The Ultimate Mitzvah- Loving your fellow Jew
The emotion of love has been the subject of poets and romantics for centuries. We need not enter into any analysis of that topic, but, as it relates to loving a fellow Jew, some kind of specific definition is obviously necessary.
There are 613 mitzvos in the Torah. One is to feel the hunger of the poor, and therefore to give charity. Another is to feel the discomfort of a stranger, and therefore to show him hospitality. Not to be cruel, even to an animal, is another mitzvah. These commandments, though differing in their details are basically all expressions of concern, compassion and love. But the commandment of “Ahavas Yisroel”—to love your fellow Jew—seems to imply something beyond the above mentioned mitzvos. Because all of those are commandments relating to a specific act. What does the commandment to love a fellow Jew add to the commandments to be kind, generous, and compassionate? It adds the emphasis of loving EVERY Jew, and that the love itself is a mitzvah.
The Alter Rebbe, the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, said that to love another person means to find something in the other person that is similar to something in oneself. There are those parts of our lives and our existence that give us our individuality. These are the things that make each person different from another. And there are times when we must focus on our particular responsibility, our particular message in life. But the mitzvah of loving your fellow means being able to focus on those things that, rather than separating us, actually make us one. Once we discover that one thing which is universal to us all, we are in a position to love our fellow.
“A Jew who sins and violates his Jewishness remains a Jew,” says the Torah. A Jew is not created out of virtue. One doesn’t become a Jew by doing mitzvos or good deeds. Faults, sins and misconduct do not stop one from being a Jew. A Jew remains a Jew no matter what. And, on the other hand, no matter how much good a Jew does, he remains a Jew (and not an angel). We see then that the state of being Jewish precedes any choices we are going to make. Long before we decide to put on tefillin, keep kosher, keep Shabbos or go to the mikvah, we are already Jewish. No matter what decisions we come to later in life, our Jewishness doesn’t change, and it is not diminished.
What all Jews have in common is the part of G‑d that He breathes into each person, the neshama (soul). Appreciating one’s neshama allows a person to open himself up to every neshama in the world; this appreciation is a giant step toward loving every Jew. Because G‑d has placed a part of Himself in every Jew, we are capable of loving every Jew. That which makes one person Jewish is exactly the same as that which makes every other Jew Jewish. If one loves that part of himself, then for the same reason he can love every other Jew. That is enough to make one person’s heart miss a beat because of something that is happening to another.
The Alter Rebbe wrote that one’s view of another person depends on how we see ourselves. If what is emphasized makes one different—namely, the human, physical condition—then one is incapable of loving. Not only can’t he love every Jew, he can’t love anybody. Because the most important thing to him is what makes him different, that which separates him from everybody. Focusing on differences separates people. The only way to be capable of loving is by making unimportant those things that make one different and separate. What must be primary is that which is shared with everybody else—the neshama, the soul.
In a similar vein:
Chassidus teaches that when a person has a problem in his spiritual growth and development, he should discuss it with someone else. He and the other person sit together and discuss a G‑dly problem, so there are two G‑dly souls against one animal soul (the animating force of the body) —the cause of the problem. At first glance this is difficult to comprehend. If you have two people, and therefore two G‑dly souls, shouldn’t you also have two animal souls? How can we possibly assert that the G‑dly souls outnumber the animal?
However, when two G‑dly souls get together they cooperate on a project. Two animal souls do not cooperate. It’s against their nature to cooperate. An animal soul means a selfish soul. A selfish soul may want to sin, but it has no interest in helping anybody else sin. It gets no pleasure from anybody else’s sins. Therefore, one animal soul will not join another animal soul in its sinfulness. But, a G‑dly soul is naturally concerned and sympathetic to another G‑dly soul. That is the nature of G‑dly souls. So if one’s animal being, human being, ego, is most important, then this person is separated from everybody else in the world. Nobody shares ego concerns, and if those are the things that are important to the person, then he’s all alone. Or, as the Alter Rebbe said, he is incapable of loving—unless it’s for an ulterior motive. If, on the other hand, what is important is one’s Jewishness, that feeling opens the person up to every other Jew. When the soul which we all have in common, is emphasized, then we become one people, and it’s literally possible to love every Jew.
