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Read This First

Part 1:

Part 2:
Secrets of the Married Soul

Part 3:
Secrets of Garments of the Soul

   Chapter 4:
Clothing of the Soul

Chapter 5:

Chapter 6:
Bitterness and Depression

Chapter 7:
Criticism The Acid that Eats Away Love

Chapter 8:

Chapter 9:
The Mitzvos of Mikveh

Chapter 10:

Chapter 11:
Ahavas Yisroel But We Are Married


The Second Ladder Up
Secret Steps to a Happy Jewish Marriage

Part 3:
Secrets of Garments of the Soul

Chapter 11:
Ahavas Yisroel But We Are Married

R. L. Kremnizer

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  Chapter 10:

Probably the most difficult mitzvah in the Torah for most people is the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel. The mitzvah of Ahavas Yisroel requires one to love his fellow Jew like himself. Indeed the mitzvah is made more difficult because it applies to one's fellow Jew who is his neighbor. Many people are able to manufacture love for some stranger in Israel or America or Australia. The real challenge is to love your neighbor who may be irritating and aggravating while pursuing different vested interests.

We learn that loving one's fellow Jew is even more important than loving G-d. We learn that by loving one's fellow Jew, one in fact arrives at a love of G-d.[35]

So this mitzvah is not only one of great difficulty but also of crucial magnitude. It is the mitzvah par excellence of the Torah. The Talmud tells us that R. Hillel answered a stranger not to do to another person that which he would not want done to himself, and he further instructed him this was the whole Torah and he should go from this advice and learn. Correspondingly the absence of Ahavas Yisroel and its opposite, Sinas Chinom (causeless hatred) was the reason for the destruction of the second Beis HaMikdash (Temple), causing the enduring golus (exile) which has lasted almost two thousand years.

So the importance of the mitzvah is obvious. Much more difficult, is the ability to perform the mitzvah. Clearly the mitzvah becomes straightforward when one is placed with those one likes. It is easy to go beyond ordinary levels of friendly inter-relations and develop a level of love for a person of whom one is fond. Much more difficult is to develop liking, let alone love, for someone who is causing one difficulty.

Chassidus has two very deep approaches available to one serious about developing the ability to perform the mitzvah of ahavas Yisroel.

The Alter Rebbe in Tanya[36] explains that the absence of love comes from a focus on the physical. In other words, one's neighbor, as he exists in his physical body performing physical (and interfering) tasks, may attract dislike. If instead one could be trained to focus on his soul, the outcome would be entirely different. If the focus was soul-to-soul, there would be a recognition of brotherhood, a recognition of ultimate unity and a feeling that the other person is really part of oneself.

The extraordinary wisdom of this perspective has lately become clear with technology providing an example in computer chat-rooms. Every reader will have been confronted with unexpected examples of people falling in love, even leaving their spouse and children, because of partners found on the internet whom they have never seen, let alone met. So strong a passion is built from computer screen to computer screen, that often even without the aid of pictures, parties fall passionately in love, ready to surrender existing security in exchange for dangerous risk. This is amazing proof of the concept of how, when spirit talks to spirit, unfettered by any physical manifestations of that spirit by way of body or bodily behavior, deep love can be achieved. Often, confronted with the physical presence of the person, attraction wanes.

According to the Alter Rebbe therefore, if one can train oneself to see the soul of his neighbor, rather than his body and behavior, he will come to love him.

This, as suggested at the beginning of the chapter, is an extraordinarily high and difficult level to achieve. Like everything in Tanya however, achievement is only a function of sincere effort.

A second prescription to solving the problem of performing the mitzvah of ahavas Yisroel with a person perceived negatively, lies in the explanation given by Chassidus in relation to space. The Rebbe Rashab in the famous maamar Heichaltzu explains in great detail that causeless hatred is evoked by another taking one's space. In other words, according to the Rebbe Rashab, a person who robs us of our space, whether physical or emotional, infringes on our yeshus.

The result is hatred of the space-thief. Reasons come afterwards. Picture a man arriving late, then sitting next to you at a lunch and immediately taking over the entire conversation, eating noisily with his hands and feet, ultimately gorging himself not only with his food and drink, but with yours as well. Imagine this man dominating and bullying the table, refusing you room to speak or indeed eat or drink. Hatred of this person is automatic. Reasons will be accorded separately and later. He is too fat, too gregarious, too thin, too tall, too loud, too uncouth etc.

Fascinatingly, people mistakenly believe the reasons they accord to the victim of their hatred. In reality, what is being hated is the fact that we are being robbed of our rightful space and we hate the space-thief.

