Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ahavat Chinam - yay yay yay!

Well, now that we know that a lack of hakarat hatov/gratitute leads to jealousy, which leads to hate, we know the basis of sinat chinam.
Many people probably heard of Ahavat Chinam already, but how many of us actually know what this means?

We are taught that one way to help rebuild the Beit Hamikdash is Ahavat Chinam, which is baseless love. But what does baseless love mean? How can we practice it on the daily basis? Afterall, it's not every day that we see an old lady with groceries who needs help crossing the road. It's not every day that we help a kid who is lost at the mall. It's not every day that we need to rescue a drowning victim.
The beatles and hippies in the 1960s also thought they have baseless love. Loving everyone regardless of actions, beliefs, etc.
But they didn't bring Mashiach. In fact, they brought a lot of evil into the world with so much liberalism and "freedom", but that is a different discussion.
So what is Ahavat Chinam and how can we fufill that mitzvah on a daily basis?

Here're two VERY practical daily implications to increase ahavat chinam in Am Yisrael:
1. Increase Your Hakarat Hatov:
we say "modeh ani" to G-d every single morning that we wake up and have a new opportunity to experience life and fulfill our potential.
But G-d is not the only One that we need to give hakarat hatov to.
Every single person, regardless of his or her upbringing and situation, owes hakarat hatov to their Parents. Many people mistakenly assume that they don't owe their parents any respect if their parents haven't brought them up correctly. But to think like that is completely anti-ethical to what the Torah teaches us.
The Shulchan Aruch codifies it as halacha that every individual must respect his or her parents. The Shulchan Aruch gives an example of a parent who hits his child, yells at his child, and embarrasses his child (note: child doesn't mean a minor. A person is his parent's child even if he is 50 years old!)
What a terrible thing, lo aleinu. And yet, as terrible as that situation is, the Shulchan Aruch tells us it is ASSUR for that child to talk back, hit back, or insult his parents. (But that child SHOULD get away from such a parent. That isn't disrespectful; that's saving the child's life.)
Rabbi Wallerstein emphasizes the halacha that even if a parent is a rasha, a completely evil person, his child still has an obligation to respect him!
Even a mamzer, who is excommunicated in many ways in the community and can't marry a regular Jew, must respect his mother - even though his mother is the one who caused him to have the status of a mamzer!
Amazing. Really. If it wasn't clear halacha, it would be hard to believe.
But the reason for all this emphasis on kibud av v'em is that even in the most difficult situations, a person MUST have gratitude to his parents for the sole reasons that they are the ones who are responsible for giving him life and bringing him into this world.
The start to appreciating life is to appreciate the people who brought you into this world.

A person who has appreciation will appreciate what G-d does for him. If a person appreciates what G-d does for him, then he will be happy with life and not be jealous of others (see my last post on the blog).

How many people wait until a person has died to say "I wish i would've appreciated him/her more" or "I loved her so i wish I would've told her."
The shiva, r"l, is too late. Express your feelings, love, and gratitude now before it's too late.

If we appreciate what we have, we'll give to others more easily because we'll realize how good we have it and how we should share our goodness with others.
2. Do Chessed Without Calculations!
Many people have an assumption that you only do chessed and things for others because they did something for you or because you have a particular reason. For example, helping someone who is ill because you also had that illness once. Or helping someone who's from an abused home because you also came from an abused home.
Or helping someone because they have no else one.
Now of course that is a HUGE mitzvah and something priceless and commendable.
But a person doesn't NEED to have a reason to do chessed! How about helping someone just because they're going through pain? Just because they need a friend? Just because they need a good influence in their life? Just because they need help?
We learn this from Avraham Avinu, the epitome of true chessed. What did the malachim, whom he thought were arabs, ever do for him? When he invites them offer, he says (loosely translated) "if I've found favor in your eyes...please come to my home" - he asks them do ME the favor.
That's how we should view helping our fellow Jew. They're doing ME the favor by needing help.
Rabbi Wallerstein gave two examples in one of his shiurim. Many times (particularly in Jewish communities in Eretz Yisrael and NY), such as after shacharit or a shiur in shul, people who need a ride but don't have a car will ask around (somewhat shyly) - "is anyone driving to ________?"
So instead of waiting for someone to ask you, you can get up and say "I'm driving to Brooklyn. Does anyone need a ride?"
Or as is common at weddings, many single girls don't have a ride to the wedding and need to car pool. You can ask the kallah before the wedding "does anyone from _______ (your city) need a ride to your wedding?" or during the wedding, you can spread the word that you're driving to ________, and you're happy to give a ride if anyone needs one.

