Your thoughts are the source of your willpower. The actions you take flow from your thoughts about them. Every step you take is through the use of your willpower. Every time you do anything, it is through the use of your willpower.
A person who uses his willpower to engage in meaningful goals will feel a great sense of victory and joy. This might be difficult initially, but in the long run a person who uses willpower wisely will live a life full of joyful accomplishments.
You have the ability to choose to be joyful when you use your willpower in positive, meaningful ways. There is tremendous power in mastering "joyful willpower," to joyfully do what is in your best interests to do.
Love Yehuda Lave
Satanic Obsession: Religious Israel-Haters
03 Jun 2018
If you thought that radical religious anti-Zionism is solely the purview of a few crazed chassidim in Neturei Karta, you are tragically mistaken.
A glossy new book has recently been published: "The Empty Wagon: Zionism's Journey from Identity Crisis to Identity Theft." It seeks to persuade religious Jews - especially charedim - into an extreme anti-Zionist approach. The author is Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, who is not to be confused with the Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro who authored the fabulous book Halachic Positions. This Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro is highly intelligent and well-read, the rabbi of a shul in Bayswater, Long Island, and a Litvak, though he is also a grand-nephew of the Satmar Rebbe. He used to anonymously operate the creepy website FrumTeens, in which he infamously quoted (or probably misquoted) the Chafetz Chaim as saying about Rav Kook, "Kook, Shmook."
Today, Rabbi Shapiro is involved with the anti-Israel website modestly called True Torah Jews, which advocates for the State of Israel to be dissolved. This group is not affiliated with Neturei Karta, but when you reach this level of hatred for Israel, the differences between the two become rather minimal, as the site itself points out. Rabbi Shapiro has also joinedup with notorious Jewish antisemite Gilad Atzmon. Aside from his growing following among Jews, his website and videos are, of course, welcomed by a broad spectrum of Israel-hating non-Jews, who are eager to hear that "real" rabbis also hate Israel. A video of his about how Jerusalem should not be recognized as the capital of Israel received over 1.7 million views.
If you want a taste of Rabbi Shapiro's perspective, take a look at this revealing post from his blog, in which he explains, based on the writings of Rav Elchanan Wasserman, how Zionist Jewish leaders actually have the souls of Amalek, and how they are empowered by Satan. In contrast with mainstream Judaism for at least the last millennium, which downplays Satan as an independent entity, Rabbi Shapiro follows the lead of the Satmar Rav and Rav Elchanan in being rather obsessed with Satan, and attributing great power and effective independence to him.
The following paragraph, in which Rabbi Shapiro explains why one should (theoretically?) engage in physical confrontation with the Zionist leadership, is extremely surprising in its theological perspective: Rav Elchonon explains... that there are two types of threats against the Jews – one is where we are put in physical danger, where our enemies want to kill us, like the Persians did on Purim. The other is where we are not in danger, but the Torah is. Where they want not to harm us physically but to harm the Torah, i.e. our observance thereof. Like with the Greeks did on Chanukah. The difference between the two types of danger is that physical danger comes from Hashem with the goal to make us do Teshuva. Therefore, when we are in physical danger the proper reaction is to do Teshuva, so that the objective of the danger will be been met, and the danger will go away. But Hashem does not threaten the Torah – when the Torah is threatened, that is the Satan doing it (of course, Hashem controls the Satan as well, but He sometimes gives the Satan permission to wreak havoc in his Satanic way). In such a case, doing Teshuva alone will not help, since obviously the Satan's goal is not for us to do Teshuva. On the contrary – he wants us to violate the Torah. In such a case, the only solution is to go to physical war against our enemies with Mesiras Nefesh to the death. And this nullifies the Satan's power. I find this astonishing from any monotheistic standpoint. First of all, who cares that Satan's goal is not for us to do teshuvah? Why do his goals matter - isn't it only Hashem's goals that are relevant? Secondly, surely any power that Satan has is only because God has given him power. And God has presumably only done so because the Jewish People have not been acting properly. So surely if the Jews do act properly, then God will no longer allow Satan to act against us! How on earth, from within their own theological worldview, can they claim that Hashem would rather that we engage in physical warfare than davven and learn Torah and do mitzvos?!
