Unconditional love by Rabbi Scott Friedman


As a queue of pleading and desperate people from across the world stood before the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l seeking Berachot, one woman was sitting, dragging her chair with her as the line moved forward. When at last the mysteriously seated woman approached the Rebbe, she asked him how is it that she, who was younger than the Rebbe, was unable to continue standing, while the Rebbe, who was standing there in front of the line before she arrived, will be able to remain standing after she leaves without needing to sit and rest. The Rebbe answered that when one is counting diamonds, he never gets tired.

In Parashat BeShalach, the Torah informs us of the scene Klal Yisrael witnessed at the edge of the Yam Suf. “ VaYisu Bnei Yisrael Et Eineihem VeHinei Mitzrayim Noseia Achareihem,” “Bnei Yisrael lifted up their eyes, and behold, Egypt was marching after them” (14:10). Rabbeinu Bachya points out that, according to the rules of Hebrew grammar, one would have expected a plural conjugation Nosim, as opposed to the singular Noseia. Therefore, we can glean that, when the Torah speaks of the Egyptians in singular, it serves to tell us that they were united in their goal of pursuing Klal Yisrael. Rashi describes this unity as “with one heart, like one man.” Rav Yitzchak Hutner, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Chaim Berlin, makes a similar observation regarding the Pasuk in Parashat Yitro which states “VaYichan Sham Yisrael Neged HaHar,” “And Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain” (Shemot 19:2). Again, we see a case where grammatically it should have said, “VaYachanu,” the plural conjugation, yet it speaks in the singular. Rashi again comments that it is specifically written in the singular in order to teach us that Klal Yisrael was “like one man, with one heart.” Asks Rav Hutner, why does Rashi say “with one heart, as one man” by the Egyptians, yet by Klal Yisrael, Rashi says the inverse? Rav Hunter answers: When one says that a person’s right hand wants the same thing as his or her left, it is because both are part of the same organism. Therefore, their desires and interests naturally coincide. The organism is as one man, with one heart. Conversely, when two people join together for a common purpose, they are joined only as long as their goals are shared. They are still not a single unit, but rather, with one heart, as one man. 

One time, Rav Aryeh Levine went with his wife to a doctor appointment. When the doctor asked what the problem was he responded our arm hurts, referring to his wife’s physical arm, and their joined pain from that arm. The Gemara Yerushalmi states that if one was cutting something, and his right hand was to cut his left, he wouldn’t be upset at his right hand. This is comparable to the Jewish people, if only we would be able to see each other as the Gemara speaks of us, as Hashem sees us, as the Rebbe valued every Jew, as different parts of one organism serving Hashem.

I often wonder, throughout history, that the Jewish people have united when trouble strikes. Most recently, when the war in Gaza broke out, I remember initially hearing about four, holy, brave soldiers who lost their lives defending Eretz Yisrael. Every Jew across the globe was discussing these four soldiers. Yet, four casualties in a day of war is a small number, unless each one is a family member. These four soldiers were our family members, part of the one unit, together serving Hashem.

A friend of mine who is learning in the Belz Beit Midrash in Yerushalayim told me that the day the war began they cancelled the morning Seder of learning and recited all of Sefer Tehillim for the soldiers. The Bostener Rebbe spoke out about the importance of caring for all Jews regardless of our differences. We all know that the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed for Sinat Chinam, baseless hatred amongst fellow Jews. It always seemed to me that the rectification for this must be Ahavat Chinam, genuine love amongst fellow Jews for no other reason other than they are part of our “family.” When a child is born, the parents love them without the child ever doing anything to earn it; so too, we should all feel this unconditional love towards our Jewish family. When we focus on only that which we have in common, we become weak; we become “with one heart, like one man” as opposed to “like one man, with one heart.” On my recent trip to Eretz Yisrael with a group of seniors over the winter break, Mr. Robert Katz was gracious enough to set up an appointment with us and Rav Grossman, the founder of the charity organization, Migdal Ohr, established with the express purpose of providing education and social guidance to the children from underprivileged and problem homes in northern Israel. Rav Grossman was the most loving, caring, genuine person I have ever met, and the organization is beyond words; something every person should go see if possible. Rav Grossman spoke with us for three hours and gave us great insights, and told us many moving and powerful stories. One story told to us was of a little boy from Migdal Ohr who was walking outside when he saw Rav Grossman and went to hide. Rav Grossman called the boy over and asked him why he was hiding. The boy responded that he was embarrassed, and when asked why, the boy answered because he doesn’t have a Kippah. Rav Grossman hugged the boy and smiled, proclaiming “do I love you any less because you don’t wear a Kippah?” This unconditional love is something I strive for and I hope that as a people we will all come to it soon.

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