Giving is Living
As we progress through the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple and our extended exile, let’s remember that the cause is baseless hatred. This can only be remedied by fostering love of Yisrael, both within ourselves and others.
Rabbi Shalom Arush has been emphasizing the need to increase our focus on the commandment to love our neighbor both within the people of Israel and throughout the entire world. We should make it a prime part of our service to Hashem. The Rav frequently quotes Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai who stressed that our main mission depends on our mutual love for one another.
Rabbi Arush has been imploring us to look for the good in others and pray that our people overcome sinat chinam (baseless hatred). This is the key to removing the prime cause of our collective tribulations and creating vessels to bring redemption.
I recently read an article by Rabbi Abraham Twerski, zt”l on the mitzvah to love your neighbor which can be a powerful component of this overall strategy.
Rabbi Twerski quotes Rabbi Akiva who says that loving your neighbor is a klal gadol or guiding principle of the Torah. Within this principle are numerous details. Rabbi Twerski tells us that every one of the 613 mitzvot is included within this overarching principle. He teaches that every mitzvah that we do should result in increased love for one’s neighbor.
This connection to loving one’s neighbor is obvious for certain mitzvot like giving charity or visiting the sick. However, it’s hard to fathom how this works for most other mitzvot. For example, how does putting on tefillin or shaking a lulav generate increased love for one’s fellow Jew?
Rabbi Twerski explains that for certain mitzvoth we make a declaration up front that we are ready and prepared to perform it in the name of all Israel. For example, we make this declaration before saying the prayer Baruch She’amar and before we put on tefillin.
He recommends that we make a similar declaration before we do any mitzvah. We should dedicate it as a merit for the entire Jewish people. When we do this, the performance of each mitzvah becomes an act of giving. Rabbi Twerski brings down from Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler that we not only give to those whom we love. We come to love those to whom we give. The root word for love in Hebrew, ahavah, is hav which means giving.
Rabbi Twerski says If we listen to the words we say and are sincere, then we can fulfill Rabbi Akiva’s principle. By implementing this strategy, each time we perform a mitzvah, it becomes an act of giving which will contribute to increased love for our fellow Jews and enhance our connection with our Father in heaven.
Let us try to do this consistently and make it a key element of our daily service to Hashem. As Rabbi Arush recommends, we should fervently request that Hashem help us to overcome unwarranted hatred and resentment towards others and to love all Jews like members of our family. At the same time, we should dedicate each mitzvah we perform for the benefit of every Jew. These prayers and dedications should include every single Jew even those, and especially those, with whom we differ religiously, culturally, or politically. Rabbi Arush tells us that nothing gives a Father so much pleasure as when his children love each other unconditionally and do kindness for one another.
As we enter the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temple and our extended exile, let’s remember the cause is baseless hatred. This can only be remedied by repenting from this great sin and fostering ahavat Yisrael, love of Yisrael, both within ourselves and others.
This dual strategy of dedicating each mitzvah to the well-being of Klal Yisrael while praying for all Jews to act in a respectful sensitive and kind manner towards each other will set us on the right course. It will certainly help create the vessels we so urgently need to mitigate harsh judgments and bring about miraculous salvations for the Jewish people and the world