An amazing example of this is also found in modern life, in the example of the newly identified problem of Road Rage. Apparently normal people can be brought to violence, and even murder, over the most trivial jockeying for space on the road. There have been cases where grievous bodily harm is done to a person who has had the chutzpah to cut off another person on the road (albeit unwittingly) or unthinkingly accessing his parking spot. This is a physical manifestation, at its most simple level, of the very deep concept explained by the Rebbe Rashab. We all need a certain amount of space and will insist on it being available, failing which we will hate the person who takes it away or threatens to do so. It is interesting to note that the amount of space required by a person depends on his level of yeshus (see Chapter 5). The more yeshus, the more space is required. There are some people who are humble and who require almost no space. At the other extreme people with raging yeshus require all of the space. The only true friend such a person can ever have is somebody who is content to abdicate all their needs and allow the person engorged by his yeshus to dominate them totally.

Both of these issues apply in marriage even more than anywhere else. The injunction to love one's fellow Jew and one's neighbor cannot apply more specifically than to one's spouse. One's spouse fulfils both of these qualifications and indeed if we accept the principle that it is harder to love somebody close than a total stranger, the mitzvah of ahavas yisroel becomes very important in areas where there is tension between man and wife. As mentioned above, it is easy to love someone one likes, and obviously one's spouse fulfils this criteria, but there are equally obviously aspects about a spouse which one may come, from time to time, not to like. The teachings of the Rebbe in this area are clear. The methodology is the same as with any other Jew. One must focus soul-to-soul and one must demand less space. Because both of these exercises are difficult they need to be practiced in terms of perspective.

There is another and very beautiful aspect to this issue of ahavas Yisroel. If you are to love your fellow Jew and if you know that he has the mitzvah of loving you, it becomes clear that your duty to that fellow Jew lies in making it easier for him to perform the mitzvah of ahavas Yisroel to you! In other words, it is incumbent upon a person, to be as nice as possible to his neighbor so as to make it as easy as possible for his neighbor to like him.

There is an extraordinary letter from the Rebbe to a young girl who wrote seeking a berochah (blessing) to change seminaries because the girls in her present seminary were even meaner to her than the ones in the previous one. The Rebbe does not give the girl a berochah to change seminaries. Instead the Rebbe instructed her to perform an act of niceness to each girl at nominated intervals. He required the girl to report to him at regular intervals what she had done and to whom.

There is a very powerful message in this letter; the Rebbe was telling this girl that the girls in the seminary were being mean to her, not because they were bad, but because she herself was so self-involved as to not be interested enough in them. Here lies a simple law of popularity. Sincere interest in another produces a positive response in return. In Tanya this is described as the reflection of the face in the water.

No where is this truer than in the relationship between husband and wife. A husband or wife who speak kindly to one another with warmth and affection and positive encouragement will automatically engender a similar response. Conversely, lapsing into self-involvement, without due regard for the welfare of the spouse, will surely generate a similar response.

Finally, in relation to ahavas Yisroel being applicable to a spouse quality time is important.

Most married couples have an ongoing interchange on the normal problems of everyday life. Indeed most marriages, when they strike problems, do so in predictable areas. These are well known to any married reader and usually centre around money, fidelity, children and their development, mutual attention giving.

Spending time together obviously involves solving the problems and challenges that face a couple as they make their way through the tests of daily existence. What is often overlooked however, is the need for partners to spend quality time together. This quality time needs to be regulated and fixed in the same way as an observant Jew fixes time for Torah study. It is a well-known piece of anecdotal observation that the Rebbe set aside a given period of time every day to take tea with the Rebbetzin, giving her time and therefore nourishment.

It remains therefore to be understood what makes up quality time. It is important to set aside time to discuss issues which are outside the daily challenges. Typically, it would be healthy for a husband and wife to refresh themselves on the perspectives at the beginning of this book; it would be helpful for the husband to remember to try and amuse his wife in the way that he did when they were strangers. It would be helpful for the wife to demonstrate tangibly the areas where she admired her husband as she did when they were strangers. Laughter is important. Depth of content in the inter-relationship and conversation is important. However, since the parties are no longer strangers and in reality one's visions have changed, most important of all is the fixing of specific times when this interchange can take place, otherwise partners become lost to each other in the sea of daily routines.

The quality time that needs to be spent together, even if it is only twenty minutes a day, is cumulative, and allows the realization of a bond beyond simply being parents, or simply being business managers, or simply being organizers of countless physical chores. The husband and wife owe it to each other to find the time to express real thought and real feeling about each other and to one another thus re-bonding the two parts of the soul explained in Chapter 2.

Ahavas Yisroel then applies to married partners as much as other Jews. Soul-to-soul and with lessening demands for space, married partners can consistently achieve positive responses from each other by repeated displays of interest in each other.



  1. (Back to text) HaYom Yom, entry 28 Nissan.

  2. (Back to text) Ch. 32.

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