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Ahavas Yisrael - Based on Torah by Rabbi Elimelech Biderman, shlit"a

Our holy sefarim teach that every Yid must keep the entire Torah, with all of its 613 mitzvos. How is that possible? The Torah has laws for several types of people, and each category has their own mitzvos. There are laws exclusive for cohanim, for a cohen gadol, for a king, etc. It is impossible for a single individual to keep the entire Torah. The Toldos Yaakov Yosef (Korach 1) explains that the solution is ahavas Yisroel. Klal Yisroel, as a collective whole, keeps the entire Torah, and when one is united through love with all Yidden, it can be considered as if he kept the entire Torah. The question is, how does one attain ahavas Yisroel? How can you love someone who took something away from you, or harmed you in some other way? The solution is emunah. When you believe that everything is bashert, and that no one can harm you if it weren't for Hashem's decree, you can love all Yidden. The Gemara (Makos 24.) says that although there are 613 mitzvos, בא חבקוק והעמידן על אחת, צדיק באמונתו יחיה, "Chabakuk came and established the entire Torah on one principle: belief in Hashem." The Toldos explains that the Gemara doesn’t mean that emunah alone is enough, because, obviously, one must keep all 613 mitzvos. Rather the Gemara is teaching us the path to keeping the entire Torah, with all the 613 mitzvos. That path is העמידו על אחת to be אחת (one) with all Yidden, with is achieved by ahavas Yisroel. How does one attain ahavas Yisroel? ,העמידו על אחת, צדיק באמנתו יחיה when you believe that everything is from Hashem, you can love all Yidden.

A group of people wrote a letter to Reb Yitzchak Elchanan Spector zt'l of Kovno, regarding a certain psak (ruling) that was handed down by the rav of their city. The psak was ruled in error, because the rav forgot a Shach (commentary on Shulchan Aruch) who paskened differently. The letter seemed innocent enough. It looked like they were asking Reb Yitzchak Elchanan for his opinion, whether he agreed with the rav's psak or not. But Reb Yitzchak Elchanan understood what was written between the lines. The writers of the letter were hoping that Reb Yitzchak Elchanan would respond that the rav ruled in error. Then, they would use this to prove that the rav’s incompetence and remove him from his post. Reb Yitzchak Elchanan thus sent back a telegram stating that he fully agrees with the ruling of their esteemed rav. The people were shocked. Had the rav of Kovno also forgotten the Shach? A few hours later another telegram arrived. It said, "I retract my previous psak, because I just realized that the Shach says differently…" In this manner, Reb Yitzchak Elchanan showed them that he respects their rav, and it isn't so terrible that the rav forgot a Shach. He showed them that even Reb Yitzchak Elchanan, from the gedolei hador, initially forgot the Shach. And with his second telegram he made certain that the Torah law was upkept.

Once, Reb Yaakov Kaminetzky zt'l met with Reb Moshe Feinstein zt'l and he saw that Reb Moshe was extremely happy. He asked him about this, and Reb Moshe told him the following: "Three months ago, I was conducting a din Torah in my home and I ruled according to the Torah. Later that day, someone called me up. He said, 'I'm the person who you obligated to pay money in your din Torah today. I want you to know that you ruled erroneously…' and he said several disrespectful words. "Today, this man came to me again, and he asked me to give him a haskamah, authorizing him to be a shochet (ritual slaughterer). I thought to myself: Before, he spoke disrespectfully to me and now he wants me to do him this favor? But Yom Kippur had passed since then, and I had already forgiven him, so I agreed to test him. He knew the laws well, and I wrote him a letter of approbation, attesting that he is fit to be a shochet. Then I rebuked him for speaking improperly to me. "The man didn’t know what I was talking about. He never called me… Then we figured out that it was another person (who was also involved in the din Torah) called up and pretended to be this person. "That is why I'm happy," Reb Moshe concluded. He passed a difficult test; he put aside all his reservations to help his fellow man. If he had taken revenge, it would be against an innocent person…

