Friday, May 1, 2009

KEDOSHIM: LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF

THIS WEEK'S TEACHINGS FROM RABBI SHOLOM BRODT AND RABBI SCHLOMO CARLEBACH


V'ahavtah L'rey-acha Kamocha - Love Your Neighbour As Yourself

Holiness in living finds its ultimate expression in the mitzvah, "and you shall love [unto] your fellow as you love yourself, I Am Hashem." (Lev.19: 18) Who is this fellow, this neighbour that the Torah is talking about? On many occasions when learning this verse with students, I would ask them to [you may want to try it yourself] close their eyes and listen to the verse as I read it to them, and then think of someone in relation to this verse. Then I would ask them if the person they thought about was in the room. Almost always the majority of people thought about someone who was not presently in the room. The implications of this are interesting. Now listen to this amazing teaching from Reb Shlomo zt"l.

Reb Shlomo ztz"l taught that the fellow person that the Torah is commanding you to love as you love yourself, is the person who is next to you right now! Love them 'for no reason,' love a love of true Oneness, as you love yourself. But is this possible? From the fact that we are commanded to do so, we understand that it is possible to accomplish this in one's lifetime. Hashem does not ask us for the impossible. It does require a lot of work, to be sure, including joy, true humility and true awareness of Hashem and of one's 'higher self'.

What does it mean to love someone as you love yourself? There are a number of different opinions about this. The 'Tzemach Tzeddek' in his sefer Derech Mitzvotecha offers a realistic and practical explanation of this mitzvah. Each one of us knows that we are not perfect and that we make mistakes. Yet, we [usually] tolerate our mistakes and imperfections, and we still love ourselves, at least to the point that we do not refuse ourselves pleasures or kindness and self-love. For example if I said something unkind to someone, or did not make a serious attempt at accomplishing all that I was supposed to do today, nevertheless at the end of the day I do not refuse to have desert, or forbid myself the pleasure of listening to good music etc. Likewise, says the Tzemach Tzeddek, we are obligated to accept our friends with their imperfections and mistakes, and we should not refuse them our kindness and love.

To further explain the connection between 'Kedoshim tee'yu' and 'v'ahavtah l'reyacha kamocha', being holy and loving your friend, I had the following thought: Hashem wants us to be holy. So we come before Hashem and we say that we would like to be holy. However the 'satan' the 'blocker', comes forward and says that we have no right to be kadosh because we have done this and that and other transgressions. So then we say to Hashem, please let us be close to You in spite of our mistakes, because we really want to be close to You. Please forgive us, please help us fix our ways, fix our wrongdoings, overlook our past and look at us now and look at where we want to be. Otherwise we don't stand a chance at being holy.

There is a very nice Chassidic reading of this mitzvah as follows: "V'ahavtah l'reyacha -kamocha ani Hashem." In the same way that you] love your friend, so too I Hashem, will be with you!
Hashem is telling us: if you want Me to overlook your mistakes, if you want Me to love you so much that I should be forgiving and accepting of you, that I should be kind to you even though you are not perfect, then you too must treat your friends this way. If you can do this for others I will do this for you.

If you really believe in 'tshuvah', in the ability to return to Hashem, in your ability to return to Hashem, if you really believe that past mistakes and wrongdoings can be fixed, that you can be at-one with Hashem again, that your desire to be holy is real, then practice this with your friends as well. Demonstrate that this is your truth in your own life, that you will not hate your brother in your heart, that you will not take revenge nor bear a grudge against him, but rather you will love him as you love yourself, then you will merit that Hashem will also treat you in this way.

Awesome words from Reb Shlomo zt"l Today I have the good fortune to send you a partial transcript of Reb Shlomo's zt"l words that he spoke at our 'sheva-brachot' in the summer of 5742 [1982]. These teachings are very much related to our parsha, especially to the calling - 'Kedoshim tee-heyou - you shall be holy' and to the mitzvah of 'V'ahavtah l'reyacha kamocha - you shall love your neighbour as yourself, I Am Hashem.'

I chose to present this transcript in the following way- We transcribed almost every word faithfully. My inserts are identified by [ ]. Also I made line breaks each time Reb Shlomo paused to give us a moment to let the words sink in and/or to take a breath. I would appreciate hearing from you as to whether this is helpful or not.

----Good Shabbos, good Yom Tov, Mazal Tov. Good Shabbos, good Yom Tov. Listen, these other three holy people just gave such good Torahs. Anyway... I just learned from Reb Nachman here two things. Ok, let me make it very fast...[ here Judy said to him 'make it slow'] ... ok, I'll make it slow.

ok, now listen to this... listen to this, sweetest friends... what makes us most sad? and I want you to open your hearts. each time we make a mistake, you know what happens to me? it's not that one particular mistake I made. you know friends, every person has a little prophecy inside. when I'm born, G-d gives me an inside prophecy [of] what G-d wants me to do, what G-d wants me to be. each time I make a mistake, the saddest thing in the world, [is that] I begin to doubt my own prophecy. I don't trust myself anymore. what happens to all the people who just gave up on themselves completely?because they made so many mistakes.... listen, if I made this mistake, you know, maybe, who knows? maybe everything is a mistake?

Remember Reb Nachman says 'what is the greatest sin in the world? to take away somebody's self confidence.' That's the greatest sin in the world. "azuz d'kedusha" - [this term refers to having 'holy chutzpah' - the trust and faith that your mitzvot are important and meaningful, no matter what] because unless you have a certain holy self confidence, you can't do anything. now what is (again) the greatest friendship in the world? the greatest friendship in the world is that you give somebody back their self-confidence. but you know how deep this is?

