Likutei Amarim: Chapter 32

In the previous chapter the Alter Rebbe taught that when one is bitterly remorseful over his sorry spiritual state, he must strive for joy by considering the following. True, on account of his body and his animal soul he is utterly remote from G‑dliness. Yet he has within him a divine soul, veritably a part of G‑d. This soul, in exile within the body and the animal soul, is to be greatly pitied. One should therefore strive constantly to release it from this exile and to return it to its divine source, through engaging in the Torah and the mitzvot. Such a return will bring one great joy, the joy of freedom. The knowledge that the body and the animal soul remain in their unfortunate state should not disturb one’s joy on account of his divine soul, for the soul should be infinitely more precious in one’s eyes.

והנה על ידי קיום הדברים הנ״ל, להיות גופו נבזה ונמאס בעיניו, רק שמחתו תהיה שמחת הנפש לבדה

Acting on the advice mentioned above — to view one’s body with scorn and contempt, and to find joy in the joy of the soul alone —

הרי זו דרך ישרה וקלה לבא לידי קיום מצות ואהבת לרעך כמוך, לכל נפש מישראל למגדול ועד קטן

is a direct and easy path toward fulfilling the mitzvah[1] “You shall love your fellow as yourself,” with regard to every Jew both great and small — in spiritual stature.

כי מאחר שגופו נמאס ומתועב אצלו, והנפש והרוח, מי יודע גדולתן ומעלתן בשרשן ומקורן באלקים חיים

Since his body is despised and loathsome he will not love himself on account of his body more than he loves his fellow; and as for the soul and spirit, the differences between his own soul and that of his fellow surely will not diminish the love between them, for who can know their (the soul and spirit’s) greatness and excellence in their source and root — the living G‑d?

How, then, can one claim that his soul is superior to his fellow’s?

בשגם שכולן מתאימות, ואב אחד לכולנה

Furthermore, they are actually all equal; [2] and not only equal yet separate, but, furthermore, they all have one father — one source, and within their source they all comprise one entity.

ולכן נקראו כל ישראל אחים ממש מצד שורש נפשם בה׳ אחד

It is on account of this common root in the One G‑d that all of Israel are called “brothers” — in the full sense of the word, and not only figuratively, in the sense of “relatives” or “similar in appearance” and the like; [3]

רק שהגופים מחולקים

only the bodies are distinct from each other.

This explains how it is at all possible to demand that one love his fellow as he loves himself. Self-love is innate, natural to man; love for one’s fellow is not. How can a generated love match a natural one

According to the principle stated here, this is readily understood. One Jew need not create a love for another. The love is an inborn characteristic of his soul, on account of its root in G‑dliness which is common to all souls; it is as natural as the love between brothers.

ולכן העושים גופם עיקר ונפשם טפלה אי אפשר להיות אהבה ואחוה אמיתית ביניהם אלא התלויה בדבר לבדה

Therefore, there can be no true love and fraternity between those who regard their bodies as primary and their souls secondary, but only a love based on an external factor.

Since the body separates us from each other, whereas the soul is that which binds us together, the greater value one places on his body at the expense of his soul, the more conscious he is of the differences between himself and his fellow. These differences require that he create a love for his fellow, and as said above, a created love can never equal a natural, innate love. Therefore, love between people who consider their bodies as primarily important, must be only a love based on some external factor, in which case the love is (a) limited to the importance of the motivating factor, and (b) destined to endure only as long as that factor is valid.

* * *

Up to now the Alter Rebbe has discussed the mitzvah of loving one’s fellow, on its own merits. He now proceeds to discuss the value of this mitzvah as the basis for all the commandments, thereby elucidating yet further the importance of “rejoicing with the joy of the soul alone.”

The Talmud relates that it was Hillel the Elder who authored the well-known statement that ahavat Yisrael (the love of one’s fellow Jew) is the basis of the entire Torah. For Hillel had been approached by a gentile who declared that he wished to convert to Judaism, but only if Hillel would teach him the entire Torah while he stood on one foot. Hillel replied, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is but commentary…

An obvious difficulty presents itself. All mitzvot fall into either of two categories: (a)bein adam lachaveiro — “between man and man,” and (b) bein adam laMakom — “between man and G‑d.”