Besides from the questionable breaches of monotheism in their Satanic theology, there is immense irony here. Creating innovative frameworks for the laws of war based on Biblical parallels is exactly the crime of which Satmar accuses Religious Zionists!
Even more ironic is Rabbi Shapiro's list of the Four Signs of Amalek: a) We know that Amalek is different than other enemies of the Jewish people in that they actually claim to be the real Jews, the way Esav held he was more of a real Jew than Yaakov b) The fundamental characteristic of Amalek is that they glorify war and warriors. c) Amalek tries to "improve" Yaakov to become more like Esav, and by doing so, claims that Yaakov will be a better Jew d) Amalek tries to take the Jews out of the Bais Medrash and make them into warriors Talk about Kol haposel bemumo posel... this is a perfect description of Rabbi Shapiro! To wit: a) He and his associates proclaim themselves to be the only True Torah Jews; b) They are constructing a theology to justify and glorify physical warfare (against other Jews!); c) They trying to "improve" the rest of the Jews to become True Torah Jews like him; d) They are trying to take the Jews out of the Bais Medrash and make them into warriors!
The tragedy is that there are intelligent, modern Jews who go for this. Satmar's hatred of Israel is alive and well, and is endorsed by not a few figures outside of Satmar. At the notorious Israel Hatefest organized by Satmar in Manhattan a few years ago, at which speakers described Israel as an "evil regime" and spoke about how "the [Israeli] army was founded on murder and blood spilling," sitting on the dais were Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel of South Fallsberg, Rav Aharon Schechter of Chaim Berlin, and Rabbi Moshe Meiselman of Toras Moshe.
Rabbi Shapiro's hateful book sold out its entire first printing in just two weeks, and is already on its second printing. The obligation for the rest of us is to urge bookstores not to carry it. And to protest the spread of Satmar views into the rest of the charedi community.
How many of you would attempt Waterfall Road in Manang, Nepal? 😳 #extreme4x4nation
Here are 20 gems from Churchill's repertoire that show not only his wit, but also his wisdom:
"To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day."
"To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to change often."
"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see."
"Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room."
"Personally I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught."
"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."
"History will be kind to me for I intend to write it."
"Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference."
"You have enemies? Good. It means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life."
"Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterward to explain why it didn't happen."
"Those who can win a war well can rarely make a good peace, and those who could make a good peace would never have won the war."
"What is adequacy? Adequacy is no standard at all."
"There is only one duty, only one safe course, and that is to try to be right and not to fear to do or say what you believe to be right."
"In the course of my life I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet."
"The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes."
"If we open a quarrel between the past and the present we shall find that we have lost the future."
"It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required."
"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, it's also what it takes to sit down and listen."
"Continuous effort — not strength or intelligence — is the key to unlocking our potential."
"If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a piledriver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time — a tremendous whack."
Not only a great orator and wit, Churchill was also an accomplished artist and writer, producing novels, histories, and biographies as well as impressionist landscapes. He published under the name Winston S. Churchill and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. He was also a hobbyist bricklayer and butterfly breeder!