How do we go about loving every Jew? In practical terms it means seeing through the differences that seem to separate one Jew from another. One can see beyond differences in culture and language. When two Jews meet in an airport, some place in the middle of Europe, and one doesn’t speak Hebrew while the other doesn’t speak English, still there’s a feeling of kinship even though there’s no way to communicate. One thing which often does confuse us, and sets up a barrier between Jews, is degrees of observance. The person who considers himself perfectly righteous and holy might feel that he has nothing in common with one whom he considers to be a sinful person. The sinful person, or the unlearned person, might feel that he has nothing in common with the scholarly saint.
This difference between Jews is one that the Baal Shem Tov came to dispel in his teachings. The Baal Shem Tov taught two things. First, love your fellow Jew even if you’ve never seen him. You don’t have to share any experiences, you don’t have to share anything at all beyond the fact that you’re Jewish. That in itself should be enough to create a bridge and a bond between one Jew and another.
The second teaching is that you have to love the wicked along with the righteous. Since we love a Jew because he’s Jewish, not because he’s righteous, then we love the Jew who is wicked, as well. The Baal Shem Tov said that “Love your fellow Jew as you love yourself,” means to love the righteous and the wicked. The Alter Rebbe explained this concept further by saying that when the Baal Shem Tov said “the righteous and the wicked,” he didn’t mean that you certainly love the righteous, but you should also love the wicked along with the righteous. What he meant was that you love a Jew, period. You love your fellow Jew, and that’s all that needs to be said.
In practical terms, it means that you must relate to every Jew regardless of his behavior, personality, standing in society. But is that love? There is a connection that a fellow Jew feels for another Jew regardless of how the other person behaves. And no matter how strongly you disagree with the other’s behavior, you cannot dismiss that other person, because he’s your fellow Jew. To illustrate the point, you find that people who dress in the orthodox style, who happen to venture outside of their community, make other people very uncomfortable. But many people dress in very strange ways. You see Arabs of different religious orders in Israel who dress outlandishly. And yet, they walk up and down the streets of Jerusalem, and nobody pays any attention. But, should a Jew dressed in Chassidic garb, with a fur hat and long silk coat walk into a non-religious section, he gets angry stares. Why? Because he’s dressed funny! Why is his dress any more funny or strange than the dress of the Arab muhla. It’s not. It’s just that the Arab is a stranger, and therefore he can dress however he wants.
When a Jew dresses strangely then every Jew cares. Even though a fellow Jew doesn’t eat the same food or even act and believe the same, yet, if he dresses differently it makes us uncomfortable. Because he’s a fellow Jew and Jews are not strangers to each other. The true bedrock of loving a fellow Jew is that one Jew cannot disassociate himself from another, no matter how much he would like to.
A story in the Gemara about the great sage Hillel will help clarify the above point. A man came to Hillel and said that he wanted to be taught the whole Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel summed it all up for him by saying. “What is hateful to you, do not do to others. That is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary.”
Hillel’s statement doesn’t appear anywhere in the Torah or Scriptures. The commentaries say that basically Hillel was referring to the mitzvah of “loving your fellow Jew as much as you love yourself.” But, if that’s the mitzvah he was referring to, why didn’t he just say it? Why did Hillel make up this original statement? If a person is impatient, and needs to be told something quickly, then what is said should be something definitive. Hillel gave the man a very vague answer, which needed a great deal of thought before being put into practice.
The Tzemach Tzedek, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, explained that what Hillel was really saying was very clearly defined and practical. A person can admit his own faults, and see them very clearly, and even talk about them publicly. Yet, if another person would point out those weaknesses, the first person would be insulted and very hurt. Why can one honestly admit to a fault within himself, yet that same person becomes offended when it is pointed out to him?
