We celebrated Israel's Yom Ha'atzma'ut- Independence Day. הודו לה' כי טוב כי לעולם חסדו Thank you Hashem for bringing us back home to Your holy land. May we continue to merit living here in peace, truth, love and friendship; may we be blessed to see the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash quickly in our days.
Eretz Yisrael is Eretz Hakodesh, the Holy Land. This is our home for one reason only, because Hashem has given it to His people, this is where He wants us to live and B"H today we have the opportunity to live in it.
We are the people that Hashem has chosen from among the nations and to whom He gave His Torah. We are chosen to fulfill a holy mission and the world knows it. The nations actually want us to bring Hashem's holy unifying light into the world and they do want us to bring real peace to the whole world. Regardless of the fact that we must be ready to stand up and defend ourselves against anti-Semitism motivated by evil hatred, we also should recognize, whenever facing confrontation that we need to think about what can we and must we do better in our homes, in our homeland and in the world. Living our Jewish lives with sincerity, pride, love and humility, will inspire and draw the nations of the world towards real peace and unity b’ezrat Hashem.
We look forward to the complete ingathering of the exiles and the complete redemption with the arrival of Moshiach. Wherever you may be, do all you can to bring Moshiach now. Don't give up on yourself, don't give up on your people and don't give up on Hashem's dream.
May we all be blessed to appreciate and celebrate every moment of Shabbos, every word and letter of Torah. We should be blessed to appreciate every Jewish soul and to truly believe that every one of us has the potential to hasten Moshiach's arrival.
Baruch Hashem we have a holy Torah – let us all learn together to discover and focus on what unites us, rather than on what divides us. When we will learn together b’ahavat Yisrael, with true love, the words of the Torah, all the words of the Torah will shine brilliantly into our hearts. Let’s start gain right now, b’simcha!
Our spring semester has already begun, please come and learn with all our wonderful teachers, together with your most wonderful friends here in the Holy city of Yerushalayim.
We wish you to be blessed with a healthy, joyous reJEWvinating good summer, b'ezrat Hashem.
May Hashem spend a speedy healing and recovery, both physically and spiritually to all who are in need.
Have a wonderful Shabbos and a very healing Iyar
Avraham Sand taught me that the secret of the beautiful fragrance is in the crushing and grinding done with loving chant. Read the book to learn much more about the depths of the mitzvah of the Incense Offering
The secret of our daily journeys towards holiness is to start the day with gratitude. Our first two words of the day, as soon as we wake up in the morning are, מודה אני – “I am grateful.”
מודה אני לפניך מלך חי וקיים שהחזרת בי נשמתי בחמלה רבה אמונתך -
“I am grateful to You
living and eternal King
that You have compassionately restored my soul within me…”
that You have given me the power to ‘do good’ and to grow
that You give me the opportunity
to bring Your light and love into this world
that You give us the strength
to live truthfully with ourselves and with one another
“I am grateful to You" that You have faith in me
that You have restored my soul because You believe in me
even more than I believe in myself
that I will do good today
מודה אני – I admit לפניך – before You
that You are the true reality
that You created entropy to teach me the truth about the mundane
this is the secret of the ‘ketoret’ the incense offering
the secret to entering your ‘Holy of Holies’
to very finely grind the spices of your daily life
to break down the lies and discover the hidden truth
to reveal and inhale the beautiful fragrance of the Garden of Eden
to chant and to grind with joy
to release the beautiful pleasant fragrance
of your soul
“It has been taught, Rabbi Nathan says: While the Kohen was grinding the incense, the overseer would say, “Grind it thin, grind it thin,” because the rhythmic sound is good for the compounding of the spices. (Bavli- Kerithoth 6a)
Ye shall be holy; for I the Hashem your God am holy.
whenever you get together with your friends
whenever we greet one another
be holy with one another
be one with one with many
be one with the Holy One ב"ה
be holy with all your people Yisrael
be with Me for I Am with you
wherever you are wherever you go
you take Me with you
be holy with Me
please take Me to your beautiful holy places
when you meet your loved ones
your brothers and sisters at home
in the shuk or on the street
be with them and Me
don't ever give up do not despair
don't ignore Me yearn for Me
I Am always ready to be with you
don't hide from Me
don't make Me hide from you
Yes, every 'yid' can be holy!