In our current democratically oriented mindset we subscribe to the tenent that majority rules. Because of this mentality, many times the opinion of the minority is never taken seriously or properly assessed. Yet, throughout world and Jewish history apparently the majority opinion was not always the correct one, and harmful consequences followed from its adoption The Talmud therefore is always careful to preserve the minority opinion even when the normative practice of Judaism does not. It explains that there perhaps will come a time when circumstances will dictate that the minority opinion will be correct and should be implemented. The flaw in always following the majority opinion is patently illustrated for us in the Torah reading of this week. The majority opinion, by a vote of 10 to 2, rejected the entry of the Jewish people into the land of Israel, despite God's promises and the entreaties of Moshe. Yet, all Jewish history is based on the minority opinion being the correct one and that following the majority only doomed a generation to a seemingly useless death in the desert of Sinai. Apparently, God's will, so to speak, and the trajectory of history is not subject to a majority vote. A Jewish Congressman famously stated a century ago that God and one constitute a majority. Truth, wisdom, measured action and a vision for the future are not subject to be overturned by a temporary majority opinion. The fact that there it is a Jewish people and a Jewish state in the world today testifies to the eternity of a holy and wise minority opinion. As human beings who do not have the gift of prophecy and often find it impossible to foretell the future, following the majority opinion is comforting and reassuring. We were brought up on the slogan that 50 million Frenchmen cannot be wrong. Well, they have been very wrong many times over this past century. While we do not want to ignore the wishes of the majority, as there is power and a modicum of truth in numbers, when it comes to matters of faith and historic vision, the rules of majority and minority must be cast aside. Common sense and historical experience coupled with strong beliefs and traditional faith should move the day when making decisions and policies. Many a leader has been faced with making unpopular decisions for the preservation and welfare of his people. We are told that King Saul lost his crown because he told the prophet Samuel that he had to bow to popular demand instead of heeding God's commandment. In Saul's case, following the majority opinion regarding the spies in this week's Torah reading, proved disastrous. We, who live in a society where majority rules, should bear this caveat in mind. Shabbat shalom Rabbi Berel Wein
There are many discomforting and even unpleasant experiences that await those of us who travel by airplane in our current world. Air travel was once considered a luxury experience, apart from one's final destination. Well, the combination of terrorism, enhanced security measures, crowded planes, narrow seats, somewhat surly service and other sundry annoyances have turned air travel into a chore at best. But perhaps the most dreaded of mishaps, when the plane does arrive at its destination, is the sinking feeling that one has at the baggage carousel when somehow one's baggage does not appear.
The airlines claim that almost all luggage eventually does appear and is delivered to its intended destination and recipient. They also claim that their record of luggage being correctly placed on the carousel at the end of the flight is 95%. Though this may be so, it is of little comfort to the 5% who stand patiently and forlornly at the carousel waiting for luggage that may have been shipped halfway around the world. The realization that one's luggage has been lost is one of the most frustrating emotions. I recall that once I arrived at my daughter's home in the United States and she was not home, so I left my luggage on the front porch and circled around to the back entrance to see if I could gain entry there. When I could not, I returned to the front porch and to my horror my luggage was gone. I was beside myself. Eventually, however, the cleaning woman noticed me on the front porch and upon being let into the house, I saw that she had efficiently brought my luggage inside when I was in the back of the house. My feelings of relief matched those of the frustration that I had experienced just a few short moments earlier. This experience, long stored away in my memory bank, surfaces every so often when I think about the current situation of the Jewish people, especially as it relates to those of us that live in Israel. The Jewish people have returned from being almost annihilated by the events of the past century. Jews in the Diaspora have, in the main, become successful and prosperous. Here in Israel we have built a first-world state and society, offering a home for all Jews. Yet, undoubtedly not all our luggage has arrived. For many Jews any sense of tradition or Jewish history has been misplaced or lost entirely. For many, if not most of the Jewish people, family traditions and long held value systems have been eroded by secularism, assimilation and the pressure of modern society. But somehow in the hearts and minds of many of these Jews, they still stand at the side of the baggage carousel waiting for their 'lost luggage' to appear even if they would be hard-pressed to be able to identify it if it somehow came tumbling down the chute of history and society. Jews who have lived without tradition and without an attachment to Torah and to the Jewish people, sense within themselves that something is missing. But, few are willing to search for their 'lost luggage.' But, if it does appear, they are drawn to it and there is an inner sense that this is something that should be claimed. There is a real awakening in the search for tradition and Jewish values in parts of the Jewish community, certainly here in Israel and even in some of the Diaspora as well. This past century has been a very long and tiresome trip and we are severely jetlagged from the difficult journey. It is understandable that some of our luggage, long treasured and valued, was lost on the way. But we should never despair, for there are many signs of change in much of Israeli society in its attitude towards tradition, Jewish values and even certain observances and customs. I have no doubt that this will continue in the future as well and that just as the prophet's prediction regarding the ingathering of the exiles has been fulfilled, so too our values, traditions, hopes and aspirations will continue to be revived. None of our luggage will be lost. Shabbat shalom Berel Wein
Cancer patient given just 3 months to live is cured by experimental treatment
Two and a half years ago, doctors told a Florida woman battling breast cancer that she had just three months to live.
