Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Sivan 5762 - May 15, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
Fighting Terror With Love
From Heart to Heart

by Chava Dumas

"Hashem will not proclaim the Redemption to Yisroel until there is peace amongst them" (Devorim Rabba 5).

Almost thirty years ago, in 1973, several women got together in Kiryat Mattersdorf to study the classic work of the Chofetz Chaim about guarding one's tongue from slander, gossip and all forms of negative speech. That same year, Yom Kippur was spent in bomb shelters, as sirens sounded the outbreak of war. Besides the physical aspects of providing for one's safety, there was that ever present urge to connect with Hashem and take measures to protect oneself with spiritual steps and more women expressed interest in starting study groups in their homes.

That first core group became the seed of a flower that blossomed into a movement that revolutionized the Torah world! Many thousands of women convene each summer in Binyanei Haooma to hear Torah giants deliver inspiring words of encouragement, and the consciousness fostered there has gained momentum to become part of our lives, causing us to ask ourselves before we speak: "Is this loshon hora? Is this constructive?"

So, too, throughout our long history, the Jewish response to troubled times has been to look for a spiritual solution through self inspection and rectification, in the hope of arousing Heavenly compassion.

In these difficult times, we may feel overwhelmed when viewing the political situation rationally, but we all believe in a better future. Haven't we survived this long? We are almost at the finale!


A few months ago, when Rabbi Pesach Krohn spoke to a capacity audience on "The Torah Perspective for Turbulent Times," I found a "Heart to Heart" card on my chair. The ideas expressed there fit in with his message to look for an area for improvement: Saying Asher Yotzar with concentration, reciting the final pesukim in Oleinu - - Al tira ("Do not fear sudden terror") with intent, studying two laws a day of Shemiras Haloshon, reciting blessings out loud and making extra effort to enhance our relationships with people in our homes and neighborhoods.

It wasn't until Pesach, when I noticed the card on my bookshelf gathering dust, that I decided to call the phone number printed on the side. What was this all about?

I discovered that a small group in Jerusalem had been concerned about increasing unity and Ahavas Yisroel as a saving measure for these difficult times. It had really begun long before, when one of the originators had been bothered by a certain smugness, or superiority complex, among religious people. It seemed to her that religiosity was being measured too much by external factors with a very negative emphasis instead of a positive appreciation for the strengths of those who were different.

Mrs. P., one of the spearheads of this movement, says, "It was sort of like a club defined by what we were NOT. For years I was frustrated by a lack of ahavas Yisroel. I felt this sense of impending doom that if we don't get our act together... who knows what will happen." She suggested concentrating on this theme through classes and talks. We needed unity; it protects us. The gemora asks why the generation of King Achav, steeped in idolatry, was not destroyed. It was because they had unity.

We certainly are far from perfect, not deserving of special protection, but there are some simple steps we can take to help bring about peace. The fall of the Twin Towers provided special impetus to do something. We went to several rabbonim for endorsement and encouragement and finally came up with something concrete that offered practical suggestions. It was Rabbi Ashkenazi, Rosh Kollel of the Bostoner Yeshiva in Jerusalem, who developed the text of a small pocket- size card that could easily be distributed.

The cards are just a small springboard for series of classes to get started in different communities to discuss ahavas Yisroel and practical halochos in dealing with our fellow wo/man. We would like the awareness to become so great that we should constantly ask ourselves, "Is this what an ohev Yisroel would do/say? Am I judging favorably?"

We mustn't be smug or superior. We must, as G-d-fearing Jews, create favorable impressions and cause others to wish to emulate us. The way we treat others is how we would like Hashem to treat us. We must improve our relationships with people we encounter who are not always easy to get along with.

One concrete example: "A woman I know," reports the initiator of this movement, "called me up, very excited, and said, `I tried it! I called up a neighbor whom I know is very lonely and invited her to go to a lecture with me. I don't really enjoy her company but I did it, anyway. She was so thrilled and it made me feel so good. I gained so much from reaching out.' "

Another woman had a friend who was excessively overweight. She wanted to encourage her to diet and did something that was very difficult for her during her busy day. She took time to slice vegetables and send her friend lots of salads. She did this for months because she wanted to help someone. Eventually, her friend lost 120 pounds!

One woman had a neighbor who always threw smelly garbage down the stairwell. The woman told me she was sure this was a test from Hashem to see if she was a genuine ohev Yisroel and she decided to greet her warmly and to compliment her whenever they met. It didn't change the problem of the garbage, but it did change the positive way she felt towards this woman and made a huge difference in their interactions.

"One day after the cards were printed up," says another woman, "I was backing out of a parking spot and an impatient cab driver pulling in bumped my car. I wanted to yell at him, a normal reaction. But then I thought... hey, wait a minute. Who am I? I'm a lady who gives out those Ahavas Yisroel cards! I can't be a hypocrite!"

I rolled down my window and spoke very gently to him. And he responded very kindly and everything was O.K. Later, people in the parking lot who knew him said, "Wow! What a miracle! He can be a very tough character!"

It is amazing how one good effort can change someone else's behavior for the rest of their day. A smile spreads, a good word uplifts, positive energy is a catalyst for change. Every little thing counts! It helps with your husband, children, neighbors and ultimately, it can help us all. We just have to recognize those opportunities for practicing ahavas Yisroel.

Mrs. P. recommends women starting study groups. "We can encourage one another and can share our success stories of how applied ahavas Yisroel transformed potentially explosive situations into positive experiences!"


Let's Battle Sinas Chinom with Ahavas Yisroel

Some Practical Suggestions:

Look at yourself and others in a positive light.

Look for specific good qualities in others.

Smile and greet people warmly.

Compliment whenever possible.

Talk in constructive terms.

Give chizuk along with the tzedaka you give.

Seek to help others.

Convey appreciation wholeheartedly.

You hurt someone? Apologize.

Someone hurt you? Forgive.

Judge everyone favorably.

Rejoice in another's happiness and success.

Integrating these ideas is within easy reach.

Just devote a week to each!

Hatred destroyed.

Ahava will rebuild.

Anyone interested in distributing cards in their community or donating for a printing can contact Lev Adina, 02-651- 0416.

In memory of Adina Rivka Licht, o"h, bas Shalom Yedidya Levine.


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