Reb Shlomo used to say:
"maybe not every Jew is holy, but every Jew is the 'holy of holies'.
Have a wonderful Shabbos b'simcha!!
Classes Broadcast This Week:
Sources: with R Avraham Sutton (there was no class this week due to Yom Ha'Atzmaut)
Parshat HaShavua: with R Sholom Brodt
Reb Shlomo's Teachings with R Sholom Brodt: Sunday, Monday, Tues, Thursday
To contribute in honor of the Torah or in honor of a beloved Please Click Here
Prayer to forgive
Do not take revenge, nor shall you bear a grudge!
Of course it is a great thing to 'love your fellow as yourself', but it's not always easy. Sometimes we are hurt deeply by good friends and we feel like taking revenge or bearing a grudge.. Almost everyone has some examples of that. It's easier to fulfill "do not take revenge" than it is to fulfill "do not bear a grudge". All too often we bear a grudge for years and years, even after we have "forgiven"- at the end of the day before reading the Shema at our bedsides, we say "Master of the World, I forgive all who angered me or who has sinned against me on Yom Kippur - but really, just saying this prayer, even with all your heart, does not remove the pain and the grudge.
The Sefer Ha'Chinuch explains that underlying these two mitzvot is our faith in Divine Providence, and that all that Hashem does is for the good.
Only when i realize this can I fully forgive and be be free of any grudge. To be sure, when i am hurt, it hurts and it angers me. So, what to do?
Here is what Cliff teaches:
You can see yourself as a victim and remain stuck in your pain and you can carry the grudge in your heart for the rest of your life. But there is a better choice - you can acknowledge that Hashem is always there and is relating with you, no matter how concealed He may be. Your pain is a call from Hashem to correct something in your relationships with yourself and/or with others. Hashem is involved in all that happens- and things do not happen haphazardly, and it is all for the good.
And if it is hard for me to honestly say that I believe in Divine Providence and that I believe that all that Hashem does is good and for the good, then at least I hope I can say that I would like to believe this. Or even if all i or you can say is that 'i want to want to want to believe this...'this too is a level of belief and it's a good starting point.
The more you get away from thinking of yourself as a victim, the more you remember that Hashem has liberated you from Mitzrayim, the more you see that Hashem is presenting you with the opportunities for improvement and personal growth the more you will succeed in letting go of bearing grudges. Remember you can be free of these painful and unhealthy grudges.
But can we be commanded to do so? In one word, 'Yes'!
Parshat Acharei Mot & Kedoshim: Teachings From Previous Years
▪ How to be Holy? Always yearn to grow.
▪ TO BE KADOSH – HOLY
▪ V'AHAVTAH L'REY-ACHA KAMOCHA - LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF
▪ A Letter From Reb Shlomo
How to be Holy? Always yearn to grow.
Springtime in Israel
Hashem spoke to Moshe saying "Speak to the entire community of the children of Israel and tell them 'you shall be holy for holy am I Hashem your G-d.'" What does it mean to be holy? Aside from considering positive behavior which is beyond the current societal norms as holy, what is holy? Can we truly achieve holiness? Can everyone be holy? Why are there so few truly holy people?
Over the years we've learnt many deep teachings on this mitzvah to be holy; every year we hopefully try to learn and relearn new lessons and to discover new and deeper understandings in mind and heart. Yet as we progress from year to year, there is a quiet inner terror that keeps showing up- the feeling of 'I've tried so many times to move forward, each time we learned about being holy I hoped to really make progress but it doesn't feel like much has been achieved.'
We are wearied by the ongoing hardships of life and slowly, despair creeps in, leading us to question 'does all my effort make any difference… does anyone really care?' Besides learning more precious Torahs (teachings) on holiness, I want to know what we can do to overcome weariness and the subtle loss of caring and meaning.
These questions and many others accompany us through life- we live and are alive with questions. Questions are good, they lead us to deeper learning and understanding. They arise again and again because the answers that were good enough yesterday don’t fulfill our needs for more depth and height today. And all this is good so long as we stay young and vibrant in our search for truth and in striving to live and manifest our highest selves.
Rav Steinsaltz shlit”a explains that not giving up on yearning and actively striving to be closer with Hashem each day, doing all the big and small mitzvot repeatedly, day after day without giving in to weariness, is holy. We live in a world of entropy, and we get tired and weary. But we are created in G-d’s image, we must remember and be grateful at all times that Hashem has given us the power to ‘do good’ and grow, to bring His light and love into this world, to live truthfully with ourselves and with one another. This is a most important aspect of the journey towards holiness.