Judy Perkins, 52, of Port Lucie, is now cancer free thanks to an experimental treatment that harnessed billions of her own immune cells, reported the BBC.
Perkins had a mastectomy and all her lymph nodes removed and went through chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. When all those methods failed to halt the spread of cancer to her chest and liver, she was sure she was going to die — that is, until she met Dr. Steven Rosenberg at the National Institutes of Health.
Rosenberg studied Perkins' immune cells, finding those white blood cells capable of detecting genetic mutations and fighting cancer. Scientists then extracted those cells and grew them in a lab before injecting her with 90 billion of them.
"I think it had been maybe 10 days since I'd gotten the cells, and I could already feel that tumor starting to get soft," Perkins told CBS. "By then I was like, 'Dang, this is really working.'"
Rosenberg believes Perkins' cells are still working to keep her cancer free.
"Circulating in her body are large numbers of cells we administered to her two and half years ago," he said.
"This is just one treatment that's necessary because the cells are alive. They're part of Judy. They are Judy Perkins."
Perkins signed up for Rosenberg's cancer trial knowing there were risks involved. She sent two of her friends with cancer to Rosenberg's lab for the same treatment and both of them died, NBC reported.
Rosenberg, who takes on patients with particularly aggressive cancers or just months to live, knows the treatment is not yet ready for widespread use but believes it could pave the way for treatment of several different cancers.
"A lot of works needs to be done, but the potential exists for a paradigm shift in cancer therapy — a unique drug for every cancer patient — it is very different to any other kind of treatment," Rosenberg told the BBC.
Finally, a Good Trump Joke
The Donald is walking out of the White House and heading toward his limo, when a possible assassin steps forward and aims a gun.
A secret service agent, new on the job, shouts, "Mickey Mouse!" This startles the would be assassin, and he is captured.
Later, the secret service agent's supervisor takes him aside and asks, "What in the heck made you shout Mickey Mouse?"
Blushing, the agent replies, "I got nervous. I meant to shout, "Donald, duck!"
Action will enable you to accomplish and achieve. But something must come before taking action: thinking.
Think first. Yes, think big and think bigger, but always think first.
Taking action without thinking will lead to many avoidable mistakes and errors. Taking action without thinking first will lead to unnecessary quarrels and arguments, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings.
Taking action without thinking will lead to wasting much time and energy.
Taking action without thinking might get you far, but it's likely to get you far in the wrong direction.
When you spend time thinking about your options and about consequences, you will be able to learn from each experience to think even better and wiser next time.
In parsha Beha'alothta Moses reaches his lowest ebb. Not surprisingly. After all that had happened – the miracles, the exodus, the division of the sea, food from heaven,What is striking is the depth of Moses' despair water from a rock, the revelation at Sinai and the covenant that went with it – the people, yet again, were complaining about the food. And not because they were hungry; merely because they were bored. "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for free—and the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic."As for the miraculous "bread from heaven," although it sustained them it had ceased to satisfy them: "Now our appetite is gone; there's nothing to look at but this manna!"1
Any leader might despair at such a moment. What is striking is the depth of Moses' despair, the candor with which he expresses it, and the blazing honesty of the Torah in telling us this story. This is what he says to G‑d:
"Why have You brought this trouble on Your servant? What have I done to displease You that You put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do You tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land You promised on oath to their ancestors? … If this is how You are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in Your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin."2
Every leader, perhaps every human being, at some time in their lives faces failure, defeat and the looming abyss of despair. What is fascinating is G‑d's response. He does not tell Moses, "Cheer up; pull yourself together; you are bigger than this." Instead He gives him something practical to do:
"Gather for Me seventy of the elders of Israel …I will take some of the spirit that is on you and put it on them; and they shall bear the burden of the people along with you so that you will not bear it all by yourself."
It is as if G‑d were saying to Moses, "Remember what your father-in-law Jethro told you. Do not try to lead alone. Do not try to live alone. Even you, the greatest of the prophets, are still human, and humans are social animals. Enlist others. Choose associates. End your isolation. Have friends."