The difference is that when one sees his own faults it is within a certain context. Having assured himself of being a worthwhile creature, a person can proceed to search out his faults. Even talking about them to others doesn’t do any damage. But when somebody else sees the faults, it’s not necessarily within that framework of already knowing that the person is a worthwhile human being. We are concerned that any personality flaw suggests total insignificance. We fear criticism only because we’re afraid it might lead to rejection. Were it not for that, we would be very comfortable hearing and accepting criticism. We can’t honestly deny every criticism we hear; they’re all true to some degree. It doesn’t do any damage to the ego to admit that we’re not the smartest or the prettiest, or the strongest or most talented. That which hurts, that which is hateful, is to have our faults pointed out by someone who is not necessarily convinced that we are worthwhile human beings.
When Hillel said to this man, “What is hateful to you, don’t do to others,” he was being very specific. He was talking about that thing which is hateful. Not “whatever” is hateful, but that which is hateful to you do not do to others. “That thing” is seeing another person’s fault, without first recognizing his worth. That’s what we hate and what we shouldn’t do to others.
What Hillel was doing for this man was summing up all of the Torah in one mitzvah, the mitzvah of “loving a fellow Jew as much as you love yourself.” Since the man was very impatient, and seemingly not very ambitious, if Hillel had told him “love your fellow Jew as much as you love yourself,” he would have thought it was impossible, too demanding. So Hillel translated it for him into practical terms.
You can’t measure the amount you love yourself. In self-love, before you see your own faults you already know that you are important, significant. No matter what your body and human personality turn out to be, your neshama is already valuable. And with that knowledge and security you can look at your faults and not be hurt. That’s how you love yourself: you consider yourself worthwhile despite your faults; you must know that your fellow Jew is worthwhile, too. No matter how the other Jew behaves, there is something very valuable about this person—the very fact that he is a Jew.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe once said, that when talking to another Jew, you have to realize that every Jew is an only child to G‑d, the King of Kings. Therefore, when you talk to another Jew, you have to keep in mind whose child this is, even if he doesn’t behave like the child of the King of Kings, you have to remember who his Father is.
G‑d created the world very carefully and thoughtfully. Everything we see and hear is of meaning to us. If G‑d allows us to see the faults of another person, He is showing an opportunity to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. When we see another person’s faults, our first reaction has to be, “What are we being told?” Seeing the other person’s faults can mean that he will not improve his behavior unless we help him, because that’s the way G‑d set it up. Because, if G‑d is letting you see this fault, it must be your job to help him fix it. The second possibility is that the fault is in you, and you’re seeing it reflected in the other person. A fault in another person should elicit the reaction, “What’s that got to do with me? Why do I need to see this?” The other person’s fault offers us the opportunity to improve, to show us something in ourselves that we are not seeing. Therefore, we are indebted to the other person even if his fault consists of hurting us. This person is the messenger through whom this enlightenment is coming and there is no need to be hateful.
The ultimate part in love of a fellow Jew is that every Jew has a Divine soul, and regardless of how he behaves, that soul remains. Where do we see the evidence of this G‑dly soul? Love of a fellow Jew, taken to its fullest expression, is the ability to discover evidence, signs of the presence of a Divine soul, even in a person who does not, at first glance, seem to have any soul at all.
In pursuing the mitzvah of loving your fellow Jew, we start with the awareness that every Jew is a little piece of G‑d, and that if that piece of G‑d is not evident in the person’s life, then it is your job to reveal it. To help that person discover his own G‑dliness. Bringing ourselves together, being able to see past the externals and faults, to be aware of the neshama of a Jew, is what heals the wound of Exile, and brings Moshiach.
By Rabbi Manis Friedman
When your prayer go unanswered
Does the following sound familiar to you?
You put in overtime, hoping for that big job promotion… only to have your best efforts go unappreciated and unnoticed.
Or you've been on countless dates, hoping to meet "the one"... only to be met with disappointment time and again.
It's easy to think, "Maybe my prayers are just lost somewhere up there."
In life, all of us face disappointment at times.