Rebbe Nachman זצ"ל used to say אלט טאר מען נישט זיין ‘alt tor men nisht zein’ – YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BE OLD! Each breath of life is a fresh gift of life from Hashem. Think about this often and you will stay young. As long as you are alive you are young.
V'CHAI BA'HEM Know Your Source Of Your 'Life' - Being Alive In Judaism
You shall keep My statutes and My laws.... asher ya'aseh otam ha'adam V'CHAI BA'HEM.... which if a man obeys them he shall live in them, I am Hashem.” [18:5]
Rashi explains that this means that by observing them he will be rewarded to 'live' in Olam Habah, the World to Come. Practice of the mitzvot gives us a portion in the World to Come.
The Slonimer Rebbe brings the following teaching concerning the way in which we do the mitzvot, from Reb Shloimeh Karliner, zy”a, who said that he heard that it was announced in heaven:
"A Jew who keeps the Torah and the mitzvot, and keeps the Shabbos in all its' details, but he [nebech] does not feel the joy of Shabbos, the "oneg Shabbos", then when he will go up to the world most high, they will give him his portion in the Garden of Eden, for his keeping of the Shabbos, but it [his portion] will be like [being] a bench that is placed in the Garden of Eden; for there too he will not feel anything!"
We are taught that it is of utmost importance not only to do the mitzvot, but we must do them with life and vitality. If we do the mitzvot as strangers then we will feel like strangers in Gan Eden, we may be there and we may even be bored there 'chas v'shalom'.
The Torah and the mitzvot are, as we say in the Evening Shma blessing: 'our life and the length of our days' in this world and in Olam Habah. The joy and the vitality with which we do the mitzvot is what makes them 'our lives' in This World and in The World to Come.
The Chidushei Hari"m says that we need to do the mitzvot on such a level that we actually feel that they are our life nourishment and sustenance, to the point that we feel that even our physical lives depend on them. This has to become the truth of each individual: "My only source of life is from Torah and mitzvot."
TO BE KADOSH – HOLY
VA’YIKRA CHAPTER 19 וַיִּקְרָא
א וַיְדַבֵּר ה', אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר
AND THE LORD SPOKE UNTO MOSES, SAYING:
ב דַּבֵּר אֶל-כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם--קְדשִׁים תִּהְיוּ: כִּי קָדוֹשׁ, אֲנִי ה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם
SPEAK UNTO ALL THE CONGREGATION OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, AND SAY UNTO THEM:
YE SHALL BE HOLY; FOR I THE LORD YOUR GOD AM HOLY.
This week's parsha is a real wake up call to holiness and unity. It connects to many deep issues between us and Hashem, between us and our fellow people, and between each one of us and our-selves.
To sense anything of holiness, you have to be connected to the source of Holiness: Hashem. It doesn't come from within our own selves; it comes from Hashem – the Source of all Holiness. According to Chassidut, at any given moment we are either connected to the Source of Kedusha, or chas v'shalom not – there is no in between, so to speak.
We are composite beings consisting of a divine soul and an animal soul. Our nefesh haElokis (the Divine soul), which is a veritable part of Hashem above, yearns to unite with its source, the Source of all life and existence. But our nefesh haElokis is imprisoned within our bodies and within our nefesh habahamis (animal soul) which is always concerned with self-gratification, screams and rebels all along the way, saying "I am I, and I don't want to give up being ‘I’"!! This inner struggle between the divine soul and the animal soul is no small life struggle. It's a major battle and often we even think that we no longer have the strength not to give up.
The Talmud describes the extent of the imprisonment and enslavement of the nefesh haElokis as follows: ‘a thief, even as he is breaking and entering to rob, prays to G-d.’ The animal soul drags the holy soul along with it as it is about to commit a crime and commands the divine soul to pray so that they don't get caught in the midst of stealing. Paradoxically, this means that in a sense we are always connected, even when transgressing.
But, as we have been taught, 'a Jew never gives up!' Every so often we hear Hashem's voice calling within "Ayekah?" – Where are you? Even when we act against our deep G-d connection, we remain 'wired' to be connected. There is something in our spiritual makeup that arouses us to yearn to be close to Hashem, to unite with and be absorbed within Hashem.
