’s really possible…?
You are 100% right. This Mitzvah certainly needs explaining:
Firstly, is love a measurable commodity? Is it really possible to regulate exactly how much one is supposed to love another? Secondly, is it reasonable to expect of someone to love even one person as much as him/herself? And here the Torah is demanding this level of affection for every Jew!
“Love your neighbor as yourself,” seems to be a nice cliché. It’s a nice proverb you’d expect to stumble upon in a touchy-feely how-to-improve-your-character book. But this is the Torah we’re talking about over here; Torat Emet – the Torah of Truth, the wisdom of the True G-d, whose every word is true and exact.
In a brilliant Chassidic discourse, Rabbi Menachem Mendel (the third Rebbe of Lubavitch 1789-1866), explains that the Torah is not delineating the amount of love one must have for every Jew; instead, we are being instructed on the kind of love which is demanded of us.
A person’s love and care for his/her own self is unconditional. This love doesn’t waver even when annoyed or upset about having done something foolish or thoughtless. In fact, this person’s self-love is precisely the reason why he/she is so irked. Dwelling on our own deficiencies doesn’t cause us to lose our self-love; it only causes us to search for ways to improve.
The Torah expects us to view another’s faults in the same light. Your fellow Jew’s faults aren’t reason to distance yourself from him/her, rather they should generate a feeling of empathy and a determination to do whatever it takes to help this person be the person that he/she can and wants to be.
What is Ahavat Yisrael?
“Ahavat Yisrael” means “love of Israel”—but who’s Israel? We don’t mean the country here. Israel is you. Israel is me. Israel is all of us. All Jews alive today together comprise this massive thing called “Israel.” And that’s why Israel the country has that name—because it’s the place that is home to “Israel”: all Jews. So, “love of Israel” means love of fellow Jew.
Love of fellow Jew is based on the Torah, where it says, “Love your fellow as yourself.” It’s an attitude—a friendly, helpful attitude towards fellow Jews.
Ahavat Yisrael is a spiritual approach to life that produces physical results—friendship, kindness and unity amongst Jewish people. This spiritual approach says we are all little sections of the same cosmic entity, kind of like how those little robots on those TV cartoons all merge to form one giant robot. We are all part of each other, and if we hurt each other, we’re really hurting ourselves.
How do I express Ahavat Yisrael?
Love is connection
Don’t forget the first half of the phrase: love. What’s love? Connection. When you love someone or something, you feel connected to him/her/it. So express that connection to other Jews. Lend a hand, or a buck. Avoid arguing. Apologize. Do favors. Treat them all like family—after all, we are family. Don’t speak negatively about fellow Jews; do speak positively. Want for them all those good things you want for yourself, and whatever you wouldn’t want for yourself, hope they don’t wind up with those things, either.
Don’t do it!
If you wouldn’t want it done to you, don’t do it to others. Whatever it may be. Simple. Ahavat Yisrael basically means we are in the business of being nice and forgiving to each other at all times, the same way we’re always nice and forgiving to ourselves.
Ahavat Yisrael is not for Grandma
It’s easy to show love to someone you love—Mom, Dad, spouse, sibling. Now take that love, and apply it to a fellow Jew you disagree with, or really can’t stand. That’s where true Ahavat Yisrael begins. Hey, it ain’t easy. But it’s real Ahavat Yisrael. Hating a fellow Jew in your heart is Torah-illegal—it’s Negative Mitzvah #302. Hating him openly, though technically not a violation of 302, ‘cause at least now he knows it, is also Torah-illegal: the Torah prohibits bearing a grudge or taking revenge. So we’re back to Square One: Ahavat Yisrael—grueling, but infinitely rewarding—is the only way to go.