What is moving about this episode is that, at the moment of Moses' maximum emotional vulnerability, G‑d Himself speaks to Moses as a friend. This is fundamental to Judaism as a whole. For us G‑d is not (merely) Creator of the universe, L‑rd of history, Sovereign, Lawgiver and Redeemer, the G‑d of capital-letter nouns. He is also close, tender, loving: "He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds."3 He is like a parent: "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you."4 He is like a shepherd; "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me."5 He is always there: "G‑d is close to all who call on Him – to all who call on Him in truth."6
In 2006, in the fittingly named Hope Square outside London's Liverpool Street Station, a memorial was erected in memory of Kindertransport, the operation that rescued 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi Germany shortly before the outbreak of war. At the ceremony one of the speakers, a woman by then in her eighties who was one of the saved, spoke movingly about the warmth she felt toward the country that had given refuge to her and her fellow kinder. In her speech she said something that left an indelible impression on me. She said, "I discovered that in England a policeman could be a friend." That is what made England so different from Germany. And it is what Jews discovered long ago about G‑d Himself. He is not just a supreme power. He is also a friend. That is what Moses discovered in this week's parsha.
Friends matter. They shape our lives. How much they do so was discovered by two social scientists, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, using data from the Framingham Heart Study. This project, started in 1948, has followed more than 15,000 residents of Framingham, Massachusetts, examining their heart rate, weight, blood levels and other health indicators, on average every four years. Its purpose was to identify risk factors for heart disease. However, Christakis and Fowler were interested in something else, namely the effects of socialization. Does it make a difference to your health whether you have friends, and if so, what kind of people they are?
Their discoveriesNot only does having friends matter, so does having the right ones were impressive. Not only does having friends matter; so too does having the right ones. If your friends are slim, active, happy and have healthy habits, the likelihood is that so will you, and the same is true of the reverse. Another study, in 2000, showed that if at college, you have a roommate who works hard at his or her studies, the probability is that you will work harder. A Princeton study in 2006 showed that if one of your siblings has a child, you are 15% more likely to do so within the next two years. Habits are contagious. They spread through social networks. Even your friends' friends and their friends can still have an influence on your behavior.7
Jordan Peterson, in his 12 Rules for Life, marshalls his own experience and that of his contemporaries, growing up in the small, isolated town of Fairview, Alberta. Those who chose upwardly mobile individuals as friends went on to success. Those who fell into bad company fared badly, sometimes disastrously. We can choose the wrong friends, he says, precisely because they boost our self-image. If we have a fault and know we do, we can find reassurance in the fact that the people we associate with have the same fault. This soothes our troubled mind but at the price of making it almost impossible to escape our deficiencies. Hence his Rule 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you.8
None of this would come as a surprise to the sages, who pointed out, for example, that the key figures in the Korach rebellion were encamped near one another. From this they concluded, "Woe to the wicked and woe to his neighbour." In the opposite direction, the tribes of Yehudah, Issachar and Zevulun were encamped near Moses and Aaron, and they became distinguished for their expertise in Torah. Hence, "Happy the righteous and happy his neighbour."9 Hence Maimonides' axiom:
It is natural to be influenced in character and conduct by your friends and associates, and to follow the fashions of your fellow citizens. Therefore one ought to ensure that your friends are virtuous and that you frequent the company of the wise so that you learn from the way they live, and that you keep a distance from bad company.10
Or, as the sages put it more briefly: "Make for yourself a mentor and acquire for yourself a friend."11
In the end that is what G‑d did for Moses, and it ended his depression. He told him to gather around him seventy elders who would bear the burden of leadership with him. There was nothing they could do that Moses could not: he did not need their practical or spiritual help. But they did alleviate his isolation. They shared his spirit. They gave him the gift of friendship. We all need it. We are social animals. "It is not good to be alone."12
It is part of theFaith is the redemption of solitude intellectual history of the West and the fact that from quite early on, Christianity became more Hellenistic than Hebraic, that people came to think that the main purpose of religion is to convey information (about the origin of the universe, miracles, life after death, and so on). Hence the conflict between religion and science, revelation and reason, faith and demonstration. These are false dichotomies.