ב כְּאַיָּל, תַּעֲרֹג עַל-אֲפִיקֵי-מָיִם-- כֵּן נַפְשִׁי תַעֲרֹג אֵלֶיךָ אֱלֹקים
ג צָמְאָה נַפְשִׁי, לֵאלֹקים-- לְאֵל חָי
מָתַי אָבוֹא; וְאֵרָאֶה, פְּנֵי אֱלֹקים
Psalm 42:2 As the deer pants [thirsts] after the water brooks, so my soul thirsts to You Elokim.
42:3 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: 'When shall I come and appear before God?'
Quiet down, listen to your soul, you will hear it. As long as we continue to yearn to be closer to Hashem, as long as we continue to appreciate holiness, we should be dancing joyously – just because thank G-d, we have such feelings – because these are our inner spiritual heartbeats – because we are still alive spiritually!
If I'm not mistaken, I believe that it was the Riziner Rebbe ztz"l who said that believing that "G-d created man in His image" means that you have to believe that deep inside each person is seeking to be close to Hashem, each person wants to be better – each one of us hears [can hear] Hashem's calling: "Kedoshim tee'heyu” (you shall be holy). Each one of us can receive the strength that Hashem is ready to provide to come closer.
If someone wants to put a great and very precious gift into your hand, you have to drop everything else in your hand to receive it; even if you are holding a chunk of gold in your hand, you have to drop it. There are so many things that we hold on to and have such a difficult time letting go of, even when we know that they are literally interfering with our relationships, between us and Hashem, between us and one another – letting go of our egocentric 'non-sense' is not at all easy. We need good friends, we need holy souls who care, to encourage us and one another never to give up. Be blessed with excellent loving friends and be a great friend yourself!
"Heilige brider und shvester--Holy brothers and sisters," – is how Reb Shlomo ztz"l used to call for our attention when he was about to teach us something deep, or when he greeted us. Even though I [and maybe you too] would sometimes protest because I didn't think or feel that I was holy and that the truth was something else, he never stopped calling us holy brothers and sisters, stirring up deep memories within.
Memories of moments of holiness, which may have lasted only one second, somewhere a long time ago, maybe while yet in our mothers' wombs – moments of eternity. Memories, memories which we thought were totally forgotten or no longer existed, were still there; and it was so good to be reminded, "heilige brider, heiligeh shvester, holy brother, holy sister;" yes it's true. Sometimes we may be out of touch with our souls, but we can be 'reminded' that deep inside we would still like to be holy.
But how could it be true? I'm so far away from there, at most it's only a faint memory; and then he would say it again, "heiligeh brider heiligeh shvester, holy brothers holy sisters, listen to this, listen from the depths of your soul, open your hearts." Yes it is true – there is a part of us that is always holy B"H.
BE HOLY! WHO ME?
"Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the entire assembly of the children of Yisrael, and say to them: You shall be holy for holy Am I Hashem your G-d." (Lev. 19:2) All the commentators are asking, "What does it mean to be holy?”
Often when learning this verse with students of all ages, I would ask them to close their eyes and quickly visualize someone that they considered being 'holy.' Then I would ask them to describe the appearance of this 'holy' person. More often than not the holy person they described was an older male person, dressed very differently from them and of very different appearance. "Dressing" our holy people so very differently from ourselves, illustrates that we consider them to be somewhere so far away from ourselves, off in the distant yonder. The problem is that by doing so we reinforce the idea that we ourselves are so very far from holiness, and that being holy is beyond our reach!
Therefore Hashem says to Moshe, "Speak to the entire assembly of B'nai Yisrael." Make sure that everyone is present; for everyone must personally hear Hashem's mitzvah instruction "Kedoshim tee'he-yu" (you shall be holy!). Says the Maor Vashemesh, each one of us is capable of being holy. Holiness is not meant for a few select individuals in each generation. It is meant for each one of us. The fact that each person is commanded to be holy is proof that each person is actually capable of attaining "you shall be holy."
"You Shall Be Holy!" How?
