We are here to improve our relationships with others
in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.
Last week’s Stretch of the Week was: Make an effort to be the first to smile at someone (and notice their reply)
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Lo Sisna -- Do Not Hate
The Torah commands us: Lo sisna achicha bilvavecha - “Do not hate your brother in your heart” (Vayikra 19:17). This means that even if we do not say a word against our fellow Jew, if we harbor hatred in our hearts when it is prohibited to do so, we have violated this commandment, no matter how hard we try to restrain ourselves.
The basic commandment forbids us to hate “your brother”, meaning any Jew, and is incumbent on men and women alike. The best way to train our children in this mitzva is by example. Phrases like “I can’t stand so and so,” and other such hostile expressions should never be heard in our homes, especially in the presence of our children.
What is the minimum measure of the violation of lo sisna? The Torah gives us a number of specifics. If we don’t greet someone because of our feelings of anger or animosity (not because we were daydreaming or in the middle of prayer), we have violated the commandment. If the person is someone we usually speak to and we do not speak with him for three days because of our feelings toward him, then, according to Jewish law, this constitutes hatred.
Our gut reaction when we perceive hostility from others may be to reciprocate this negative energy. However, the Torah expects us to overcome such instincts. If we consistently respond to hatred with expressions of love, we will usually gain something -- the ability to break down barriers with another person and create a pathway of positive communication.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
Samuel and my husband David were best friends since nursery school. They went to the same camps, the same high school and had basically always experienced significant life events as a team. Sam’s wife Sherri and I became the best of friends as well and we spent every summer together at our bungalow colony. Our children were theirs and theirs were ours.
So as you can imagine, when David overheard Sam speaking with another bungalow friend about David’s stinginess in resisting the maintenance fee for the colony grounds, he was in for quite a surprise. “Yeah, David is great at taking care of his family but when it comes to other expenses, his wallet is like a lead weight in that back pocket of his. I’d never say it to him though. He’s too stubborn to hear someone else’s opinion. It’s just the way he is.”
“The nerve of him to speak about me that way!” David vented later that night. “After all these years! How could he talk about me like that?” What could I say? I was as stunned as he was. We did have a few disagreements over the past few months that may have led to his negative comments, but for Sam to vent his frustration to a neighbor was simply out of line.
The next morning David ignored Samuel during morning services. Sam approached my husband many times to find out why he was being shunned and to clear the air but David just walked away. Sherri tried speaking with me but I ignored her as well. Words spoken about my husband like that, aimed at his pride, were simply unforgivable. Slowly but surely our friendship began to unravel.
We tried to control our feelings and not seethe in anger but with every passing family celebration they neglected to invite us to or every Purim gift basket delivered to all of our neighbors, excluding our house, the hate and anger grew. To this day, I’m not exactly sure why we let this beautiful friendship just slip away but embarrassingly, that is what we did.
The years moved on and I had my own fair share of life’s challenges. I guess I matured and gradually I felt something shift within me. I felt a powerful desire to put it all behind us but never felt the strength or the courage to do what had to be done.
Then it happened. The unexpected call in the middle of the night informing us that my father-in-law had suffered a massive stroke and was not expected to live through the night. David and I jumped into the car and rushed to the hospital, praying for his survival. It was too late though. Daddy was a man who stood for shalom, friendship, and ahavas yisrael, and he was gone.
During the first days of shiva I busied myself with calling old acquaintances to let them know. When I got to Samuel and Sherri’s name, I knew the time was ripe. I silently prayed my next move would honor the soul of my father-in-law. After carefully evaluating the situation, I enlisted a mutual friend to make the initial phone call to inform Samuel and Sherri that we wanted to repair our relationship.
Within an hour Sam was at our house squeezing and embracing my husband while tears streamed down their faces. With moist eyes and open hearts, they apologized to each other and behaved as if no time had passed. Later that night, I called Sherri directly and apologized to her. We had a deep and meaningful conversation about our relationship, admitted to each other that we had both made mistakes, and were finally at peace.
Looking back over the years, I realize the consequences of our actions. We accused, we judged, we held grudges and made petty assumptions. But the greatest regret of all was the fact that we wasted so much time that we could have spent with people we loved so much. Had we just cleared the air from the beginning, either directly or with an intermediary, we wouldn’t have lost out on so much in each other’s lives.
I now take this lesson with me everywhere. Hate and anger are powerful but not nearly as satisfying as love, forgiveness, and true friendship.
Is the scenario in this story a common one? Do people have misunderstandings and allow relationships to end based on incorrect assumptions and accusations? Why does this happen?
In what ways does envy arouse feelings of hatred?
Do people often dislike those who struggle with the same character flaws that they have?
Stretch of the Week:
Do something nice for someone you are not particularly fond of (with or without them knowing).