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Ahavat Israel: The Means to Bring Jews to Hashem

Published on Sunday March 14th, 2021

Once, on a very hot summer day, I came to the home of Rabbi Asher with a group of friends. Suddenly, a woman dressed very immodestly erupted at Rabbi Asher’s apartment and asked: “Who is Rabbi Asher?”

“It’s me”, answered the Rabbi “what do you want?”

“I came from Russia and I am totally alone in Israel,” said the woman tearfully “I need to move furniture from a rental in Beit Hakerem to an apartment on Ussishkin and I have no money for the move. Someone gave me Rav Asher’s address and told me he helps everyone and would help me too”.

Rav Asher asked me and some of my friends to move her furniture. We climbed on a minibus with our eyes fixed to the bottom of the lorry, so as to avoid looking at the immodestly clothed woman. After reaching Beit Hakerem, we loaded her furniture on the lorry and headed for Ussishkin St.

She suddenly told me: “I know that he is a Rav and I know it’s not appropriate to visit him dressed like this. But I had nothing else to wear and the Rabbi did not reject me. He talked to me kindly and helped me nonetheless. Take note that up until today, I ate non-kosher food, I mixed milk and meat and had bread during Pesach. I did not respect Shabbat nor holidays. But from today, I commit to wear only modest clothes, eat kosher and honor the Shabbat”.

We were shocked by the words she expressed from the bottom of her heart. “You know why?”, she added, “only because the Rabbi treated me with such kindness”.

Rabbi Asher Freind gave us an extraordinary lesson on Ahavat Israel, the unconditional love we must profess to our Jewish brothers and sisters.

It goes without saying, that according to this story, this Jewish woman returned to her roots and to our father in Heaven only due to the unconditional love shown to her by Rabbi Asher.

And the Chazon Ish said that the Halacha to follow in our day prescribes bringing Jews back to the Torah via acts of loving kindness (Yorei Deah, 2).

With love it is possible to open the hearts of Jews to Judaism: It’s the meaning of the parable from the Treatise of Avot: “Love creatures and bring them close to Torah”.

We learn from our Sages that when we wish to bring a person back to Judaism, we must take an initial step by doing something (like turning a key) to ignite the Jewish flame that lives within him. When we express authentic love, coming from the depth of our souls, we entice them to come back to Torah and mitzvot.

If it is difficult to love them due to their anti-Torah behavior, we must nonetheless try to judge them favorably and find some positive points, because each Jew has an abundance of grace and positive traits to awaken genuine love in our hearts.

Here are the words of the Defender of the Jewish People, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev:

“Whoever does not possess the ability to see the good and the sincerity of another Jew, or who does not cultivate the virtue of singling out the positive traits of his fellow Jews; one who cannot emphasize admiration for Jews; one who can't judge Jews favorably, must know he will not be able to be at the Creator’s service”.

A man may be immersed in Torah study all day long, participate in early morning services (Netz, at the crack of dawn), use several pairs of Tefillin, immerse in a mikveh twice a day, complete the book of Psalms and always observe Shabbat and Holidays; he may be scrupulous in the observance of halacha, etc. But if he doesn’t make the effort to love his fellow man, with all the implications involved in the process, he must know that he lacks the most fundamental trait. The essential meaning of the one who said: “And the world came into being”, that is Ahavat Israel.

And since Ahavat Israel is the most elevated and important quality that a Jew must cultivate, the evil inclination works extra hours to dissuade a man from loving his fellow Jew. The evil inclination is satisfied only when a man performs all his duties in the domain of “sanctity” but neglects Ahavat Israel and does not feel obliged to judge his fellow Jew favorably. Because if he did, he would be a true servant of Hashem.  

May we multiply love for our neighbor and peace with everyone so we may come close to our father in heaven.

The Torah-Box Team - © Torah-Box

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