Earlier this morning, I found myself googling the words ‘define Ahavos Yisroel’.
The words are still in my searchbar, because I’m not satisfied with what I found. It didn’t make any sense to me. I figure that somehow, somewhere along the line, I got confused. Muddled. Mixed up. And I attached a totally foreign meaning to those words, ‘ahavos Yisroel’. Because I always thought they meant ‘loving your fellow Jew’. Or ‘love among Jews’. Something like that, anyway. But having trawled through the websites which claim they’re the pioneers of Ahavos Yisroel, I realise that I must be off the mark. Because what I’ve seen in recent days is not the kind of Ahavos Yisroel I imagined.
Chabad.org told me, ”We are all one. If one Jew eats pork or does work on the Shabbat, G‑d forbid, it’s as if we all transgressed along with him. When the same Jew stretches out his hand to give to a needy soul, to wrap tefillin on his arm or to light a candle before Shabbat—all of us stretch out our arms together”. I like this. Yasher koyach, Chabad.org. But it doesn’t quite ring true, does it? I’m not- G-d forbid!- criticising Chabad. I’m trying not to criticise anyone- there’s too much criticism in this world already. And that’s exactly the point I’m making.
If we truly are all one, one people, one soul, just divided among seperate bodies, then we seem to be our own worst enemy. Every sect, every denomination, every detestable division of Judaism, is aware of Ahavos Yisroel. We read of it, we speak of it, we preach it. Some of us even base our livelihoods upon it. So where did we go wrong? To be honest, I can’t pinpoint it exactly. So let’s say it started with me. I realised, just the other day, I was lacking in Ahavos Yisroel. I was critising Reform Jews for their lack of observance, while mocking the Satmarers for theirs’. I needed to make a change.
And so I did. I gave tzedekah to someone I didn’t know. I helped someone I’d never met. I spent time with fellow Jews who crossed my path, not caring whether they were Reform, Orthodox, or somewhere in between. What does it matter, if we are, as Chabad.org professes, all one? So I think it’s fair to say, Ahavos Yisroel starts at home. It starts with one person. Me. You. Be that person. Be that change. We’re slipping- I’m slipping- and Ahavos Yisroel is, seemingly, nowhere to be seen. Let’s bring it back, let’s start a revolution, and with it, let’s hasten Moshiach!
Note: Both Jews and non-Jews are equal. This article is not meant to foster notions of supremacism. Helping righteous non-Jews, called Noahides, is a different matter entirely, and calls for another article!