What does it mean to be holy? The opinions of Rashi and the Ramban are very well known. Rashi understands 'to be kadosh' (holy) as a commandment to 'separate' oneself from arayot (forbidden sexual practices) and from all transgressions. The Ramban however states that just guarding and separating oneself from transgressions is not enough. Indeed, one can be gross within the boundaries of the Torah laws! Therefore the Ramban explains that the mitzvah to be holy as, "kadesh es atzmechah b'mah sh'mutar lecha" (sanctify yourself in that which is permissible to you)! Certainly we have to separate from the forbidden, but to be holy means that even when I am eating the most strictly kosher food, I may be eating in a 'holy' or 'unholy' way. Maybe I am being very careful not to tell any lies and not to speak any lashon harah, but that does not yet mean that my speech is kadosh (holy). Thus the Ramban defines holiness as "sanctify yourself with that which is permissible," – do permissible things in a holy way.
BE HOLY – BE TRANSPARENT TO YOUR SOURCE
There is a beautiful Chassidic teaching that to be kadosh means to be transparent to your source. For example, you are listening two equally gifted and talented musicians, what is the difference between the holy musician and the not yet holy one? The one that isn't yet holy is playing beautifully, but your attention is drawn to him. But when you are listening to the holy musician, the musician is transparent and you are able to connect to the source of the music.
The holy person wants all honors to go to Hashem; he does not want to take any of Hashem's honour for himself. When you are serving a cup of tea to your guest, when you are giving tzedakkah, it is really Hashem who is providing the tea and the tzedakkah – you are just the fortunate messenger. To be kadosh means to allow your guest or friend the opportunity to feel closer to Hashem without getting in the way. It is Hashem who gave you the opportunity to do something for your guest or for the poor man! The honor and thanks belong to Him. So we are given the mitzvah "Kedoshim tee'he-you," be holy; be transparent to your source. Hashem is giving you the opportunity to let others connect to Him through you, so don't block their view of Hashem's light, don't steal the light for yourself..
TO BE CONNECTED TO HASHEM – ALL IT TAKES IS BITTUL HA-YESH
Chassidut explains that only Hashem is holy. Thus we can experience Kedusha only by being connected to Hashem, the source of all holiness. To be connected to Hashem requires that we make space for the indwelling of the Holy Shechinah. This is accomplished by complete bittul ha-yesh (self-abnegation).
Once when the Kotzker Rebbe was still a young child, someone told him that he would give him a coin if he could tell him where G-d is. Immediately the Kotzker replied, "Wherever you let Him in!" On another occasion someone said to him "I'll give you a coin if can show where G-d can be found." The Rebbe told him, "I'll give you two coins if can show where He cannot be found."
The Chiddushei Hari"m once asked his Chassidim the same question, "Where is G-d?" Naturally they were astonished by the question, after all isn't Hashem everywhere? The Rebbe then told his Chassidim that though Hashem is everywhere, for "the entire world is filled with His glory," nevertheless the holy Shechinah dwells only where it is totally welcomed. Hashem does not enter into a place where He is welcomed only temporarily, be it for an hour or for a day only. To merit the indwelling of the Holy Shechinah within ourselves, our bittul (self abnegation) must be total and complete; we must invite Hashem to be present in our lives at all times.
BE READY TO RECEIVE THE SHECHINAH
The Ishbitzer explains being kadosh as being ready to receive the Shechinah, being ready to attach yourself to Hashem, "ki kadosh Ani Hashem Elokeichem," for I Hashem your G-d am always ready for you.
Imagine you're walking down the street and someone is coming towards you. Are you ready for Hashem to be with you when you say Good Morning to this person? Are you ready to see with "good eyes," eyes through which the light of Hashem, the light of your soul are shining? Reb Shlomo ztz"l taught that "ayin tovah" (good eyes) are eyes that don't cut down another person, eyes that help another person see their potential and allow them and encourage them to grow.
thou shalt surely rebuke thy neighbour, and not bear sin because of him.
הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך - You shall surely rebuke your friend
The souls of Israel are intertwined and therefore we are responsible for one another. For this reason we are commanded to rebuke one another when appropriate. And if we don’t, we have a share in their transgression. However this is a very sensitive mitzvah are there are a number of important conditions that must be observed carefully when one wishes to rebuke.
We find the following lesson in the Talmud, Massechet Arachin 16b:
‘Whence do we know that if a man sees something unseemly in his neighbor, he is obliged to reprove him? Because it is said: “Thou shalt surely rebuke.”