Judaism has foundational beliefs, to be sure, but it is fundamentally about something else altogether. For us, faith is the redemption of solitude. It is about relationships – between us and G‑d, us and our family, us and our neighbors, us and our people, us and humankind. Judaism is not about the lonely soul. It is about the bonds that bind us to one another and to the Author of all. It is, in the highest sense, about friendship.
Hence the life changing idea: we tend to become what our friends are. So choose as friends people who are what you aspire to be.
What is lashon hara? One who speaks disparagingly of another person, even though he may speak the truth (Orchos Tzaddikim, Chapter 25).
One mussar spokesman said that there should never be any need to speak about another person. "If you wish to speak of someone's praises, praise God instead. If you wish to find fault with someone, you would do better to focus on your own defects."
The second statement takes on additional significance in light of what psychologists have learned about lack of self-awareness. Some have suggested that when people talk about other people, they turn the conversation away from themselves and, by focusing on other's shortcomings, they avoid the need to focus on their own. Slandering other people thus sets back the struggle for self-awareness, which is essential for optimum emotional and psychological health, because it directs one's attention away from oneself and onto the defects in others. One thereby does not have the information necessary to improve.
The Talmud states that lashon hara adversely affects three people: the one who speaks, the one who listens, and the subject of the conversation (Arachin 15b). We can easily understand how it hurts the last two, and we now have another insight into how gossips actually hurt themselves.
Today I shall ... assiduously avoid talking about other people's faults, and instead try to find my own, so that I can improve upon them
Awesome clip - what a movie this was!
One who is needy and refuses to accept help, it is as though he shed innocent blood (Jerusalem Talmud, Peah 8:8).
Maimonides extols what he calls the golden path, the middle way which a person should follow in life. He states that every trait has two opposite but equally undesirable extremes. The proper degree of any trait is not necessarily the median; it may be more toward one of the two poles, but it is never the extreme.
Self-sufficiency is certainly a desirable goal, and striving for independence is commendable. Some indolent people do not even try to carry their own weight. Their parasitism may be so reprehensible to other people that the latter may react by going to the opposite extreme and refusing to accept help when they need it. They may sustain physical injury by starvation or exposure, rather than accept a helping hand.
While accounts of great tzaddikim who subjected themselves to extreme degrees of deprivation do exist, these people had reached a level of spirituality so high that this deprivation would not harm them. For the average person, Solomon's caution, "Do not attempt to be too much of a tzaddik" (Ecclesiastes 7:16), should prevail. To do so may simply be an "ego trip." Some bridges can support vehicles of any tonnage; other bridges have a limit on the tonnage, lest they collapse under excess weight.
In this trait, like so many others, people may not be the best judge of their own capacities. Their best move is to seek competent spiritual guidance.
Today I shall ...
allow myself to accept legitimate help and be cautious of over-reacting in any extreme.
The flower shop I go to sells all kinds of cards: congratulations, sympathy, bereavement, etc. My favorite is the "Just Because" card. You can say it with flowers for all kinds of reasons: Because your wife did or said something special. Because your wife gave birth. Because your wife turned 40. Or "just because."
Just because is special because it transcends virtue. I know When you love someone just because, you can overcome many obstacles that my wife is beautiful; I know she is smart; I know she is kind; I know she is devoted; I know she is a fabulous mother; I know she is a great teacher. But these qualities are not why I love her. I love her for who she is. Just because.1
When you love someone just because, you can overcome many obstacles. Consider the relationship between G‑d and our ancestors. The Jewish nation was traveling in the desert in high style: daily fine dining, a climate-controlled atmosphere, clothing with built-in laundry and stretching ability. Every need and luxury was provided for, yet the people complained, again and again.
The complainers were often punished, but there were many moans and groans that went unpunished. Despite the constant grumbling, G‑d continued to care for them, continued to love them. Why? What did they do to deserve His love? The answer can be summed up in two words: "just because."
