Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ahavat Chinam

As Rosh Chodesh Av and the 9 days approach, it’s time to step back to focus on why the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed and what we can do to bring Mashiach. We all know that the reason we’re still in Galut is because of Sinat Chinam, of Jews hating other Jews for absolutely no reason at all. Because of how they dress, because “they’re just not my type,” just to name two. To fight this we have to love all Jews, even if we believe they are completely wrong or if we don’t approve of their approach.

So with that, I’m reposting a revised version of my suggestions from this post when I wrote about Ahavat Chinam, the opposite of Sinat Chinam, back during Sefira. These suggestions are about working with Jews we have a personal interaction with. I am definitely not claiming to have mastered any of these, and I wish I was on the high level of keeping all of these. But it’s something to think about and work on. May we all fill our hearts with love for our fellow Jews and may this be the last Tisha B’Av that we have to fast, and may we be zoche to the final redemption, Bimiheira Biyamenu Amen!

10 suggestions for Kavod HaBriyot and Ahavat Chinam:

1. Always judge people favorably. The famous source for this is in Pirkei Avot. This doesn’t mean that you should always assume that a person is doing something good. Sometimes people make mistakes or don’t make the right choice. No one is perfect, we still we are good even when we mess up. Judging favorably means judging a person to be a good person, even if they do bad things. If you see your friend doing something wrong, you assume they messed up. Just because you see someone doing something wrong once, doesn’t mean they are a bad person.

2. Accept them for who they are. Don’t try to change who they are. We can’t change people, as much as sometimes we might want to. Maybe they have an irritating laugh or an annoying habit that bothers us. Hating them for a small reason like that is Sinat Chinam. Hashem created everyone with a unique purpose and He created them that way for a reason. Move past it and accept that is who they are.

3. Treat everyone with honor and respect. Think of how we treat great people or famous people. We would never be rude or say something hurtful to a great Rabbi or a distinguished politician. Try to incorporate that attitude towards everyone.

4. Care about them. V’Ahavta L’Rayacha Kamocha. Love your fellow Jew as you love yourself. I once learned that this means that you should want what’s best for them. If you really care about another person you are happy for them when good things happen to them, and are upset when bad things happen to them.

5. Give to them. Different people need different things from us. For one person it might be listening to them when they want someone to talk to, and for another person it might be giving charity. While it’s obviously impossible to give to everyone in the world, when opportunities to give to others arise, our immediate reaction should be, “Sure!” or “I wish I could,” instead of “They aren’t part of my social circle” or “They aren’t as frum as/ they are more frum than I am, so why should I give to them, if they don’t give to me?”

6. Overlook people’s faults. This is really hard (at least for me) because often we are critical and certain people’s faults seem to be staring us in the face even when we try to look away. Remember that it’s not our job to correct other people’s flaws; it is only our responsibility to fix our own flaws. If this seems impossible, remember that we often do this for friends and family. Although we are perfectly aware of their flaws, because they are family or because they are our friends, we ignore that and maintain a relationship with them anyway.

7. Focus on their positive aspects. Although this might seem remarkably similar to the previous item on the list, the truth is that even if you overlook someone’s faults, you might still not realize what an amazing person they are. Everyone has positive qualities, and there is something to be learned from everyone.

8. Realize that they have difficulties in life. This item on the list is probably the first original one. I find that I see people in a completely different light once I think about this point. Sometimes we forget that people are struggling with their own issues, and perhaps that is the cause of their negative behavior. We jump to the conclusion that because they act a certain way it is because they are a certain type of person. We never know a person’s struggles or what their life is really like.

9. Believe in them, in their strength and their ability/potential to be great. Hashem created every human being for a reason. Each person has a unique person and each person has the potential to achieve greatness. The way you approach people and the way you treat people will be different if you realize that they could become a Tzadik/Tzadeket one day. Even if right now they are not on the highest spiritual level, even if right now they don’t keep Torah or Mitzvot, they can always do Teshuva and become great.

10. Be forgiving and let things go.
Sometimes people insult or offend us and we are hurt and out of stubbornness insist on holding on to it and constantly bring it up. “Why should I trust you to be on time this time? Last time you were 45 minutes late!” It’s really tough to try to start a clean slate with someone if they haven’t had the best track record in the past. Even if they haven’t apologized, let things go.

How do you try to work on loving all Jews? I would love to hear more suggestions.

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