We are striving to love our fellow Jews by improving
the way we interact with others.
Last week’s Stretch of the Week: Let the immediate people in your life know that they are your number one priority.
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 3 – Unconditional Love
Some people are always willing to do a favor – as long as they are getting something in return. Their so-called "love" is actually an expression of their unspoken motto: "You take care of me, and I'll take care of you." This can be compared to the person who claims that he “loves fish.” “If so,” he is asked, “why do you kill them and eat them? Why don’t you throw them back into the water? It is clear that the one you love is yourself!”
Genuine Ahavas Yisrael, or love of one’s fellow Jew, does not function in this manner. When we love our fellow Jews and provide assistance, our act should never be tied to expectations of gaining anything in return from the recipient. Just as G-d is merciful, gracious and giving to His creations without expecting anything in return, we are also expected to conduct ourselves in the same way with every other Jew. This is one of the hallmarks of the Jewish people, and is a theme that runs through the entire Torah.
True love is the ability to give purely for the sake of benefiting the other person. The act of giving must not be geared toward bringing pleasure to ourselves. In fact, we are willing to relinquish our own comfort and pleasure so that the object of our love will benefit. In this way, we are concerned for the recipient’s physical, emotional and financial well-being as well as for his personal honor. It was with this selfless love that G-d created the world, and by emulating this genuine love when we relate to other, we fulfill the mitzvah of following in His ways.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
When the invitations for our twenty-year class reunion arrived in the mail, I’m sure every single one of us was a bit apprehensive. Would we recognize each other? Would we be embarrassed if we hadn’t achieved what we felt was success in our former classmates’ eyes? Would the same cliques reappear? If I was thinking this, I’m sure everyone else was as well. With both excitement and trepidation I responded that I would attend the reunion.
As I entered the hall with my childhood friend Riva at my side, we each took in a deep breath and wished each other good luck. Don’t get me wrong. We were both truly thrilled to be attending such an exciting event but were also cautious that it may not proceed as smoothly as the school administration had hoped.
At first, all went well. I bumped into some old friends and enjoyed a few minutes reminiscing. However, it didn’t take long for the predictable and uncomfortable feelings to prevail. There seemed to be a great deal of tension in the room. Many of the women acted as if they didn’t recognize anyone or at least pretended not to notice others. It seemed that the women who were friendly during our high school years, and who seemed have maintained contact, appeared as if they were reverting back to their cliquish ways.
I looked around the room and was blown away by the fact that everyone was talking to the same people they would have been speaking to had we been in the lunchroom twenty years ago. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. While we were all adult women, how mature were we if we couldn’t manage to greet our old classmates with enthusiasm and interest? How much had we truly grown as people? Do we base our love for another person on how comfortable we feel for around her or do we make others feel welcomed and respected because that it how we are supposed to behave as Jews?
At the reunion, I decided that I did not want to continue on with my life exclusively befriending people who were nice to me. If it’s a mitzvah to love all Jews then why not start with the very people I come into contact with every day? Up until that night I admit that I would interact with others based on how they would behave towards me. Now, at the very least, I try to greet others whether or not they say hello first. As embarrassing as it may feel sometimes, this attitude has helped create warm, positive environments wherever I am brave enough to implement the idea.
Discussion Question Options:
What steps can we take to feel genuine and unconditional love towards our fellow Jews?
Why is it so important to forfeit our own comfort and pleasure in order to help others?
When someone is hard to love, and we overcome the inclination to ignore them, how do we gain?
Stretch of the Week:
Perform a specific act of kindness for someone even though you find it to be difficult.