Food For the Soul
Love Thy Fellow As Thyself
The most famous golden rule of life – Love thy fellow as thyself – is found in the Parsha Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:18). Can one ever hope to reach such an exalted level of saintliness to love anyone else as much as we love ourselves? Is the Torah not being naïve and utterly unrealistic?
Indeed, the classical commentaries grapple with this issue. Some suggest that we are being taught to act as if we love the other fellow. If we behave in such a way, the actual emotion may well follow in time.
The Chassidic classic Tanya (Chapter 32) teaches that if one is able to put physical considerations aside and focus on the spiritual, it may actually be within the realm of the possible to achieve true love of another. Indeed, our petty likes and dislikes are all based on physical preferences. We either approve or disapprove of the way others look, talk, dress, behave etc. But those are all material concerns. If we would only remember that these are but superficial, external, and of little consequence, we wouldn’t take them at all seriously.
What matters most is the spiritual. The real person is not the body but the soul. The essence of every individual is not his nose but his neshama. So what if he’s ugly and his mother dresses him funny? His soul is pure and untainted. Who knows if the other fellow’s soul is not greater, holier and more pristine than mine? No one can say his soul is better than the next person’s.
By focusing on the inner identity of a person we can avoid getting irritated by their outer idiosyncrasies.
How easy it is to fall into the trap of labeling people, of categorizing them and writing them off. Nobody is really an ogre. If we can learn to give people the benefit of the doubt we might be surprised at how friendly and cooperative they really can be. Individuals with the most notorious reputations aren’t half as bad as they are made out to be when we get to know them. Human monsters are rare indeed. The spark of humanity needs but to be aroused and the G-dly soul is stirred and revealed.
So let’s try and be more generous, a little more patient and forgiving. We may well be surprised at how lovable some people can be.
From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman
Myth: A ‘Shabbos Goy” Can Do Anything for You
Many people (wistfully) believe that whenever they wish to do something forbidden on Shabbat, they can just ask (or intimate without clearly asking) a non-Jew to perform the act for them. Commonly known as a “Shabbos goy,” the friendly gentile is seen as the panacea to all Shabbat needs. Asking a gentile to desecrate Shabbat falls under the category of shevut, something forbidden by rabbinic decree to enhance the restful atmosphere of the day.
There are, however, limited exceptions. For example, one may ask a non-Jew to perform an act that is itself a shevut if it will facilitate the observance of a mitzvah, benefit a sick person or a child or for other specific situations. Similarly, there are instances where a Jew may benefit if the non-Jew performed the forbidden act for his or her own benefit, without being asked.
For more information about Shabbat observances and prohibitions, visit Chabad.org
Mind Over Matter
Love Is Not Blind
Does loving thy fellow as thyself mean to be blind to the faults of another? “No!” writes Chana Weinberg in Chabad.org. “Just as we love ourselves totally but we still expect more from ourselves, we can love and respect another person even while seeing his mistakes. Being blinded to his faults, says the Rebbe, is actually apathy not love. Loving him means just as we justify our own failings and still love and respect ourselves, so too, we can find the justifications for another’s faults while still loving and respecting him for who he is.”
Moving To A New Level
It is certain that nowadays, as we are so close to the redemption from the galut (exile) which was caused by gratuitous hatred and discord, we have greatly improved in the observance of this mitzvah. At present, therefore, we have to move to a new level. During these last days of the galut we must try to experience a taste of the wondrous quality of ahavat Yisrael (love of Israel) of the Messianic era, an absolute ahavat Yisrael of soul to soul, which transcends all trivial differences that cause strife. When we shall now already live up to the “love of (G-d’s) creatures,” as it will be with the coming of Moshiach, we shall also merit the “bringing them near to the Torah,” i.e., to the wondrous new insights in the Torah which Moshiach will teach the entire nation!
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
All About Spirituality
I’m very rich. That I never hear. I’m very humble. That I never hear.
I’m very spiritual. Ah, at that I cringe very often. Why don’t they realize spirituality is humility?
Truth is, when they say “spiritual” they mean abstract: a quest for the unnoticed, the unstated, the uncommon.
But spirituality, in that definition, is not something inherently good, worthy or desirable.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (known in Yiddish as the Freidiker Rebbe) was unimpressed by yeshiva bochurim, the boys in yeshiva, who opened the refrigerator just to see what was inside. When I first heard that, at about fifteen, I pretty much dismissed that judgment as too severe for me to take very seriously. Now, with a waist that is doing its own thing, I think it’s just plain healthy. Self-control is the root of good health just as surely as no self-control leads to ill health. And when you stand in front of an open fridge you are inviting a lack of self control. (I wonder what the Rebbe would say about me in front of a smorgasbord / buffet / Viennese table . . . this list isn’t getting shorter and my mind is going elsewhere…)
But reflecting in front of the open fridge is more than just bad health; it’s desensitizing. It’s degrading. Dehumanizing. Its desensitizing because if I’m considering if I want Dijon better than mild, on the kaiser instead of on the rye, with the turkey rather than the pastrami, than that is where my mind is, that is where I am, that is where I am going, that is what I will be, that is all I can be. My lack of self control is evident to most folk when my waist lets them in on the secret. The Rebbe did not need to see waists to see any effect; he saw souls.
Picture for a minute Moses, Moses coming down the mountain, holding the two big tablets, walking cautiously, reverently. He nears the people and whispers, “With mayo, hold the tomato.”
There are those who see Moses in us, in each of us, and they see the shande, the ess post nisht, the (and this will not translate smoothly into English, it just won’t translate smoothly out of Yiddish) “it does not become you.” You’re Moses, and you are letting me down. Moses couldn’t have been Moses had he stood in front of the fridge; Shimon will not be Shimon if he stands in front of the fridge.
Animal! In English the word means wild and cruel. “Such an animal,” we say, referring to a scoundrel.
Behaima! It translates into animal but in Yiddish behaima connotes neither cruelty nor sadism. A behaima is a glutton. A healthy animal is a glutton. A healthy cow stands in front of the trough. A behaima is not a healthy person.
So when I hear someone describe whoever (themselves?) as spiritual I ask, Where? Why? Do I just not see it, or when I hear the word spiritual am I thinking holy? Am I expecting someone holy, and that is why I am disappointed?
There is an innate, assumed heroism in holiness; there is none in spirituality. The holy are often astonishingly earthy; the spiritual may attempt to be. They often come across as just plain coarse.
“Forbid yourself what is permitted you,” goes the Chassidic teaching. And it is taking me a long time to realize that it is not talking about simple asceticism, denying. Because that stuff is easy, the just not having. It is also meaningless.
Not having because it is getting in the way of doing something else, from being something else, because that is the road I want to travel less and this, this, this is the road I want to travel more! Now that is something that is holy, that is heroic, beautiful, everlasting, solid, formidable and enduring.
I close the fridge; I open the Talmud. It has waited patiently for me for a very long time.
Rabbi Shimon Posner