The counting of the omer between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot provides us with a built-in system of preparation for Chag Matan Torateinu (The Holiday of the Giving of the Torah). We count down (actually up) the days as we work on improving ourselves in preparation for The Big Day. We can only imagine what it must have been like to be among those who actually stood at Har Sinai. In addition to the awesome scene that the Torah describes, Rashi adds that the people stood together: K’Ish Echad B’Lev Echad – United As One!

So I guess that’s part of the goal each year as we approach Shavuot. We should strive for that awesome level of unity, where Ahavat Yisrael permeates throughout the Jewish people. But sadly, each year, I find it harder to believe that we as a people are capable of achieving any level of unity, and moreover, I find it harder to believe that I, personally, can achieve an authentic feeling of Ahavat Yisrael.

How can I love the person who rips down the sign advertising a shiur simply because the sign includes a picture of the woman giving the shiur?

How can I love the person who stands with and supports convicted sex offenders and continues to honor them as Torah scholars?

How can I love the person who stands at the entrance to the shul smoking? How can I love this person who forces everyone around him to inhale second hand smoke and puts asthmatics in harm’s way?

How can I love the person who goes around handing out Mashiach cards and tries to convince fellow Jews that the Lubavitcher Rebbe never died? How can I love this person who misleads so many people?

How can I love the person who blows a whistle in an attempt to drown out the tefillot of a fellow Jew?

How can I love the person who refuses to wash his or her  hands with soap after using the bathroom, claiming that it’s better just to use the “magic cup”? How can I love this person who is responsible for spreading harmful germs to others (especially during a pandemic!)?

It seems that for some people, loving others comes easy. Or so they would have us believe. Not long ago I stood outside the door to my shul looking for a 10th man to complete our minyan. Finally, as z’man tefillah was approaching, I spotted someone I know, confident that he would be our “minyan man”. I approached him and asked him if he had davened yet. He confirmed that he had not. I then asked him if he would please be our 10th so that we could continue with Shacharit in time to reach the Amida before z’man tefillah had passed. He gave me a warm smile and said, “I love you – but no.” At that point he proceeded to walk into a different minyan, one which had already completed davening Shacharit. We never did manage to find a tenth that day.

That’s not how we treat the people we love. Saying the words “I love you” does not make it so. I guess I can add this “I won’t be your minyan man” to the list of people that I cannot love.

It won’t be long before we enter the days of Bein Hametzarim, the days that extend from the Fast of Shiva Asar B’Tammuz to the Fast of Tisha B’Av. There will be lots written and much said about the need for Ahavat Chinam. 

But I honestly have no idea how to go about achieving that.

About the Author
Michael Schachter spent several years working in both formal and informal Jewish education in the US before making aliyah in 2010 with his wife and children. For the past few years he and his family have been running the Safed Puzzle Room, an educational escape room experience, in Tzfat. They have also created a series of online Israel and Jewish themed escape room games, available at Bagels & Locks Studios. He and his family make their home in Katzrin, where they also run one of the local shuls, Kehillat Or Hatzafon.
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