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Wednesday, December 6, 2023 - 23 Kislev 5784
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Cause and Effect

During a recent wedding in a Jerusalem catering hall, a man came into the kitchen and told the caterer that there was a family of very modest means who lived in his neighborhood. The wife had recently given birth to her seventh child, and she was too exhausted to cook supper for the family. They could not afford to buy ready-made food. Therefore, the man asked the caterer if he could provide any leftover portions for this family.

Without hesitation, the caterer agreed, and wrapped up ten uneaten portions for the family. After the wedding, while settling the bill with the wedding hosts, he informed them of how he had saved them the cost of ten servings.

One week later, wedding host “sued” the caterer in a rabbinical court, arguing that the portions belonged to him and thus he should be allowed to pay and get credit for the mitzvah.*

This story, which took place about a year ago, is especially relevant during this time period, when we place a special emphasis on ahavat Yisrael and unity. The definition of ahavat Yisrael is to love our brethren without any reason – even if we do not know them personally – and to stand ready to help them in any way they need, without any expectation of reward. This type of love comes from the purest place in the heart, with no ulterior motives.

Tanya, the classic work of Chassidic teachings, explains that true ahavat Yisrael comes from the recognition that all of us are one being. When we connect to our common spiritual source, there is no room for any negative feeling such as hatred, envy or anger. In essence, there is no separation between us on a soul level; the only difference is in our bodies. The more we identify with our G-dly soul, the more we can experience true love for others, and love our friend exactly as ourselves.

*We are now in a three-week mourning period commemorating the destruction of the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem, 2000 years ago. The Second Temple was destroyed due to the sin of senseless hatred – the Jews stopped treating each other with respect and consideration, which destroyed the spiritual foundation of the Temple and thus brought about the physical destruction. A painful symbol of this breakdown was the actions of the biryonim, a rebel group who destroyed the food storehouses in Jerusalem to force a confrontation with the besieging Roman forces. This exhausted the strength of the remaining Jews in the city, and allowed the Romans to break through the walls, destroy the city and set the Holy Temple ablaze.

If the Temple was destroyed and we were sent into exile due to senseless hatred, then once the cause is removed, the exile will be removed as well. Over the centuries of exile there have been countless demonstrations of “senseless love” – acts of Jewish unity that transcended any personal considerations. We have already atoned for the cause of the exile and there is nothing holding us back from meriting the Redemption.

In addition, the Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that in our time, increasing in kindness and compassion is not just a means to remove the cause of the exile. By doing acts of kindness, we begin to live in the spirit of Redemption, a wondrous time when there will be no jealousy and no competition. Rather, all of us will dwell together in complete safety and harmony, serving one G-d together, as the prophet Isaiah states, “No nation will lift a sword against any other nation, and they will no longer study warfare.”


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