"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
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
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
"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
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!"
FROM HEART TO HEART
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!
Ahava will rebuild.
Anyone interested in distributing cards in their community or
donating for a printing can contact Lev Adina, 02-651-
In memory of Adina Rivka Licht, o"h, bas Shalom