One approach for studying Torah is derech hapilpul (an in-depth approach to understanding Torah). Rebbe Yissacher Dov of Belz zy'a liked to study Torah using this approach, and therefore he asked his children to buy him the sefer Chidushei HaRim on Shas, which is written in the pilpul style. He explained why he likes this approach to Torah so much. He said, "With pilpul one can always find a way to explain a difficult Yid." By using the derech hapilpul, he was able to find innovative ways to find some merit, even for sinful Jews. The letter ׳צ (tzaddik) of the alef beis is holding a yud on its shoulders. (Because a ׳צ is a ׳נ with a ׳י on top.) The early sefarim say that this hints that a tzaddik is someone who helps others and tolerates others. According to the Arizal, the yud on top of the tzaddik is written backwards. This hints that a tzaddik is someone who can tolerate even someone who is crooked and backwards. Why isn't an alef called a tzaddik, too? Doesn’t an ׳א also carry a yud on its shoulder? We can answer that it is because the ׳א is also standing on a yud. A tzaddik is good to all Yidden. Not someone who helps some, and tramples others.

There are concepts in this week's Torah portion, which allude to the importance of ahavas Yisroel. We all know that the color white represents purity. As it states (Yeshayah 18:1) אם יהיו חטאיכם כשנים כשלג ילבינו, "If your sins will be red…they will become white like snow." So why is tzaraas white? Tzaraas represents sins, it should be red. Why is it white? The white tzaraas hints to a person who acts like a tzaddik in most ways. He davens with kavanah (focus), he learns well, and his ways are praiseworthy. Only, he isn't cautious with lashon hara. The Torah is hinting to us that although he is white in all his ways, since he isn't careful with lashon hara, he is tamei (impure). This isn't the type of tzaddik Hashem desires. The birds a metzora brought for a korban are תור ובני יונה. This week's parashah states that when a woman gives birth, she should bring either a תור or בן יונה for a korban chatas. As it states (6:12) ובמלאת ימי טהרה לבן או לבת תביא כבש...לעולה, ובן יונה או תר לחטאת..., "(after a birth) of a son or daughter, she should bring a sheep…for an olah, and a יונה or תור (bird) for a chatas." There are two differences between this fowl sacrifice in comparison to all other fowl sacrifices stated in the Torah. One difference is that generally two תור or two בני יונה are brought together. This time, only one bird is brought. Furthermore, generally, the Torah writes תור first, and then it writes בני יונה. This time, the Torah mentions the בן יונה first. The The Baal HaTurim explains, "This teaches us that since he only brings one bird, if he finds a יונה, he shouldn't take a תור. This is because the spouse of the תור mourns for its partner, and it won't remarry another." The תור feels devastated when separated. The Torah wants to prevent the תור from going through this. Therefore, the Torah recommends taking a בן יונה whenever possible. This is a lesson in ahavas Yisroel, because if the Torah is so concerned about the feelings of a bird, we certainly must be cautious with the feelings of our fellow man.


When a person hits a dog with a stick, the dog will bite the stick in retaliation. It doesn’t realize that it isn't the stick that is hurting him, rather the person wielding the stick. The nimshal is, when someone harms you, it isn't the person doing it. He is just a staff in Hashem's hand. But instead of recognizing this, he fights with the person who harmed him.

Reb Yitzchak Elchanan Spector studied Torah day and night, and he hardly slept. Someone asked him, "Doesn’t the Rambam say one should sleep eight hours a night?" Reb Yitzchak Elchanan replied, wittily, "I spent many nights trying to understand and explain that Rambam as well." Reb Yitzchak Elchanan battled the maskilim (those who followed the Enlightenment movement). There was another person working together with him, against the maskilim. However, that person wasn't really interested in battling the maskilim; he simply enjoyed the excitement of the dispute. Reb Yitzchak Elchanan told him, "Do you know what the difference is, between me and you? I'll tell you with a mashal: Homeowners and cats both hate mice. The difference is that homeowners don’t want to see the mice, while cats hope to find them."

The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuvah 7:6) teaches, "Teshuvah brings those who are distant closer. Yesterday, Hashem hated him. He was disgusting, revolting, and distanced. Today, [Hashem] loves him; he is precious, close, a friend…" Reb Nachum Yasser zt'l heard some yungerleit discussing this Rambam, and they couldn’t understand how a person's status could change so rapidly. Yesterday Hashem hated him, and today he is beloved! How could this change happen so quickly? Reb Nachum had a son who unfortunately went off the derech. He never spoke about this son because it caused him too much distress, but this time he said, "If my son entered this beis medresh right now, come over to me and say that he is ready to be a religious Yid, I would love him and kiss him. His status with me would change in a moment. This is what happens when a Yid does teshuvah."

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