Sometimes you meet people, they're supposed to be our friends, they'll do anything for us,but they mamash take away every ounce of self confidence. I don't want to say anything bad. I've seen husbands and wives, you know, they're cute and sweet but they don't support each other one bit. you know? and then sometimes, you see husband and wife and they give each other so much self confidence.

ok, here's what Reb Nachman says. what is my greatest, deepest longing in the world? the deepest longing I have? the deepest longing in the world is that I should do what G-d wants me to do in this world. i know I am born for something, I gotta do somethingand i'm longing for it in the deepest way. each time I do a little bit wrong, i'm longing less for it,because I don't believe in it anymore.

ok, so, what's the whole idea of doing tshuvah? the whole idea of doing tshuvah is that I say to myself, I say to g-d, I don't care. even if I made two million mistakes,i'm holding onto that one thing, i'm holding onto this unbelievable thing.

Here, I want you to know one more thing. Reb Nachman says each time you make a mistake,you hate one person in the world. crazy, right? the more mistakes you make, the more people you hate.and you know, sometimes when you see people who hate this onehate this one, hate this one...tell them their problem is not that they hate the people[instead it's that] they made so many mistakes and they don't know where to start.

ok, I want to tell you this story and I want to bless you,I just want to give you this simple blessing, that... what do you do if you've made so many mistakes and you hate two million people? what do you do? when G-d blesses you [and]there's one person in the world you love so much, it mamash cleanses your soul at that moment.

You know friends, i'll tell you something. what's the whole idea of Yom Kippur when people get married? [on the day of your wedding it is customary to fast because it is considered like your personal Yom Kippur]the whole idea... listen to me,imagine (so) I ate in a French restaurant therefore I cannot get married?i'll do tshuvah on the french fries on Yom Kippur on the day i'm getting married, what are you bothering me with this doggie diner? right? but the answer iswhile [because] I ate in the doggie diner, my heart is less capable of loving and in order to get married, your heart has to be completely completely filled with loving.

And it's so heartbreaking, you know... you see parents who hit their children - you know what their problem is? not that they hit their children [but that] they made so many mistakes, their heart is not a vessel for loving anymore. I want to tell you this story. the story is that the heiliger Reb Moshe Leib Sassover came up to heavenand you know, on the way to heaven you have to pass through helltake it on the highest levelthe heiliger Reb Moshe Leib Sassover goes through hell and in the middle he stops,and he says 'i'm not going to heaven unless all the people in hell go with me.'heavy stuff! - you know, you cannot visualize it the manager of hell comes down and says, 'listen, rabbi, will you please, I mean, make it fast because I'm running the show here can you imagine how many people complain in hell this one says that it's too hot and they can't stand the heat? turn on the air conditioner?' and the other one says, 'hell... ' you know what's going on in hell.... everyone is 'krechtzing' [complaining] and yelling. so he [the manager] says, 'please, just do your thing, go through fast.'Reb Moshe Leib says ' no, this is for real, i'm not leaving.'

ok, the heavenly judges are coming down and this is what he claims.he says 'if G-d really wants me to live in eternal bliss, how can I have eternal bliss after I went through hell, after I saw what these people are suffering? think I can sit there in heaven and be happy when I know so many people are broken in hell? so, if you really want me to be in heaven, you have to take everyone out of hell.

Now listen to this, it's unbelievable. .... this was the decree of the heavenly judges: as many favors as he did in his lifetime, that is how many people he can take out of hell. listen to the most unbelievable thing...they counted the favors, and Reb Moshe Leib Sassover did exactly as many favours in his lifetime as there were people in hell - can you imagine? so the Riziner told the story ... he said at the end 'the saddest part is it didn't take long to fill hell again.' mazel tov. you know how deep this is? you know when you do something wrong, you hate somebody.... and when you do somebody a favor, somewhere, somewhere you're getting somebody out of hell you don't know what you're doing.

ok, I just want to bless Raizel Sukkat Shaleym and Sholom, I want to bless you- whenever you fall down to hell you should take each other out fast by doing each other a favour you know, the Gemora says that from heaven to hell is less far than one hair to the other- it's so easy to be in hell you know this is just from heaven to hellbut from hell back to heaven it's very far... it's very far... and you need a real missile to get there so, I want to bless you with missiles and you know friends, the highest thing is not only to teach children how to do right you know there's a shortcut from hell to heaven? the deepest teaching in the world is to teach our children the shortcut. Because gevalt do people go so long before they get back from hell to heaven, and if you have good friends, it goes so fast

ok, the thing is, I'm giving this whole long speech and no one ever brought in the wine for sheva brachot.... it's coming? ok, let's sing a little song in the meantime..... let's surround the bride and groom with great love.... let's sit close and let's do it.

Rabbi Brodt is the founder of Yeshiva Simchat Shlomo in Yerushalayim, Ir HaKodesh,
dedicated to furthering the teachings of Rabbi Schlomo Carlebach. I spell Schlomo with a c
because that's how he spelled his name (some of the time).

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NEVER GIVE UP!

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- anonymous
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When I was young I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.- Abraham Joshua Heschel
The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the most important thing is to not be afraid.
-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
"The greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor." - Aish Kodesh
"As you want G*d to give you a chance, give everyone else a chance to also begin again." - Shlomo Carlebach

About Me

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United States
I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!