If he rebuked him and he did not accept it, whence do we know that he must rebuke him again? The text states: ‘surely rebuke’ - always.
One might assume [this to be obligatory] even though his face blanched, therefore the text states: “Thou shalt not bear sin because of him.” [i.e. if you rebuke in a manner that is insulting, ‘you’ have done a sin!]
Already, two thousand years ago, we find the Rabbis of the Talmud declaring that no one really knows how to rebuke and that there possibly isn’t anyone who is capable of receiving rebuke properly. Note the following discussion very carefully.
It was taught [in a Baraitha]: R. Tarfon said, “I wonder whether there is any one in this generation who [is ready to] accept reproof, for if one says to him: Remove the mote from between your eyes, he would answer: Remove the beam from between your eyes! R. Eleazar b. Azariah said: I wonder if there is one in this generation who knows how to reprove! [In the Ayn Yaakov this statement is attributed to Rabbi Akiva.]
We also find a statement in the Talmud that says, ‘just like it is a mitzvah to speak up when your words will be received, so too it is a mitzvah to be silent when your words will not be accepted’. [Yerushalmi Chagiga 1:8]
Rebbe Nachman says that if this was true in Rabbi Akiva’s generation, then it is all the more so true in our times. When someone who is not on the level to rebuke properly, not only is his rebuke not helpful, it makes things worse! Because his rebuke surrounds the one whom he is rebuking with a foul odor; his rebuke actually arouses the bad smell of the individuals wrongdoings and bad character traits! The following lessons from the Baal Shem Tov will help us understand this.
The commentators [Toldos Yaakov Yosef - Kedoshim d"h B'shem HBS"T ; also BS"T alHaTorah Kedoshim 14 footnote 13] have written that the one who is rebuking should include himself in the rebuke. This means that he should be aware that he has a part in the transgression. As it says "you shall not carry [place] the sin upon him." Meaning, do not cast the entire transgression upon him, but rather he should intertwine himself with him, (i.e., he should accept his share of responsibility for what the other did) and he too should do tshuvah for the transgression. The result will be that his fellow will sense this and he too will be aroused to do tshuvah. If the rebuker does not do his part in the necessary tshuvah, he is not really motivated with sincere love for Hashem; instead he is casting his own filth onto the other and is really making things worse.
In the sefer Baal Shem Tov al HaTorah, there is an awesome teaching from the holy Baal Shem Tov zy"a. Briefly, the BeSh"T taught that everything that happens is by Divine Providence. This includes the people you meet and see at any given moment. If you happen to see your friend doing something forbidden, it is because you are presently being judged in heaven for the very same thing. You may not have done the same exact thing that you see your friend doing, but it was similar.
Now, the heavenly court needs the defendant to agree to the judgment that was passed on him. How does the court get you to accept the judgement? It is arranged that you should see another person who is doing the same [or similar] thing that you did. By passing judgment against your friend, you are consenting with the decisions of the heavenly court against yourself. But if you find a way to judge your friend favourably, not only are you doing him a favour, you are actually saving your own self. Furthermore, by recognizing that you too have to do a tikkun in this matter, and by doing tshuvah, you are also making it easier for your friend to do tshuvah as well.
According to the holy Zohar, there is in the world of Kedusha a heichal zchut (a chamber of merit); and there is in the world of klippah a heichal chovah (a chamber of guilt). In the heichal zchut all those present are seeking ways to find you 'righteous,' whereas in heichal chovah all those present are seeking ways to pronounce you 'guilty.' The Baal Shem Tov teaches that you can tell which chamber you are in by the way you are judging people.
ואהבת לרעך כמוך – You shall love your fellow as you love yourself
We explained ואהבת לרעך כמוך as a causative verb, referring to the mitzvah of loving Hashem. For where do we find (in the Torah) that a person should love himself – that it should say כמוך ? Rather the meaning is that you should make Hashem beloved by your friend, as He is beloved unto you. This is as the Rabbis have taught (Yoma 86a) ואהבת את ה' – you shall love Hashem – 'make the Name of Heaven beloved' [via how you live your life].
