.Rabbi David Weissman
There’s a story told about Rabbi Shneur Zalman, who lived from 1745 to 1813 and was the founder of the Chabad Lubavitcher chasidic movement. According to the story, Schneur Zalman was praying in the synagogue on Yom Kippur when he learned that a woman who had just given birth was home alone with no one to attend to her. According to the story, Shneur Zalman left the synagogue in the middle of Yom Kippur services, a day on which Jewish law forbids all kinds of work, to chop wood and cook soup for this mother who had just given birth.
This story about Shneur Zalman demonstrates the great emphasis that Judaism places on reaching out to those who are in need. Shneur Zalman’s behavior in this story is rooted in the most famous law in the Torah, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19.18).
Notice that the commandment doesn’t say “Love humanity as yourself,” but rather “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Torah recognizes that it‘s often harder to love our neighbor, the flesh-and-blood person who lives near us and whose faults and annoying characteristics we’re well aware of, than to love humanity, consisting of people whom we’ve never met and never will meet. The word “humanity” is an abstraction. Your neighbor, however, is a real person with all kinds of faults and personality characteristics that you might not particularly admire. Israel Baal Shem Tov, who lived from 1700 to 1760, and is credited with being the founder of all chasidic movements, once said, “Just as we love ourselves despite the faults we know we have, so we should love our fellows despite the faults we see in them.”
Now, of course, it seems to be human nature to dwell on the faults of other human beings, while overlooking those same faults in ourselves. Or sometimes we like to dwell on faults we see in others - faults which we ourselves don’t have - while totally ignoring other faults which exist in ourselves. Perhaps we should try to be as forgiving and as accepting of others as we are forgiving and accepting of ourselves.
The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” is a very difficult command. After all, how can we love someone else - a person whose faults we are quite aware of - as much as we love ourselves? Love is an emotion. Is it really possible for a person to be commanded to love someone else? An emotion has to be felt. A person can’t be commanded to have an emotion.
So I think what the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” really means is that you should act toward your neighbor in a way that you would act if you loved him/her. Treat someone else as you would want to be treated if you were in his/her shoes. Or, as Hillel put it, do not do to someone else something you would not want done to you.
A human being really can’t be commanded to have a particular emotion. But a human being can be commanded to act in a particular way.
I don’t think Judaism is too concerned about what’s in your head. But Judaism is concerned about your actions. The word mitzvah really means commandment and in common parlance a mitzvah is often translated as a good deed. Well, a good deed is an action, not a thought.
If you perform deeds of kindness and observe the various Jewish rituals and holidays, you will be considered a good Jew regardless of what thoughts are in in your head. And if you’re a loving person in your head and love Judaism in your head, but are a non-observant, hateful being in your actions, then you’re not a good Jew and you’re not a good human being.
President Lily Ann Revitch
Dear Temple Members
I thank you for your trust and patience. It has been a long three months of negotiations, but as many of you know we have purchased the building on Belle Terre. I want to thank my husband Ze'ev Revitch for helping to make this happen, Eva Katz for her thoughtful gift that included us in her will, as well as the owner of the building that made special arrangements so that we would have the money necessary to do the renovations needed.
We have hired a contractor to do the work and I have asked Bob Seiden to work with him on this project. I also have to thank Gabe & Cookie Brenner for their help; my wishes for a speedy recovery go out to them. A special thanks to our Vice President & Treasurer, Linda andRobert Post who stepped up to the plate in my absence and completed the closing on the building.
We still have a long way to go before we can take occupancy of the building. We will have to present plans for the scope of work that will have to be done to the county in January. That is the first date that we can get on the agenda. We have to be patient with each step that has to be taken.
In June we will celebrate out Tenth Anniversary a big mile stone for us. I remember the first few years of our existence when I said that we needed a home of our own. I also talked about how long it takes most congregations to reach that point. Ten years was a good average so we should be proud of our selves.
I think we will be settled in our new Temple space by our Tenth Anniversary. What a wonderful way to celebrate our accomplishments.
We all need to understand that it is going to a be financial commitment for all of us. Every donation is important. Every fundraiser is necessary for the wellbeing of Temple Shalom. I know Sisterhood is always mindful of our need and we are so glad that last year the Brotherhood made a nice donation to Temple from the yard sale. My hope and prayer is that this work will continue.
May we grow and prosper in the years ahead.