Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Chaim G. on Ahavas Yisroel
(Illustration by Reb Dovid Sears ZGZ)
Ahavas Yisroel is ahava directed towards a Yisroel. Generic ahava includes feelings of affection, tenderness, patience, gratitude, esteem, trust, unconsciousness or marginalization of the love-objects faults and errors and, most of all, a desire to give to the love-object. When these feelings are directed towards a Yid, and in particular towards the Yiddishkeit/getlikhkeit of that yid that’s my definition of ahavas yisroel.
Now the chicken/ egg causality relationship between loving and giving is subtle and tricky. They are basically a cheerful cycle. But Rav Dessler z”l established that, in fact, we love those whom we give, not the other way around. As ahavas yisroel is a mitzvah, like any other mitzvah it takes a willful exercise of bechira and continued effort to fulfill and shtaig in. Also, as with other mitzvahs, certain people, based on how hard they work at it, their shorshei haNeshoma and T’chunos HaNefesh, have an easier time with it than do others. It IS hard, and as our continued golus testifies, perhaps harder than any other mitzvah, but it is not impossible. ain HKB”H buh B’Trunia im breyosov.
I’m hardly exemplary in this department so it’s not my place to write a primer. But I have an insight that might be helpful. The velt says that “familiarity breeds contempt”. Ever see the moshol in Gulliver’s Travels when the tiny Gulliver lands on a gigantic beauty’s face and sees the repulsive equivalent of a greasy, toxic lunar landscape? Sometimes we are too close to our brethrens pesho'im for ahava to be mechaseh. Many of us, especially Klei Kodesh, have no human relationships at all with nochrim. I don’t have a good eitzha but, paradoxically, our insular self-imposed ghettos that have kept so much goyishkeit out have also (owing to our lack of real interaction with those truly different, hateful towards and contemptible by, us) created an ambiance where we focus and harp on each others faults and the minutiae that divides us rather than on the Torah and laiv echod that unites us.
I have a Yeshivish friend who once interviewed for a high-school Rebbee’s job at an MO Yeshiva. After a good model lesson and towards the end of a long interview the Menahel asked him “So tell me. What are your feelings about Yom Ha'atzmaut?” he responded “Main tayara Menahel, based on our exchanges so far we are more or less in agreement on how to be mechanench the kids here the other 364 days of the year. Are you going to tell me we can’t work together because we disagree about how to handle ONE day?” Needless to say he did not get the job. But I think that this ma’aseh brings the phenomenon that I’ve been describing into sharp relief. I f we have any hopes ever being more than feuding Sunnis and Shi’ites absent the rifles and cut-throat proclivities, if we ever hope to get beyond the “Judaism-reduced-to-color-war” matzav that we find ourselves in we should give more davka to those yidden most different than us, and seeing the much that unites us instead of the klainikeitin that divide us, close ranks. This is what the Holocaust survivors had the good sense and survival instincts to do in the T’kufa immediately following the war.