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What is Ahavat Yisrael?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

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A. “Ahavat Yisrael” means “love of Israel”—but who’s Israel? We don’t mean the country here. Israel is you. Israel is me. Israel is all of us. All Jews alive today together comprise this massive thing called “Israel.” And that’s why Israel the country has that name—because it’s the place that is home to “Israel”: all Jews. So, “love of Israel” means love of fellow Jew.

B. Love of fellow Jew is based on the Torah, where it says, “Love your fellow as yourself.” It’s an attitude—a friendly, helpful attitude towards fellow Jews.

C. Ahavat Yisrael is a spiritual approach to life that produces physical results—friendship, kindness and unity amongst Jewish people. This spiritual approach says we are all little sections of the same cosmic entity, kind of like how those little robots on those TV cartoons all merge to form one giant robot. We are all part of each other, and if we hurt each other, we’re really hurting ourselves.

It’s easy to show love to someone you love—Mom, Dad, spouse, sibling. Now take that love, and apply it to a fellow Jew you really can’t stand. Or worse. That’s where true Ahavat Yisrael begins
How do I express Ahavat Yisrael?

1. Love is connection

Don’t forget the first half of the phrase: love. What’s love? Connection. When you love someone or something, you feel connected to him/her/it. So express that connection to other Jews. Lend a hand, or a buck. Avoid arguing. Apologize. Do favors. Treat ‘em all like family—after all, we are family. Don’t speak negatively about fellow Jews; do speak positively. Want for them all those good things you want for yourself, and whatever you wouldn’t want for yourself, hope they don’t wind up with those things, either.

2. Don’t do it!

If you wouldn’t want it done to you, don’t do it to others. Whatever it may be. Simple. Ahavat Yisrael basically means we are in the business of being nice and forgiving to each other at all times, the same way we’re always nice and forgiving to ourselves.

3. Ahavat Yisrael is not for Grandma

It’s easy to show love to someone you love—Mom, Dad, spouse, sibling. Now take that love, and apply it to a fellow Jew you disagree with, or really can’t stand. Or worse. That’s where true Ahavat Yisrael begins. Hey, it ain’t easy. But it’s real Ahavat Yisrael. Hating a fellow Jew in your heart is Torah-illegal—it’s Negative Mitzvah #302. Hating him openly, though technically not a violation of 302, ‘cause at least now he knows it, is also Torah-illegal: the Torah prohibits bearing a grudge or taking revenge. So we’re back to Square One: Ahavat Yisrael—grueling, but infinitely rewarding—is the only way to go.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Love thy Neighbor
Jewish Identity » Love thy Neighbor

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Yisrael
1. Additional name given by G-d to Patriarch Jacob. 2. A Jew who is not a Kohain or Levi (descendant of the Tribe of Levi).
Ahavat Yisrael
lit. "love of Israel," to love a fellow Jew.