We are here to improve our relationships with others
in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.
Introduction to the Ahavas Yisrael (AY) Group
Welcome to our first Ahavas Yisrael (AY) Group meeting. We have chosen to become involved with this growing project because we know that, by learning the laws of interpersonal relationships, we’ll enjoy more positive interactions with the people in our lives. Additionally, we are assuming our historic role as Jewish women by committing to studying the laws of Ahavas Yisrael, or loving ones fellow Jew.
The role of the Jewish people is to illuminate the presence of HaShem (G-d) in the world. While we comprise a miniscule fraction of the world population, we have influenced history and shaped progress to such a large degree that our contributions cannot solely be credited to our intellect; it must certainly be something else.
In our greatest era, the Jewish people lived peacefully with the Bais HaMikdash (Holy Temple) that provided us with a direct channel to HaShem. Everyone on earth could recognize His sovereignty, as the Bais HaMikdash was open to all nations. During this time, the Jewish people exemplified their potential by serving as spiritual emissaries to the world. Judaism teaches that HaShem only allowed the Romans to destroy the Temple and exile us among the nations when we became incapable of treating one another with compassion, respect and love.
In contemporary society, an increasing number of challenges affect every aspect of our lives. Life-threatening illness, divorce, substance abuse, children at-risk and financial struggle are all too commonplace. We cannot help but be bewildered at the suddenness with which Israel has become the world’s scapegoat. Why is HaShem doing this to us? The answer is simple: He wants to awaken us. He wants us to do our job and show the world that everyone deserves a special relationship with his/her Creator.
That is why the Jewish Women’s Project for Ahavas Yisrael, or AY Project, was formed. The founders of this initiative were inspired to create a positive way to deal with the negative situations we face today. As Jewish women, we know that our ultimate purpose is to bring the world to the recognition of HaShem as we did when the Bais HaMikdash stood. We also know that we lost that opportunity because we did not observe the laws of bain adam l’chavairo, of treating one another with dignity. Since we do not currently merit the Holy Temple, and continue to see calamities surround us and escalate with no end in sight, it is clear that now is the time to focus on rebuilding Ahavas Yisrael.
By learning how to implement the mitzva (commandment) of v’ahavta l’rayacha kamocha, loving your neighbor as yourself, we can have happier lives and relationships. The Torah leaders of our generation tell us that, by stretching beyond the barriers of our comfort zone in this area, we can actually bring protection to the Jewish people.
The AY Project coordinators provide approved curriculum* to each group leader in advance of each Group, which meets for 20 minutes weekly. In each session we’ll learn and discuss a halacha of Ahavas Yisrael and hear an inspiring story that illustrates how one woman applied the halacha in her life. Each session ends with a practical exercise so we can practice what we have learned during the week as well.
Now for our first lesson.
HaShem explicitly commands us to “Love your neighbor as yourself”, or V’Ahavta L’Ray’acha Kamocha. But how can we be commanded to have an emotion such as love? Either we love or we don’t. If HaShem created us and commands us to love our neighbor, then we must be capable of doing so. We just have to understand how to feel this love and express it consistently.
We are also commanded to cultivate a bond with the entire Jewish people. The Talmud (Shavuos 39a) says "Kol Yisrael araivim ze la'ze," meaning that every Jew is responsible one for another. HaShem concerns Himself not only with how we serve Him, but how we treat each other as well.
Now that we know that we are capable of loving every Jew, lets focus on the laws that help us become more loving and compassionate.
These laws are:
· Speak well of your fellow Jew.
· Respect your fellow Jew by giving validation, acknowledgement and appreciation.
· Care about his/her material and physical needs.
· Make amends for past transgressions.
Why do people find it difficult to respect others who are different from them?
Stretch of the Week:
Make a conscious effort to smile when you see other people.
We learn the halachos of Ahavas Yisrael (V’Ahavta L’Ray’acha Kamocha) from the Rambam Hilchos Day’os 6:3 and the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 29:12.
*All Ahavas Yisrael Project curriculum is approved by Roshai Kollel in the Linas HaTzedek Network of Bain Adam L’Chavayro, headed by Rav Yitzchak Berkovits, shlita.