It is readily understood how all the mitzvot of the former category may be motivated by one’s love of his fellow. But how can this love motivate one to fulfill any of themitzvot belonging to the latter category — to observe the Sabbath, for example

The Alter Rebbe’s answer follows from his previously stated principle that the essence of ahavat Yisrael lies in giving priority to one’s soul rather than to his body. This indeed is the basis of the entire Torah — as the Alter Rebbe continues:

וזהו שאמר הלל הזקן על קיום מצוה זו: זהו כל התורה כולה, ואידך פירושא הוא וכו׳

This explains Hillel the Elder’s statement concerning the fulfillment of this mitzvah: [4] “This is the entire Torah, the rest is but commentary.”

כי יסוד ושורש כל התורה הוא להגביה ולהעלות הנפש על הגוף מעלה מעלה עד עיקרא ושרשא דכל עלמין

For the basis and root purpose of the entire Torah is to elevate and exalt the soul high above the body, to [G‑d], the root and source of all worlds,

וגם להמשיך אור אין סוף ברוך הוא בכנסת ישראל, כמו שכתוב לקמן, דהיינו, במקור נשמות כל ישראל, למהוי אחד באחד דוקא

and also to draw down the infinite light of Ein Sof into the Community of Israel — as will be explained further, [5] meaning into the fountainhead of the souls of all Israel, so that “the One [G‑d] will reside within [Israel — but only insofar as they are] one,” i.e., united.

ולא כשיש פירוד חס ושלום בנשמות, דקודשא בריך הוא לא שריא באתר פגים

But this indwelling of the light of Ein Sof in the Community of Israel is impossible if there is disunity between the souls, G‑d forbid, for “G‑d does not dwell in an imperfect, fragmented, place.” [6]

וכמו שכתוב: ברכנו אבינו כולנו כאחד באור פניך, וכמו שכתוב במקום אחר באריכות

So do we say in our prayers: [7] “Bless us, our Father, all as one with the light of Your Countenance,” indicating that “the light of G‑d’s Countenance” can be revealed only when we are united “all as one,” as explained elsewhere at length.

Since every Jew has a divine soul, and since the commandment to love one’s fellow is based on the essential unity of the souls, it follows that this commandment applies to every Jew without exception. In fact, however, we find the Talmud exhorting us to hate certain fellow Jews. How do we reconcile these apparently contradictory requirements

The Alter Rebbe proceeds to clarify:

ומה שכתוב בגמרא שמי שרואה בחבירו שחטא, מצוה לשנאותו, וגם לומר לרבו שישנאהו

As for the Talmudic statement [8] that if one sees his friend sinning, he should hate him, and should also relate the fact to his teacher so that he too will hate him, — how does this conform with what was said above?

היינו בחבירו בתורה ומצות

This applies only to one’s companion — one’s equal— in the study of Torah and the observance of the mitzvot.

The sinner in question is a Torah-observant scholar, but has lapsed in this one instance. In this case his sin is much more severe than usual, since it is written that even the inadvertent misdeeds of a scholar are as grave as deliberate sins. [9] But even this general assumption of the gravity of his conduct is not sufficient cause to hate him, as the Alter Rebbe continues. Yet another condition must first be satisfied:

וכבר קיים בו מצות הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך, עם שאתך בתורה ובמצות, ואף על פי כן לא שב מחטאו, כמו שכתוב בספר חרדים

He has also fulfilled with him — with the sinner — the injunction, [10] “You shall repeatedly rebuke your friend.” The word used here for “your friend” (עמיתך) also indicates, as the Talmud points out [11] עם שאתך – “him who is on a par with you in the Torah and the mitzvot,” who nevertheless, has not repented of his sin, as it is written in Sefer Charedim.

At this point there is no need to exaggerate the gravity of his sin: it is clearly a deliberate transgression.

