R’ Shlomo Maidancik, ob”m, who served as mayor of Kefar Chabad, Israel for many years, was also one of the community leaders and a stalwart for Jewish causes not to mention many Chabad activities. This brought him close to the highest government officials who all had nothing but the kindest things to say about him and treated him with utmost respect. Many were not religious and politically railed against religious ideals yet they always remained his friends. This was all in addition to his day job, being a simple train operator/engineer in Israel for many years. He took recompense from no one and lived a blue-collar life. He was well-known for his acts of kindness and love for his fellow Jew. A bright smile was his hallmark and it would light up any room he entered.
Perhaps what he would be most proud of were the many missions, public and private, that the Lubavitcher Rebbe entrusted him with. He was the “Rebbe’s mentsch” as the saying goes and there was nothing too small or large (and he was involved in some highly classified and important matters) he wouldn’t accomplish on behalf of the Rebbe.
He was once asked, how he succeeds to always keep a smile on his face and have such love for others; no pre-conditions, even if just chance encounters or tenuous and difficult situations.
Reb Shloimke (as he was fondly called by chassidim) answered: “When you are at war within there’s peace without when you’re at peace within you’ll be at war without!”
As the founder of Chabad, the Alter Rebbe, explains in his holy Tanya, a person is in constant struggle to overcome the animalistic instincts and evil inclination within. The war a person must wage all his life is to subdue one’s wicked thoughts, speech and action. If he is busy doing that he will be incapable of causing others harm. He can’t! He must destroy the evil within. He must rise above his natural instincts and better himself thus allowing his G-dly soul to reign within. He has no time for folly and games or childishness.
When one is at peace inside, no worries, all static, complacency sets in and the default position is to take the diplomatic and easy way out. To make compromises with your own narcissism even if it means to hurt another. At a bare minimum not to commit acts of kindness to those you think don’t deserve it.
Helping another is always fraught with danger. You’re required to leave your comfort zone. That takes courage. A battle ensues within. The “self” never wants to extend itself. Another should never come before you. So, when you fight this battle against your-self and slog through the bog bit by bit making it your G-dy duty to go beyond yourself, realizing in His world you’re no better than the other, you’re actually part of the other, the war within will –counter-intuitively– be the cause for peace with others and thereby your own real self. Your G-dly spark.
No Parsha conveys this message better than the one we read this Shabbat, Achrei-Kedoshim. Within the multitude of laws we read here, many of which deal with civil law and ethical matters, the moral compass we must follow in our social-interactions and personal relationships. Of which most always end with the words, “and you shall revere G-d” or “for I am G-d Your L-rd”, because, say our holy Sages, it is meant to teach us that even our civil laws its morality and ethics are to be governed by Torah, G-d’s Word. It is the constant battle we wage within to fear and revere G-d that is the only beachhead against the winds of secularism and narcissism.
When we are able to overcome the winds of secular war howling all around us and realize our security lies in G-d’s embrace and His ways, can we truly be at peace with all those around us, even our enemies, whether they know it or are willing to accept it.
This is why out of all the commandments in this Parsha is the touchstone of our Torah and yet it shares space with two other prohibitions in the very same verse: “You shall not take revenge nor shall you bear a grudge…you shall love your fellow as yourself!”
That last word seems to make this positive pro-active commandment nigh impossible. Indeed, R’ Akiva calls this one commandment the “great principle of the Torah”. Yet, it not only doesn’t have it’s own verse. It shares its space with two negative commandments that actually precede it and then it brings up the rear, sort of unceremoniously, almost as an afterthought!
The solution lies in our anecdote from Reb Shloimke. Loving another, especially as yourself is almost illusory. It seems not grounded in reality. Indeed, it is our corporeality that makes us unique and different from one another. How then can we truly love each other let alone like you love yourself??!! When you realize however that it is a battle and it must be waged within all the time; every minute, hour and day, that it’s not just a figment of Torah’s imagination, and that it requires difficult choices, such as not holding a grudge or taking revenge, two of the most difficult and natural impulses to control, but you battle those feelings and desires and subjugate them, you can then be a real friend and lover to everyone else and whoever you meet. Nothing fazes you because no one hates you. So you love them back!!
But, it cannot come without struggle and battle. Anyone who is a lover and claims to be compassionate from birth and didn’t have to fight to reach the plateau of true love is not only faking himself he is deceiving you too. It’s nothing but a mirage! No battle within means you’ve accomplished nothing without.
Let’s learn to fight. Fight our own mendacity. That’s where it all starts. You want to win you have to worry about yourself. Everything else will fall into place and you’ll come out the victor. Fight hard for peace within and then the true love will come. King David said it best: “He redeemed my soul in peace from battles against me for with many were they against me!”