Friday, July 24, 2009

Love Your Fellow as Yourself

The Sage Rabbi Hillel said, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn"

This is not my usual style of blog, but it is something which I feel is very important, and at this juncture in time it is of the utmost urgency. I am the least likely person to write these words as I am as guilty as the next person, but I feel obligated to pass on my thoughts nonetheless. The views contained herein are not new, but I believe that these ideas can never be overstated.

Before any action or any spoken word…. Think!

So much damage can be done by acting impulsively. If someone says something you don't agree with, think twice before automatically responding with negative harsh words. If someone hurts your feelings, take a deep breath and gently ask for an explanation. Let them know it was hurtful. If someone starts out in a fierce tone, respond as calmly as possible in order to change the atmosphere. As it says in proverbs 15:1, a soft reply turns away anger.

I could go on and on about the dos and don'ts of verbal abuse. And I won't even get into the subject of physical abuse but to say that hurting another person, physically or emotionally, is a major Torah transgression. For more on the topic, read this article by Rabbi Shalom Arush, The Danger of Verbal Abuse.

By hurting those we love, we are also hurting ourselves. Not only is it forbidden to harm our family members, but to cause injury to any Jew is a grave sin. The store clerk, the bus driver, the telephone repairman.... all must be treated with respect. To quote Rabbi Akiva, one must 'love your fellow as yourself'. Imagine how you would feel if someone did to you what you intend to do to them? To take it one step further, each one of us holds a spark of HaShem within, and by wounding another human being, we are in essence causing pain to the Holy One, Blessed Be He! Who would dare do such a thing?

It is no secret that the world we live in has become dangerously out of control. There is no reason or logic to many of the events unfolding each day. Madmen have power over countries that own weapons of mass destruction which they have no qualms about using. They threaten the very existence of our Holy Land of Israel. We must unite as one people in order to bring about Divine intervention. Tisha B'Av will soon be upon us when we will mourn the destruction of the 1st and 2nd Temples. Our sages say that the Temple was destroyed because of sinat chinam, baseless hatred among Jews. Unfortunately, not a lot has changed since then. It is our duty to remedy the situation and bring light into this dark world of exile.

We must increase our love for one another, do kindness beyond the norm and end the abuse and loshon hora (evil speech). Loshon hora is said to be one of 'the causes of our exile and until we rectify the evil, we will not be deemed worthy of redemption'. (from Guard Your Tongue by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin - based on Chofetz Chaim).

For those readers who have not yet taken on the yoke of religious observance, there is no better time then the present. Just let G-d know that you believe that He is in control and the rest will fall into place, one step at a time. (Click for more information on Tisha B'Av and Laws of Shabbat.)

It is only a matter of time until we will have no one to rely on but our Father in Heaven. Don't wait until it is too late to call out His Name!