How to love happily ever after…
Israel is under attack.
This time, we’re facing what is considered the greatest test ever. And I’m not only referring to rockets from Gaza.
For over a year now, Israel has been torn asunder by internal strife, ranging from endless election cycles to the role of the Supreme Court. Only three times in our history have we had self-rule in the Holy Land. The first two were terminated by internal conflict that quickly led to invasions. When our foundation was shaken from within, our enemies were able to penetrate from without.
And it’s happening again now. We’ve got to find a way to return to our values of mutual respect and appreciation. Our future depends on it.
A true relationship is two imperfect people refusing to give up on each other. The only way that love can last a lifetime is when it’s unconditional. The truth is that love is not determined by the one being loved but by the one choosing to love. A friendship that can end, never truly began.
Conditional love means that we’re willing to pull away from each other under certain conditions. Unconditional love means that no matter what you do, I’m going to pursue the connection with you! That’s why people love dogs so much—no matter what you do, they’ll always lovingly come back!
A great relationship doesn’t happen because of the love you had in the beginning but rather because of the love you nurtured and maintained through to the end. To be brave is to love someone unconditionally without expecting anything in return. The most memorable people in life are the friends who loved you when you weren’t very lovable. Distance means so little when someone means this much.
This is true about Mother’s Day as it’s true about marriage. And it’s true in how to love your fellow Jew too. Nowhere does the Torah command us to like our fellow Jews. But we are commanded to love them. And that means unconditionally.
The Talmud famously relates the story of the prospective convert who wished to learn the “entire Torah while standing on one foot.” In response, Hillel the Sage told him that loving your fellow Jew is the foundation of the whole Torah. Far from a pathetic reduction of religion to social justice, Hillel was sharing a profound pearl of wisdom about love:
When you can find it in your heart to love your fellow man even if you don’t like him, it’s proof that you believe in your common father. If you didn’t believe that you were brothers, there would be no reason to love him. Hence, the test of whether you believe in G-d is whether you are able to love every person! On the flip side, the only way to truly love your fellow is if you believe in G-d.
Next week we’ll celebrate our becoming the Chosen Nation at Mount Sinai, on the festival of Shavuos 3335 years ago. As we gathered around the mountain, the Torah testifies that we were united “like one man, with one heart.” In contrast, when Pharaoh’s armies pursued us at the Red Sea, they were united “with one heart, like one man.”
For the Jews, “one man” is primary, for the Egyptians, “one heart” comes first. This subtle distinction expresses the essence of our commitment to each other as Jews: whilst anti-Semites rally around a common cause (one heart), the commitment we Jews have for each other is beyond any shared interests (one man).
It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but it takes, even more, to stand up for your friends. Strong people stand up for themselves. But the strongest people stand up for others. Now is the time for us to show our true colors and character.
The Torah explicitly promises us “peace upon the Land” if we will only embrace the words of the Torah (Leviticus 26: 3-6). Hillel taught us that respecting each other is only possible when we respect Hashem and our Torah.
Our Nation of Israel needs our unity, now more than ever. Let’s reach out with unconditional love to a fellow Jew, just because they are our brother or sister. Together, our compassion can shake the world. Our kind words will counter their evil swords.
Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens
6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
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