A Tale of Two Brides
The Talmud records a famous debate between the schools of Hillel and Shammai:
What does one sing when dancing before the bride? Beit Shammai said, "The bride as she is." Beit Hillel said, "The bride is beautiful and graceful." Said the school of Shammai, "What if the bride is lame or blind, can we call her beautiful and graceful? Did the Torah not prohibit lying?" To which Beit Hillel replied, "When someone makes a purchase, shall we praise it or criticize it?2
Most students assume that Shamai was scrupulously honest and Hillel was gracefully generous. Hillel was willing to tell a white lie for the sake of peace. Shamai was not. But here is a different approach.
The Torah tells us to love our fellow, irrespective of who they are and how they behave. It is easy to love and respect our friends. People with grace and charm are not hard to like. But what about those who are rude and uncouth, grumpy and mean? What about those who are cruel and hound us, or those who put on airs and ignore us? It is difficult to love them. And yet we must. How?
This was the crux of the debate between Hillel and Shammai. The lame bride is a metaphor for friends who are never there for you, who never come to your aid. The blind bride is a metaphor for people who won't even acknowledge your existence. How can you find something nice to say about these people? It's easy to compliment and love your close friends, but what about those who don't treat you well?
Beit Hillel says: Everyone has a saving grace, and if we haven't found it, it means we haven't looked hard enough. Someone who made a purchase did so because he saw something worthwhile in his find. The groom who married this bride saw something beautiful in her. If you haven't found value, it is because you haven't looked in the right places or in the right way.
When we encounter the socially blind and lame and can't find a kind thing to say about them, Hillel advises us to look again. Don't assume they have no heart. Don't assume they are made of stone. If someone out there loves them, and if they love in return, they must have some good qualities. Don't give up on them just because they ignore you. One day, you will see their heart.
Shammai says: There is no need to search for their heart. You can love them even without seeing their heart. You can love them "just because," just as they are. "The bride as she is." When you see someone's strengths and beautiful traits, you love them for their traits. But when you see someone with no redeeming traits, no discernible value, there is an amazing opportunity, a chance to love them as they are, just because.
Who says love must be reciprocated? For the most part, we want those we love to love us in return. But we can also love without rhyme or reason. Most people don't give us the chance, but when you encounter a social misfit, who gives you every reason to hate him, you have a chance to love just because.
This person may not be likable or kind or considerate, but he is your fellow. This kind of love is not so different from a parent's love for their child. Surely a parent finds reasons to be proud of their child. They boast of the child's knowledge, talents and achievements, but these qualities are not why they love their child. In love, they transcend all the child's character traits and features. They love just because.
With friends you hardly get that chance. Says Shammai: When you run into the fellow you can't stand, don't treat him as an inconvenience to flee from. This person presents an opportunity for you to embrace.3 And when you do open yourself to this love, you might even enjoy his company. You never could have imagined it, but once you arouse in yourself a sense of fellowship, you might trigger a real bond with this person.
Now you can love him for real. Not because he changed his stripes, but because you touched his truth—buried under layers of fears and insecurities. This is why the Talmud concludes that at weddings in Israel, the common refrain was, "No powder, no paint, no hair-waving, and yet graceful." I might not be able to find a single redeeming feature, but when I insist on loving despite it all, I discover the grace within the other person.
Love Is Blind
This is the kind of love that G‑d displayed toward our ancestors. At times they behaved as children should, and gave G‑d pleasure. AtWhen you open yourself to it, you might even enjoy his company such times, their relationship was robust. Then there were times when they pestered G‑d with petty and wicked complaints. And then the relationship would deepen even further. Just because.
When the Babylonians broke into the Holy of Holies when the first Temple was destroyed, they found the Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant facing each other, a sign of G‑d's love for His children.4 G‑d was punishing them by destroying the Temple, and yet He was loving. Because intrinsic love depends little on good behavior. On the contrary, it is strongest when our behavior is atrocious. When necessary, G‑d does punish, but always with love. The transcendent and unlimited love of just because.5
Footnotes 1. One of the reasons a bride wears a veil under the chupah is to proclaim that her inner value exceeds her outer beauty. 2. Babylonian Talmud, Ketubot 17a. 3. As with most of Shammai's ideas, this is a tall order. But we can try it, even if we don't master it completely. 4. Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 54b. 5. This essay is based on Likutei Torah, Bamidbar 8A. By Lazer Gurkow