In accordance with the effort one makes to love Hashem, he will bring love for Hashem into the heart of his friend. That is why they [Rabbi Akiva] said that this mitzvah is a כלל גדול בתורה – a great principle in the Torah. Sfas Emes 5643 [p149]
ואהבת לרעך כמוך – You shall love your fellow as you love yourself
IN TORAT KOHANIM WE LEARN “Love your neighbor as yourself – ואהבת לרעך כמוך” – Rabbi Akiva says that this is a ‘klal gadol baTorah’ – a ‘great principle’ in the Torah. Ben Azzai says, “This is the book of the generations of man” is an even greater principle!
The essence fulfillment in practicing Torah and mitzvoth is achieved by doing them ‘within’ klal Yisrael – the community of the People of Israel. For it is through the community that we merit Kedusha – receiving and absorbimg holiness. This is as the explanation given by the Rabbis as to why this mitzvah to be holy was given in the assembly of the entire community. Therefore, it is necessary to do each and every mitzvah “in the name of all of Israel”. This requires the Jewish servant of Hashem to nullify/absorb himself into the community.
Since Rabbi Akiva said this is a “great principle” we understand that there is also a ‘small principle’. The lesser principle is that in doing a mitzvah it must be done with all of our 248 limbs (we must be fully present) – for man is called an “olam kattan” a ‘small world’ – a microcosm. The “great principle” is [to be fully present in] the entire community of Israel.
Ben Azzai adds that the verse “This is the book of the generations of man” is an even greater principle! Meaning that you not only have to do the mitzvoth in the ‘name of all of Israel’, as we learn from ואהבת לרעך כמוך, you also have to connect and include yourself with the souls of all generations. This is an even “greater principle” – to include all souls [in your service of Hashem] as they were all included in Adam. For all souls are interconnected and dependant on one another.
We must guard this principle of doing the mitzvoth ‘within’ the community of all of Israel, for then the ‘Name of Heaven’ connects with our doing of the mitzvoth as it says “ani Hashem- I Am Hashem”. [ואהבת לרעך כמוך “Love your fellow as yourself, I Am Hashem. When we nullify ourselves into the entire community, then “I Am Hashem” – Hashem’s Name is present and is connected with the mitzvah you are doing.”
“You shall love” means – that as in every doing of a mitzvah there is a will and love to improve and fix one’s own being, and also as one who is highly motivated to do a mitzvah ‘for the sake of Hashem’s Name’, blessed be He, so that he should merit to cause Him ‘nachas’ and pleasure, likewise, “you should love your fellow” – in your performance of the mitzvah, Kedusha should be drawn “to our brothers, B’nai Yisrael, and that the Holy One b’H should have ‘nachas’ from all of us.
When mitzvoth are done in this manner then the strength of the community helps and supports us further in achieving this. SFAS EMES PARSHAT KEDOSHIM 5652 – 1892 (PAGES 156-157)
V'AHAVTAH L'REY-ACHA KAMOCHA - LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF
love your fellow as yourself
Holiness in living finds its ultimate expression in the mitzvah, "and you shall love [unto] your fellow as you love yourself, I Am Hashem." (Lev.19: 18) Who is this fellow, this neighbour that the Torah is talking about? On many occasions when learning this verse with students, I would ask them [you may want to try it yourself] to close their eyes and listen to the verse as I read it to them, and then think of someone in relation to this verse. Then I would ask them if the person they thought about was in the room. Almost always the majority of people thought about someone who was not presently in the room. The implications of this are interesting. Now listen to this amazing teaching from Reb Shlomo zt"l.
Reb Shlomo ztz"l taught that the fellow person that the Torah is commanding you to love as you love yourself, is the person who is next to you right now! Love them 'for no reason,' love a love of true Oneness, as you love yourself. But is this possible? From the fact that we are commanded to do so, we understand that it is possible to accomplish this in one's lifetime. Hashem does not ask us for the impossible. It does require a lot of work, to be sure, including joy, true humility and true awareness of Hashem and of one's 'higher self.'
What does it mean to love someone as you love yourself? There are a number of different opinions about this. The Tzemach Tzeddek in his sefer Derech Mitzvotecha offers a realistic and practical explanation of this mitzvah. Each one of us knows that we are not perfect and that we make mistakes. Yet, we [usually] tolerate our mistakes and imperfections, and we still love ourselves, at least to the point that we do not refuse ourselves pleasures or kindness and self-love. For example, if I said something unkind to someone, or did not make a serious attempt at accomplishing all that i was supposed to do today, nevertheless at the end of the day I do not refuse to have desert, or forbid myself the pleasure of listening to good music etc. Likewise, says the Tzemach Tzeddek, we are obligated to accept our friends with their imperfections and mistakes, and we should not refuse them our kindness and love.
