‘With righteousness shall you judge your fellow.’ (V’yikra* 19.15) Chazal* say that you should ‘judge your fellow in a favorable light.’ [With regards to this] I have received the following teaching in the name of the Baal Shem Tov: The verse says, ‘Rescue me from all my sins, do not disgrace me before a vile person.’ [The meaning is] when you see the vile actions of a wicked person, who has done a serious sin, you should judge him favorably. You should assume he did it because of his Yetzer HaRah* that burns within him, and from his lack of recognition of the seriousness of the sin. From these and other reasons [he was unable to control himself.] By so doing the person saves himself from a negative judgement from HaShem*. Why? Because the truth is that since he has seen something vile in his fellow he should know that there is to be found in him a sin that is similar to this [even if it is minor and insignificant.] For that reason he is being judged [by being shown this person’s serious sin.] If you will find some point of merit to this person, there will likewise be found for you a merit [when you are judged.] Just as you have not brought a negative judgement upon this person, who due to the burning desire of his Yetzer Harah that is in him, has done this serious sin, you will fulfil the verses, ‘Do not incline the judgement of a poor man in his dispute.’ This means when he has disputed with his Yetzer [and succumbed you have not judged him negatively] but you have searched for some point of merit for him. The person who sees another sin is being put through a very great test. We have learned that there is nothing decreed upon a person except if he has pronounced that judgement from his own mouth. Certainly he will not judge himself unfavorably. Therefore they show him a comparable sin in another person, and he makes a judgement of that person. In so doing he seals his own fate. (p. 425 sefer Baal Shem Tov, teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.) * * * Loving those that harm you. ‘You shall love your fellow as yourself, I am HaShem’ (V’yikra 19.18) When I was young I asked my Rebbe*, the Rebbe Reb* Shmelke of Nikolsburg, ‘How is it possible to fulfil the mitzvah* of loving your fellow when he has done something evil to you?’ He gave me a very wise answer that is easy to understand. He said that it is known from the seforim* that all the souls of Israel are united together like one soul. Sometimes it happens that a person will by accident strike himself. If the person would then take a stick and hit his hand or feet, the part of his body that had struck him, we would all look upon him as one who was mentally deficient. Why should he be hurting himself more? The same is here. He is actually one soul with his friend. This friend acted that way through his own lack of understanding. if he should do something to this person, it is as if he did something to himself. [Instead of being angry and doing something to this person] he should realize that everything is from HaShem, and He has many agents to do his will. (p. 197 sefer Imrei Shmuel teachings of the Rebbe Reb Shmelke of Nikolsburg.) * * * Loving a fellow Jew ‘You shall love your fellow as yourself, I am HaShem’ (V’yikra 19.18) The end of the verse ‘I am HaShem’ is difficult to understand. [What is the reason the verse adds this?] We can understand it this way. A person is supposed to love his fellow exactly like himself. And the same is with the other person. He is supposed to love him completely. The word ‘love’ [Heb. ahava] actually indicates this. The reason is that the word ‘ahava’ is the same gematria* of the Hebrew word for ‘one’ [Heb. echad] – 13. This is a remez* that each person is supposed to love his fellow completely as if they were really one person. If he loves his fellow in this manner, and his fellow loves him in this manner, then they have made the name of HaShem. This is because two times ‘ahava’ [2 x 13] has the same value of the four-letter name of HaShem . This is the meaning of ‘You shall love your fellow as yourself, I am HaShem.’ When a Jew loves another completely and they are as one, then they complete the name of HaShem. (p. 148 sefer Ahavas Shalom, teachings of Rebbe Mendel of Kosov.) * * * Source of holiness ‘You shall be holy because I, Hashem your G-d, am holy.’ (V’yikra 19.2) We can explain this verse according to the teaching that appears in the Talmud*, ‘There are three partners in [the birth] of a person, The Holy One Blessed is He, his father and his mother.’ It is explained there that the portion of HaShem is the nashamah* that He has placed in him. The portion of the father and mother is the physical body of the person. This is what HaShem says: ‘You should be holy because I am holy.’ The meaning is that [your holiness comes] from the portion that you have which is from Me. You nashamos were stored under the Throne of Glory, and it is pure with all manner of purity. Because of my portion you should have no fear [that you will not be able to be holy.] Only, ‘Each person should fear his mother and his father.’ [This means that] each person should have fear because of the portion that comes from his father and mother. That is his physical body, which draws him to all kinds of evil desires. With this portion you need to serve [HaShem] and watch [over it, so that you will not come to sin.] (p. 116 sefer Ner Yisroel. Teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin and his descendants. This is from Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin.) * * * Being prepared for holiness ‘You shall be holy because I, Hashem your G-d, am holy.’ (V’yikra 19.2) [The word] ‘Holy’ [Heb. kedoshim] is a word which implies [a need for] preparation. (As Tosephos* explains with regards to the word ‘mekadeshos’, where he explains that the word means to prepare.) This means that a person always needs to be prepared to be a vessel to receive holiness from HaShem. [This is] ‘Because I, Hashem, am holy. The meaning of this is that HaShem [is saying that] he is prepared and waiting all the time to bestow holiness and all types of good things. However what is holding this back is [that] the one who will receive [it is not prepared.] This is similar to what we learn from the story of the Rebbe Reb Elimeilech ZY’A*. He asked in heaven, why it was that they did not answer [our prayers?] They sent him to go to the Maggid* of Mezritch (who at that time was already in the world of truth.) [He went and asked] why it was that they did not answer [our prayers all the time. The Maggid] answered that from above no evil descends into this world, G-d forbid. Only all types of good things descend to Israel. [The problem is that] when it comes down below [to this world] the one receiving it turns it into evil. For this reason the Torah commands, ‘You shall be holy.’ You should attempt to be prepared to receive the good that comes down below and not cause damage to it by making it turn evil, G-d forbid. (p. 116 sefer Ner Yisroel. Teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin and his
descendants. This is from Rebbe Avraham Yakov of Sadagura.)
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
HY’D: Heb. HaShem Yimkom Domov: HaShem should avenge their blood.
Mishleh: One of the books of the Tenach, called in English Proverbs.
Mitzvah (mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
nashama: Hebrew word for soul.
peshat: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding the simple meaning in the Torah.
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Shabbos: Tractate in the Talmud
Shemos: Second book of the Torah. Called Exodus in English
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law c. also common term for a chassidic teaching
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic Rebbe.
Yetzer: lit. Inclination. It is Jewish belief that every Jew has both an evil and good inclination within him, that are at ‘war’ to see which of them the person will follow.
Yetzer Tov: Heb. Good Inclination
Yetzer HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.
ZT’L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik – Righteous person is a blessing.)
ZY’A: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechiso Yagan Aleinu (His merit should protect us.)
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ([email protected]) All rights reserved.
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