The second example Rabbi Wallerstein gives is that often times, beggars (both Jewish and nonJewish) are sitting outside in the sweltering heat of the summer or freezing cold winter, asking for money. People give them money, but few people offer to get them a cold drink or hot drink. The beggars are often hesistant to take a 10 minute "break" from begging to go get themselves a drink because they'll lose money gaining opportunities during that time that they're not asking for money.
Regardless of whether or not the beggar is a nice person, (s)he is still a human being, and no human enjoys being overly hot and sweaty or freezing!
A nice thing to do is to say "can I please get you a drink?"

3. Daven For People - While On the Street!
I heard this idea from Rebbetzin kaganoff a few years ago at a summer learning session that I attended. This beautiful idea really made a strong impression on me & completely enhanced my life and ahavat yisrael. If you apply this to your life, I have no doubt that your ahavat chinam will enhance tremendously.
Always daven for people - not just during shmonah esreh!
Yes, shmona esreh is an amazing and important tefilla, but seek other opportunities to daven as well.
If you receive an e-mail or text or read a blog post/news article that someone is sick, say at least 1 perek of Tehillim. If you dont have time to say some Tehillim, you can simply say "HaShem please send this person a refua shlemah"
If you see a pregnant woman on the street, you can daven/whisper quietly while walking and say "HaShem please help her have an easy birth and healthy baby."
If you see a single, daven "G-d please send this person a good zivug."
If you see a Jew who is off the derech or not yet religious say "HaShem please help this person have opportunities to do teshuva and be close to You."
If you see a couple who are experiencing difficulty with conceiving children, you can pray "HaShem please help this couple have healthy and holy Jewish children."

Davening for strangers takes merely seconds and is just so beautiful. You establish a completely different connection and outlook towards members whom you don't know (and even ones who you do know) in am yisrael.
4. Resolve Your Issues with People But Also Stay Away!
If you have an issue/conflict with a friend or family member that can be sorted out through communication, a helpful mediator (such as a Rav or therapist), then go for it! There is a commandment that we are not allowed to hate a fellow Jew in our heart. Why does the pasuk say in "your heart"? Because you can't keep it IN. First, ideally, you should try to resolve to conflict within yourself. But if that's not doable, then calmly and rationally express your feelings to the person.
However, if for whatever reason, this is not possible or feasible, or you already tried doing so and that solution failed, then simply stay away from the people who annoy you, upset you, bring you down, etc. Once you have a distance from them, FORGIVE them & move on with your life.
There's no sin in staying away from a person who harms you, be it spiritually/religiously, emotionally, financially, physically. In fact, in most cases, it is probably a mitzvah to stay away from such an influence.
5. Give Tzdaka
Rambam teaches us that giving a little bit of tzdaka often is better than seldom giving a lot at the once. Why? Because giving tzdaka often conditions us to be giving. Humans are often habitual creations. By giving oa little bit daily or often, we get into the habit of being giving people. Giving a lot once in a while is certainly praiseworthy, but it doesn't bring out the midda of chessed and giving.
Aim to give tzdaka with kavana and a smile on your face. Even if it's "just" a penny or nickel a day in your tzdaka box at home, the very act of giving is praiseworthy! If a little bit once a day is no doable, then aim for once a week - like on Erev Shabbat. If that's not doable, aim for once a month.
Again, no amount is too little, and it's incredible how quickly and efficiently a little bit a day or once a week adds up to in a year.
Once a year, or whenever reached a certain amount, donate the money to the charity organization/cause of your choice. 

Again, many of the ideas posted here is credited to Rabbi Wallerstein. Shiur is linked in my last blog post :)

May HaShem help us all work on ourselves and to have true Ahavat Chinam!
May everyone have a Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorach!


  1. What beautiful concepts. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. I just searched almost 1,000 classic Torah
    books for the phrase “Ahavat Chinam.”
    Not found!

    But still a good idea anyway.

  3. Princess Lea - thanks for reading! Glad you enjoyed

    Mr. Cohen - 1000 Torah books is certainly a lot!
    I'm guessing you have an app on your iphone/ipad for such a search?