Sometimes, the very thing we think is a setback...
…is actually God setting the stage for something monumental.
In this week’s YouTube video, you'll discover the fine line between not getting what you want…
And the promise of something greater that lies ahead.
So if you've ever felt your prayers go unanswered, or questioned if God is listening to you…
This video is for you.
Watch it now by clicking here.
Rabbi Manis Friedman
The real blueprint for repairing the world
The horrific attack on Israel leaves a stain that's hard to overlook…
Three gruesome acts stand out, each more heartrending than the other.
They claim it was in the name of G-d. Pure blasphemy.
There was rape, unspeakable acts of abuse. That's adultery.
It was violent. It was brutal. It was murder.
These chilling acts mirror the three cardinal sins of the Torah:
Idolatry, Adultery, and Murder.
It's as if all the wickedness of the world came together in an orgy of unholiness.
So what's our way forward?
Above all, we have to rediscover the sanctity of life.
Far too often, people wander in the darkness of uncertainty… living moment to moment, fearing what lurks around the corner.
We can't stand by and let them sink.
We owe it to them—and to ourselves—to offer assistance and support.
A helping hand, a reassuring word… these make life not just bearable, but meaningful.
When you improve another's quality of life, you're countering those who might trivialize it.
You're taking a stand against the forces that seek to diminish our collective spirit.
The next thing we can do is make our relationships, our marriages a little more sacred.
Marriage has to be more than a signed paper or a big celebration.
It's a sacred bond, blessed from Above.
Imagine holding your marriage with the same awe as a breathtaking sunset or the first glimpse of a newborn…
If you can infuse that sense of sacredness into your marriage…
You can shield it from the noise, from the societal pressures, from the casualness that often corrodes relationships.
And of course these two things all depend on our understanding of G-d.
If we don't know what G-d really wants, we've no right to speak on His behalf.
We can't let our emotions dictate who G-d is.
So to find out what G-d really wants, we need to turn to a trusted source…
That source is the Torah.
Against all odds, it has survived.
When others tried to replace it, or said there were newer, "better" ways… we've safeguarded its teachings.
The Torah offers insights into G-d’s true nature. accessible to all who seek its wisdom.
So, let's not guess… let’s learn directly from the source.
By studying the Torah, we heal the scars the world has suffered.
Especially those heart-wrenching events, like the current situation in Israel.
Rabbi Manis Friedman
The day after Yom Kippur 5784
It's the day after Yom Kippur, and something's different.
The streets are alive, and the atmosphere’s practically singing.
It's not just relief that the fasting's over…
It's deeper than that.
We're invigorated, knowing we're walking into this new year spotless.
G-d has wiped our slates clean.
Every wrong, every stumble, it's all been forgiven.
And it's not just about that day, that one moment of absolution.
It's about carrying forward that spirit, that intention into every single day ahead.
This isn’t a one-off yearly cleanse, it's a springboard.
When you stood there, pouring your heart out on Yom Kippur… G-d noticed.
G-d noticed when you made that promise to yourself to help more, to listen more… to be more.
And let me tell you, He was moved.
Now, He's laying blessings at your doorstep.
Health to chase after your kids in the park.
Wealth to take that dream vacation or help someone in need.
The warmth of family, like your child's infectious laughter during a playful game.
But here’s the catch:
These aren’t just rewards... they're responsibilities.
With every blessing comes a mission.
A call to action…
To take those blessings and use them for good… to elevate, to refine, to transform.
To make this world a home where G-d Himself would want to reside.
You've got the tools, the gifts, the momentum.
Now, go out there and be the change.
Rabbi Manis Friedman
Picture this: You're sitting around the dinner table with your family…
But then, the conversation takes a wrong turn, emotions start to bubble up…
Before you know it, you're storming out of the room, letting the door slam shut behind you.
We've all had moments like this.
Yeah, those moments might make you cringe—they should.
The good news though…
…those moments can also be your catalyst for change.
Now, people talk all the time about "making amends" or "turning over a new leaf."
