We are striving to love our fellow Jews by improving
the way we interact with others.
Last week’s Stretch of the Week: Have the courage to apologize to someone you have wronged in any way.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Taking A Deeper Look
LOVE YOUR FELLOW JEW AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF
PART 1 – Centrality of the Mitzvah
The Sages considered the mitzvah of loving one’s fellow Jew as one loves himself as the most important commandment in the entire Torah. This mitzvah is closely connected to almost every commandment concerning human relationships. Examples include; prohibitions against stealing, damaging property or personal reputation, adultery, speaking negatively about others, etc.
Conversely, when we fulfill any one of the positive commandments – such as saving a life, returning lost property, honoring parents, visiting the sick, hosting guests, comforting mourners, attending to the burial of the dead, etc. – we also fulfill the mitzvah of loving one’s fellow Jew.
In order to fulfill this obligation properly, it is not enough to consider how you, considering your own strengths and weaknesses, might feel under the circumstances. For example you may be thick-skinned and truly do not mind when others kid you about your faults. That does not give you license to joke at another person's expense, rationalizing that "I wouldn't care if he treated me that way." Rather, you must empathize with others and act accordingly.
· Anything you would want others to do for you, you should do for others.
· You fulfill this commandment when you visit someone who is ill, and when you pray for someone's well-being.
· You fulfill this commandment when you offer someone assistance in enabling him to get married, and when you help a bride and groom rejoice.
· You fulfill this commandment when you attend someone's funeral and help in any aspect of the burial, and also when you comfort someone who is in mourning.
· You fulfill this commandment when you teach others Torah.
· You fulfill this commandment when you greet others with a friendly countenance. You fulfill this commandment when you run to tell someone good news.
· This commandment obligates you to share the feelings of sorrow and suffering of others. If you are able to save someone from further suffering you are obligated to do so.
· A person who fulfils this commandment will do all he can to give others pleasure.
· Our parents, spouses, children, and siblings are included in our obligation to love others as ourselves. Some people are careful to do kindness for strangers, but forget that they have a similar, and even greater, obligation towards their relatives.
· Many people are willing to spend much money and effort to fulfill other commandments, but when it comes to helping others, the smallest amount of effort or expense will deter them. Therefore, whenever a person has a question about his obligation to help others, he should not rely on his own judgment but should consult a halachic authority.
As summer approaches, and the Jewish people mourn the destruction of our holy Temple, this is an appropriate time to reflect upon the message of the Three Weeks. The First Temple was destroyed because during its existence there were three sins: idolatry, immorality and bloodshed. During the period of the Second Temple, although the Jewish people studied Torah and performed positive commandments, it was also destroyed because there was purposeless hatred among them.
During the period of the Second Temple the Jewish people were united. G-d could still ask, "Who is like My people Israel, one nation on earth?" The Temple served as the symbol of their unity because they brought all offerings to the same place and used the same priests. When they descended to petty bickering and hatred, they forfeited their claim to protection from the Almighty. Our Sages say "If a generation does not merit to see the Temple rebuilt, that generation is considered to have caused the Temple's destruction!" Thankfully, we are seeing so many signs that we are living in Messianic times. Let us bring the redemption closer by focusing on the loving one’s fellow Jew as we love ourselves, especially during this time, as an antidote to the baseless hatred which caused the destruction.
(Sources: The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver, Chapters of the Fathers by Rabbi P. Kehati, Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Gifts for the Soul by Rabbi Moshe Avidan, and Overview to Megillas Eicha by Rabbi N. Scherman).
Isaac was a typical Jewish teenager. He earned decent grades, was well liked by his friends, and had a real passion for basketball. His friends were all like him, "good" boys from "good" families. Having grown up in an affluent Jewish community, none of the boys had ever really experienced any major challenges in their lives.
The boys practiced basketball every day at the same time. Every day before practice began, Isaac would lift up his eyes to the tenement building closest to the basketball court, and acknowledge the old face watching from behind the curtain. No matter what day of the week, no matter what time of day, every time he looked up, the old woman was there, watching them.
One day Isaac looked up and noticed that there was no one at the window. He checked again but only saw the old, frayed curtain fluttering in the breeze. He had feeling that something was wrong. For years the boys had been playing on the same court and the lady had been there for every practice.
Isaac could barely concentrate on his game. He did not know what to do. On the one hand maybe something was wrong, on the other hand what difference did it make to him? This woman was a stranger, and what could he do anyway? Then he remembered his mother's Ahavas Yisrael study group talking about the importance of extending oneself to help others.
As soon as the game finished, Isaac found himself climbing the stairs to the apartment, quickly, before he could change his mind. He knocked on the door. At first he heard only silence but then it seemed that he could hear faint cries. Isaac immediately called the police who broke down the door and found the woman lying on the floor where she had fallen and unable to move since the previous night.
Isaac stayed until the lady's daughter arrived. After watching them leave in the ambulance, he experienced the joy that accompanies truly having extended oneself to help someone in need.
Discussion Question Options:
1. How can we increase our awareness of the needs of others?
2. In what ways can we increase our love for our fellow Jews in the world?
3. Why does it often feel so difficult to extend ourselves beyond what feels comfortable for us?
Stretch of the Week:
Think of any mitzvah of loving one’s fellow Jew as you love yourself. Be sure to perform this mitzvah at least once this week.