To further explain the connection between Kedoshim tee'yu and v'ahavtah l'reyacha kamocha (being holy and loving your friend), I had the following thought: Hashem wants us to be holy. So we come before Hashem and we say that we would like to be holy. However the satan, the 'blocker', comes forward and says that we have no right to be kadosh because we have done this and that and other transgressions. So then we say to Hashem, please let us be close to You in spite of our mistakes, because we really want to be close to You. Please forgive us, please help us fix our ways, fix our wrongdoings, overlook our past and look at us now and look at where we want to be. Otherwise we don't stand a chance at being holy.
There is a very nice Chassidic reading of this mitzvah as follows: "V'ahavtah l'reyacha -kamocha ani Hashem." (In the same way that you love your friend, so too I Hashem, will be with you!)
Hashem is telling us, “If you want Me to overlook your mistakes, if you want Me to love you so much that I should be forgiving and accepting of you, that I should be kind to you even though you are not perfect, then you too must treat your friends this way. If you can do this for others I will do this for you.”
If you really believe in tshuvah, in the ability to return to Hashem, in your ability to return to Hashem, if you really believe that past mistakes and wrongdoings can be fixed, that you can be at-one with Hashem again, that your desire to be holy is real, then practice this with your friends as well. Demonstrate that this is your truth in your own life, that you will not hate your brother in your heart, that you will not take revenge nor bear a grudge against him, but rather you will love him as you love yourself, then you will merit that Hashem will also treat you in this way.
THE WHOLE TORAH ON ONE FOOT
Remember when the convert came to Hillel and said, "Convert me in the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I'm standing on one foot." The Sfas Emes explains that the convert was asking Hillel how he would be able to keep and live the Torah in this world of 'one foot.' The 'one-foot' refers to this world of lies. In Hebrew, the letter Kof reaches lower than the other letters. The word Emet (Truth) is written Aleph-Mem-Taf, all three letters sit firmly on the line. However, the word Sheker (lie) is written Shin-Kof-Resh. The Kof drops down below the other letters, hence it is standing on 'one foot;' in the world of one foot, the world of lies. So then what was Hillel's advice?
Hillel told the convert, "That which is hateful to you, do not do unto others, that is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and study." In other words he told him, "V'ahavtah L'reyacha Kamocha." Love your neighbour as yourself.
What Hillel is saying is that an individual alone cannot stand up against the lies of Amalek. It is only through connecting with all of Am Yisrael that we can push away the lies and live the truth. We must love each other if we wish to navigate in this world and reach our goals and destinies.
HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU / CAN YOU LOVE?
In the following (Free Translation) excerpt from the Tanya Chapter 32, by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), founder of Chabad Chassidism, the Alter Rebbe teaches us how we can achieve loving every one of our fellow people.
"Fulfilling that which we have spoken of above -- to view one's body with scorn and contempt, and finding joy only in the joy of the soul alone -- is a direct and easy way to attain the fulfillment of the commandment "Love your fellow as yourself" toward every soul of Israel, both great and small.
For, whereas one despises and loathes one's body, while as for the soul and spirit, who can know their greatness and excellence in their root and source in the living G-d? Being, moreover, all of a kind and all having one Father -- therefore, all Israelites are called real brothers by virtue of the source of their souls in the One G-d; only the bodies are separated. Hence in the case of those who give major consideration to their bodies while regarding their souls as of secondary importance, there can be no true love and brotherhood among them, but only [a love] which is dependent on a [transitory] thing.
This is what Hillel the Elder meant when he said in regard to the fulfillment of this commandment, "This is the whole Torah; the rest is but commentary... " For the basis and root of the entire Torah is to raise and exalt the soul high above the body, reaching unto the Source and Root of all the worlds, and also to bring down the blessed light of the Infinite upon the community of Israel, as will be explained later, i.e. into the fountain-head of the souls of all Israel, to become "One into One." This is impossible if there is, G-d forbid, disunity among the souls, for the Holy One, blessed be He, does not dwell in an imperfect place, as we pray: "Bless us, O our Father, all of us together, with the light of Your countenance," as has been explained at great length elsewhere."