Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Bring your faults along, my fellow Jew!*

To love your fellow Jew.

Why the struggle?

Simply, because we see the faults in other people.

Loving another Jew often seems beyond our means because it's hard to fully accept and love another when we so visibly see their faults. However, people who seem good in our eyes - well, they are easy to love. There's no challenge there.

So what do we do with the challenge of loving another Jew while seeing their faults? How can we rise above...?

There are different levels of approaching the faults in others as it relates to loving a fellow Jew.

The first, portrayed by Reb Zusha, is unnatainable by us.

Reb Zusha was aware of the hardship involved in loving other Jews. So what did he do? He begged G-d to take away his ability to see people's faults. He recognized percieving others' faults as a huge barrier, and he couldn't deal, couldn't tolerate it. So G-d fulfilled his request and he lived the remainder of his life totally blind to the faults of others. In a sense, everyone became perfect to him. And the love flowed.

Then there is the Berditchiver Rebbe.

The Berditchiver was able to reach a level where he witnessed faults in other people and turned them into actual virtues. For instance, the famous story where he saw a Jew smoking a ciggarette on Shabbos. The Berditchiver assumed that this man forgot it was Shabbos. When the man informed him that he in fact DID know it was Shabbos, the Berditchiver turned to G-d and said "See, G-d, how honest are your people!". When a 99 year-old women in his community decided, on her deathbed, to "convert" to Christianity he proclaimed "Look how she managed to hold off for so many years!" So the Berditchiver lived a life constantly choosing to turn others' faults into virtues.

And then along came the Baal Shem Tov.

The Baal Shem Tov didn't even try to remove himself from seeing other peoples' faults. In fact, he actually engaged them. He simply loved people IN SPITE of their downfalls - not because they didn't have them. His approach was "why do we have to turn everyone into a Tzaddik to love them?!". What kind of a joke is that? I can find love for you without blocking out your faults. So the Baal Shem Tov had no internal struggle, no fiery need to downplay or erase the wrong within his fellow Jew. And it wasn't his job anyway. Who am I to interfere? This is supposed to be a love without conditions - why bring your faults into this?


So, unlike Reb Zusha, we are not able to blind ourselves to the faults in others.

And yet, we are commanded to love each other.

The Baal Shem Tov insisted that one doesn't have to be in a cloud about another's faults to accept and love him.

When I imagine a world where every single person internalized this approach, a see light and power and sanctity and action and beauty and a strong and limitless forward motion.

And it all starts with you and me.

*[Rabbi Friedman's "Chassidic Insights" class this morning. We're discussing the Tzemach Tzedek's 'Derech Mitzvosecha'. To describe it as "enlightening" would be an insulting underestimation.]


Saad said...


Thanks for the teachings. I never thought about the differences in their approach.

So what was the Rebbe's approach?


Mimi said...

Here's what I think:

The Rebbe lived the approach of the Baal Shem Tov, thats for sure.

But along with that, the Rebbe believed strongly that the whole of the Jewish people are all one soul. And how dare you judge another person when they are part of the very fiber of your own being?! How can you NOT love them?!

Now, to me, this is something I have to strive and struggle to sense.

To the Rebbe, it was a reality. It was something that spinned into intense action and lay the foundation for all the Chabad Houses we see all over the world today.

In the words of Jonathan Sacks:

"It was, of course, that self--same belief that lay behind every single act the Lubavitcher Rebbe took. I one Jew suffers, we all feel pain. Many of us can understand that sentence as a metaphor, but only a true mystic can experience that sentence as a reality--can actually feel the pain. And that is why the Rebbe sent messages and messengers to every corner of the Jewish world. Because if one Jew is suffering, if one Jew is not yet written into the Torah scroll--the book which is our book of life--he felt pain."

Raizel said...

It was in seminary that I first heard the Ba'al Shem Tov's explanation of what "V'ahavta lerayacha Kamocha." Rabbi Tarragon explained it as, "Just as you have faults and yet you love yourself, so too shall you love others even though they have faults."
We understand why we do things that others may perceive as faults, so we have to view others in the same manner.

Thanks for elucidating the Ba'al Shem Tov's view, it is much more clear to me now.

Love ya,
Enjoy Cali!