Imagine having a conversation with your spouse about a fault in one of your children and exploring ways to help your child. The next day someone tells you how bad your child is because they have the fault you just discussed with your spouse. You then get very offended even though you just spoke about it the night before!
What happened? Why, when discussing with your spouse, were you fine, but now when someone else points it out, you get all offended? You already know about this fault in your child!
The difference is that for you, your child’s fault does not define your child. To the contrary — it is your love that defines your child for you. The fault is not a big deal because you love your child so much. But when someone else points out that same fault, they’re making the fault into a big deal, they are saying the fault is your child.
With this idea, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the third Chabad Rebbe known as the Tzemach Tzedek, explains a Talmudic story: A gentile once came to Hillel and said that he would accept Judaism but only if a rabbi would teach him the entire Torah while he, the prospective convert, stood on one foot. Hillel patiently responded “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary — go and study it!” (Talmud Shabbat 31a).
Why does Hillel speak in the negative? He could have framed it positively: “Do to others that which you want done to you,” similar to the famous verse from Leviticus, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Tzemach Tzedek teaches a deeper understanding of what Hillel is conveying. What is it that we don’t want others to do to us? We do not want others to point out our faults — faults that we already know about.
And this is what Hillel is saying not to do to others: Love everyone so much that you don’t make a big deal out of other people’s faults, just as you don’t want others doing that to you.
The Tzemach Tzedek connects this with a verse in this week’s Torah portion, Balak. “He [G-d] sees no evil in Jacob, and sees no perversity in Israel.” Does G-d not see and know everything? What does it mean that He does not see evil in Jacob?
The Tzemach Tzedek explains: When we love each other so much that we don’t make a big deal out of other people’s faults, then G-d, in turn, treats us the same way. Of course G-d sees our faults, our evil. He just loves us so much that they are not a big deal to Him.
Two weeks ago, on Shabbat July 6, we commemorated the 25th yahrzeit, anniversary of passing, of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, OBM. I had the privilege of being at his resting place, where over 50,000 people from all walks of life visited over the weekend. There have been countless newspaper articles, podcasts, videos and more about the Rebbe and his work that continues to grow. One of the Rebbe’s great contributions to the world, I believe, is this idea in practice: Love others so much that the love overwhelms their faults. His love for everyone is legendary and he inspired generations of people to love this way. Chabad Houses, something he established, have become places where no matter your beliefs, observance or affiliation, you are welcomed with open arms, because at Chabad they don’t see faults — they see souls.
As more and more of us catch on to this idea, the entire world will learn to genuinely love one another, ushering in the times of Moshiach, may it happen now. JN
Rabbi Yossi Friedman is the spiritual leader of Chabad of Anthem.