Last week’s Stretch of the Week: Make a conscious effort to smile when you see other people.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with the previous stretch for ONE minute.
Love Your Fellow Jew as You Love Yourself (Part 1)
V’Ahavta L’Rayacha Kamocha
According to the Rambam, "We are obligated to love every single Jew as we love ourselves”. The Torah teaches us to “Love your fellow man as yourself.” Therefore, we must praise others and care about their money, possessions and dignity as much as we value our own. “Whoever derives honor from humiliating someone else loses his share in the world to come." (Hilchos Da'os 6:3 )
To clearly understand the mitzva of ahavas yisrael we must first define each word separately. Ahava is the pleasure that comes from recognizing the virtues in another human being. This recognition leads to a desire to give to that person. When we say Yisrael we are referring to all Jews. “The Jewish people are all related. Their souls are united, each containing a part of all the others.” (Tamar Devora, 4th attribute)
The commandment of loving your fellow man can be fulfilled at all times. Any favor or kindness that you do for someone is an expression of this love. The commandment can also be fulfilled through thought. When you rejoice in the good fortune of another simply by feeling happy, this is an expression of love. The same applies when someone suffers misfortune. If you empathize with their suffering, you fulfill this obligation. By observing this commandment properly, a person reaps tremendous spiritual reward.
The Baal Shem Tov says: "You know that you have many faults, nevertheless, you still love yourself. This is how you should feel toward your friend. Despite his faults, you must love him. ' (Likutai Avraham, p. 221). In every interpersonal encounter you have an opportunity to either fulfill or violate the commandment of loving your fellow Jew.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
There is no greater feeling than that of being truly understood. The ability to enter someone else’s reality and feel their joy, while at other times their pain, is a gift that many possess naturally, yet most must learn through life experience. I learned this lesson all too well several years ago.
Late one Friday afternoon, I was putting the final touches on a new salad recipe when I heard the unmistakable sound of water pouring onto the kitchen floor. As I turned around to see what happened, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what I was about to witness. My 16-month-old baby was sitting on the floor with her arm red, burned and blistering in front of my eyes. She had somehow managed to reach the wire to our hot water urn and pull it down on
Suddenly, I remembered the importance of submerging the burned area in cool water. I grabbed my screaming daughter, flew up the stairs, and filled the bathtub, while simultaneously praying and soothing her as much as I could. Each attempt to plunge her arm into the water was accompanied by her panicked screams of fear. Her eyes spoke louder than words saying, “How can you do this to me? I’m in so much pain! Why are you torturing me by subjecting me to this?”
I felt my daughter’s suffering so deeply and, in that moment, made a decision. I said, “Mommy knows this water is so cold and uncomfortable so I’m going to join you.” I stepped into the bathtub, fully clothed, to let her know that I was with her all the way. As we both sat in the water with chattering teeth and purple lips, her cries began to wane. With me by her side (literally) she was able to calmly endure what had to be done to treat her burn.
As I reflect on this experience, I learned a powerful lesson about the significance of our ability to alleviate the pain of others by expressing empathy. I realized that we shouldn’t have to wait for tragedy to befall us to show another person that we truly care. Whether it is by rejoicing in their happiness or empathizing with their struggle, we are capable of loving our fellow Jew.
What is your ideal picture of a person who has great love for other people?
Is it more important to be a loving person or to appear to be a loving person? How do they differ?
When one feels love for someone, is it beneficial even if the other person does not reciprocate?
If we actually viewed others as being created in the image of HaShem, how would this affect the way we treat them?
Stretch of the Week:
Call someone this week to wish him or her mazel tov on a joyous occasion, share something positive about this individual or a family member, or simply make an effort to feel genuinely happy for him/her.