אבל מי שאינו חבירו, ואינו מקורב אצלו

But as to one who is not his companion — his equal — in the Torah and themitzvot, so that (as our Sages say concerning the ignorant in general) even his deliberate transgressions are regarded as inadvertent acts, since he is unaware of the gravity of sin; nor is he on intimate terms with him; — not only is one not enjoined to hate him: on the contrary, he must in fact, strive to become closer to him, as the Alter Rebbe states shortly.

To hate such a sinner is surely unjustifiable, since no sin that he commits is considered deliberate. There is also no reason to keep one’s distance from him out of fear that he will learn from his evil ways (in fulfillment of the exhortation of theMishnah, “Do not fraternize with a wicked man”), since he is not on close personal terms with him in any case.

הנה על זה אמר הלל הזקן: הוי מתלמידיו של אהרן, אוהב שלום וכו׳, אוהב את הבריות ומקרבן לתורה

Therefore, on the contrary: Of this situation Hillel said, [12] “Be one of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving creatures and drawing them near to the Torah.”

לומר שאף הרחוקים מתורת ה׳ ועבודתו, ולכן נקראים בשם בריות בעלמא, צריך למשכן בחבלי עבותות אהבה

This usage of the term “creatures” in reference to human beings means that even those who are far from G‑d’s Torah and His service, for which reason they are classified simply as “creatures“ — indicating that the fact that they are G‑d’s creations is their sole virtue — even those one must attract with strong cords of love.

וכולי האי ואולי יוכל לקרבן לתורה ועבודת ה׳

Perhaps thereby one will be able, after all, to draw them close to the Torah and the service of G‑d.

והן לא, לא הפסיד שכר מצות אהבת ריעים

And even if one fails in this, he has not forfeited the merit of the mitzvahof neighborly love which he has fulfilled by his efforts in this direction.

וגם המקורבים אליו, והוכיחם ולא שבו מעונותיהם, שמצוה לשנאותם, מצוה לאהבם גם כן

Furthermore, even those whom one is enjoined to hate — for they are close to him, and he has rebuked them but they still have not repented of their sins — one is obliged to love them too.

But is it possible to love a person and hate him at the same time?

The Alter Rebbe explains that since the love and the hatred stem from two different causes, they do not conflict.

ושתיהן הן אמת: שנאה מצד הרע שבהם, ואהבה מצד בחינת הטוב הגנוז שבהם, שהוא ניצוץ אלקות שבתוכם, המחיה נפשם האלקית

And both the love and the hatred are truthful emotions in this case, [since] the hatred is on account of the evil within them, while the love is on account of the good hidden in them, which is the divine spark within them that animates their divine soul. For this spark of G‑dliness is present even in the most wicked of one’s fellow Jews; it is merely hidden.

One may now be faced with the anomaly of a fellow-Jew whom he must both love and hate. But what attitude should he adopt toward the person as a whole who possesses both these aspects of good and evil?

When, for example, the sinner requests a favor of him, should his hatred dictate his response, or his love?

The Alter Rebbe goes on to say that one’s relationship with the sinner as a whole should be guided by love. By arousing one’s compassion for him, one restricts one’s own hatred so that it is directed solely at the evil within the sinner, not at the person himself.

וגם לעורר רחמים בלבו עליה, כי היא בבחינת גלות בתוך הרע מסטרא אחרא הגובר עליה ברשעים

One must also arouse compassion on [the divine soul of the sinner], for in the case of the wicked it is in exile within the evil of the sitra achra which dominates it.

והרחמנות מבטלת השנאה ומעוררת האהבה, כנודע ממה שכתוב: ליעקב אשר פדה את אברהם

Compassion banishes hatred and arouses love — as is known from the verse, [13] “Jacob, who redeemed Abraham.”

“Jacob” represents compassion, and “Abraham”, love. When “Abraham”, love, must be “redeemed”, i.e., brought out of concealment, it is “Jacob”, compassion, that accomplishes this redemption; for as said, compassion banishes hatred and arouses love.

