A friend of mine told me his daughter bought him a kipah that’s half velvet and half knit, that says “I love every Jew” in Hebrew. Cute idea that expresses an important point we all need to think about more. Many of my fellow baalei-teshuva have an easy time saying “We should love all different kinds of Jews”. But some of us don’t easily fit in anywhere so it’s easy to say lets love everyone when you don’t really love anyone. Not that “not fitting in” is synonymous with not loving, but we all tend to develop a love for the members of our “group”, and cast aspersions on the others.
Within Orthodoxy against other Orthodox Jews or between Orthodox and Reform etc. Do we really need to puff ourselves up by denigrating others? If you really felt one with the Almighty, that you were an emissary of the Infinite Creator, would you feel the need to denigrate Reform Jews? As Baalei Teshuva, do we have an easier time loving all Jews or a harder time loving all Jews? If we have an easier time we need to share our thoughts with our fellow FFB’s. If we have a harder time, we need to learn from great people like R. Zelig Pliskin, and others how to generate more ahavas Yisroel.
Here’s one tip from our sages:
Healthy criticism is important and we do need to point out flaws in others to avoid them or help others avoid those flaws, but that mitzvah seems to be a little overdone. (The Chofetz Chaim cautions us regarding this in Clal Ches.) There’s more than enough of that going around.
Why does it say to love your fellow man like yourself? Why not just say “love your fellow man”? R. Moshe Rosenstein wrote that a person cannot properly fulfill the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael if that person doesn’t feel good about his/herself. When you have a healthy self-love you can magnanimously pour your thoughts prayers and actions into others. They are an extension of you. When you feel crummy about yourself, you often will project that onto others. As the gemara says, “kol bmumo posel”. All people criticize others with their own flaws.
Whatever particular group you align yourself with, even if it’s just “observant Judaism”, or the Jewish people, or even just humanity, it’s crucial to feel good about yourself and that group. This doesn’t mean excusing flaws or ignoring areas in which we need to grow. It’s also crucial to be interested in growth. But we especially need to focus on our good points. We need to constantly reflect on what we are doing right, and what is positive about us. Not to put down others, but to appreciate ourselves.
From that base of healthy self-love we can spread it to everyone else.
Originally Published 11/05/2009