ולא אמר דוד המלך עליו השלום: תכלית שנאה שנאתים וגו׳, אלא על המינים והאפיקורסים שאין להם חלק באלקי ישראל

([14]As for the statement by King David, peace upon him: [15] “I hate them with a consummate hatred,” reserving no love for them whatsoever, this refers only to [Jewish] heretics and atheists who have no part in the G‑d of Israel,

כדאיתא בגמרא, ריש פרק ט״ז דשבת

as stated in the Talmud, beginning of ch. 16 of Tractate Shabbat.)

Any sinner who is not, however, a heretic, must not be hated with “a consummate hatred,” for the mitzvah of ahavat Yisrael embraces him as well.

——— ● ———

Published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, all rights reserved.

[1] Vayikra 19:18.

[2] Note the discrepancy: In speaking of the souls of Israel in general, the Alter Rebbe first writes, “Who can know `[can distinguish]’ their greatness and excellence?”, implying that there are in fact differences between one soul and another; here he writes, “They actually are all equal.” The explanation: As discussed in chapter 2, the original source of all souls is the Sefirahof Chochmah in the World of Atzilut. On this level, all the souls are indeed one entity. This is indicated in the words, “They all have one father” – “father” (Abba) being the kabbalisitic term for Chochmah. From this source, the souls progress downward through the various Sefirot and Worlds. It is this descent that creates differences between souls; one soul is more strongly affected by the descent, and another less so. The first stage in this descent is the Sefirah of Binah in the World of Atzilut; thus, it is at the level of Binah that the differences between souls first appear. This is alluded to in the words, “Who can know their greatness and excellence in their source and root – the living G‑d?“; in kabbalistic terminology, “the living G‑d” is a reference to the level of Binah in the World of Atzilut. Speaking of the souls at this level, the Alter Rebbe therefore says that feeling superior to one’s fellow is unjustified, because “who can know their greatness and excellence…?” There are indeed differences between souls – but who knows them? When speaking of the souls having “one father,” however, he writes that “they are all equal.

[3] From a note by the Rebbe. (The two alternative meanings of “brothers” appear in the commentary of Rashi on Bereishit 13:8.)

[4] Shabbat 31a.

[5] Ch. 41.

[6] Cf. Zohar I, 216b.

[7] Liturgy, final blessing in the Amidah.

[8] Cf. Pesachim 113b.

[9] From a note by the Rebbe. Apparently, the Rebbe is addressing the difficulty inherent in the requirement to hate a pious and scholarly Jew who lapses on occasion, but to love one who is far removed from study and observance of the Torah. The reason for this differentiation cannot be, says the Rebbe, that one might learn from the lapses of the pious Jew, who is on a level similar to one’s own, but is less likely to learn from the behavior of the non-observant Jew, who in any case lives differently in general. The Rebbe rejects this on several grounds: (1) If the requirement to hate the sinner were based in the fear that one might come to learn from him, then this hatred should be directed at a sinner who is in contact with oneself at any level, not necessarily one’s peer in Torah observance or scholarship. (2) To avoid imitation of the sinner, it would be enough to keep one’s distance from him; why the need to hate him? (3) The whole concept that someone is to be hated, not because of something hateful about him, but to protect the hater, is most difficult to accept. Chassidut requires one to actually suffer harm himself if failure to do so might lead to the remote possibility of his harming his fellow. Such a doctrine would certainly not countenance the suggestion of definitely harming one’s fellow (by hating him) in order to forestall possible harm to oneself; and, at that, to forestall a harm that could befall one only if he failed to resist his own evil inclination!Clearly, then, the requirement to hate the sinner is not intended to solve one’s own problem of learning from his sinful ways. This problem is in any event solved by the exhortation of the Mishnah, “Do not consort with a rasha” Avot 1:7. The Alter Rebbe’s differentiation between one’s peer in Torah and Mitzvot and others is thus grounded in the reason given in the text.

[10] Vayikra 19:17.

[11] Shevuot 30a.

[12] Avot 1:12.

[13] Yeshayahu 29:22.

[14] Parentheses are in the original text.

[15] Tehillim 139:22.