Sounds great, but how do you even start?
Here's the raw truth: Real change, or teshuva as it's known, isn't just feeling sorry.
Nope, it's a gut-check moment.
It's facing that slammed door and knowing you've got to fix the hinges, both literal and emotional.
And you know what's a total gut-punch?
Seeing someone else slam that door and thinking, "Wow, that's harsh."
But then, you remember you've done the exact same thing. Ouch.
That's your wake-up call…
That's the moment you say, "Enough."
So, instead of nursing guilt for every small misstep, think of the big picture.
Zero in on that one thing you did this year that makes your stomach churn.
Maybe you disrespected your parents or picked a needless fight with a friend.
Maybe you've skipped out on a commitment you made with G-d.
That's your real work…
That's where real teshuva starts.
Look at that ugly moment. Then promise yourself, "I won't be that person again."
Ready for your next step?
Apologize… Fix what's broken…
Whether it's a door or a relationship—make it right.
Because nothing shouts "I've changed" louder than actions.
So go on, get your hands dirty and do the real work. Your future self will thank you.
Trust me, the peace you'll feel is worth every uncomfortable second it takes to get there.
We are all born believers
Life’s irony is that we're all born believers.
It's as natural as a baby's first breath.
But over time, betrayal, deceit, and crushed dreams weigh us down.
Each broken promise…
Every lie whispered to our ear…
These teach us to doubt, and they instruct us to question our innate beliefs.
So skepticism isn't our default mode; it's a learned behavior.
It's the scar left behind after a wound of trust.
Because deep within, there’s a part of us that always believes.
That part? It’s the soul.
The soul doesn’t believe; it knows.
It knows G-d, not from stories or tales…
But from a deep-rooted familiarity.
When this profound knowledge flows from the soul to the mind…
We label it as "belief."
But it goes deeper than that.
It’s a recognition, an old friend’s embrace.
Now, if you've felt moments where G-d felt close…
Moments where belief wasn't just a concept but a living truth…
Know that it's not some fleeting emotion.
It's your soul reminding you of what you’ve always known.
So, next time doubt creeps in, turn inwards.
Speak to your soul, feel its warmth, its recognition.
Because belief? It’s not something we gain.
It’s something we rediscover, time and time again.
Reconnect with your inborn truth.
Embrace your natural state.
Let your soul guide the way.
The unseen goodness of today's world.
Does the state of the world ever leave you feeling drained and disillusioned?
Like every time you watch the news, it's a cycle of chaos and conflict?
I can understand why it seems like things are getting worse...
But I'm here to share a different perspective with you—
One that might surprise you, because it goes against what you see and hear every day.
The truth is, life today is better than it was a hundred years ago.
But nobody reports it... Nobody celebrates it.
Because good news doesn't sell as well as bad news, unfortunately...
And yet, progress is happening all around us.
But how can you appreciate this progress when nobody's talking about it?
Well, I'm breaking the silence.
I've put together a special video that provides a fresh perspective on our true purpose and the amazing progress we've made.
In it, I talk about how mankind continues to move towards its divine purpose, despite the challenges and tragedies of our times…
So, if you're ready for a fresh, hopeful view of our world...
A view that might just change the way you interact with the world around you...
Rabbi Manis Friedman & the It's Good to Know team.
Why you shouldn't live with regrets
I’m going to tell you why it’s never appropriate to hold on to regrets…
There’s a saying of our sages that goes “the wicked are full of regrets”.
Now I’m not calling you wicked…
But if you regret something, and keep repeating the same mistake anyways…
That means the regret didn't change anything.
So if you're “full of regrets” it means you're not learning from your mistakes.
You’re not growing…
But even more than that—
It’s not acceptable to live with regrets…
It’s not correct to regret what could have been…
To think that things would be different today…
If only you’d known more back then or made different decisions…
Then your life would be different.
Dwelling on what could have been is simply not kosher.
That kind of thinking only keeps you from seeing your present opportunities…
Which means you're not letting yourself live…
Because what your life is right now—is exactly how it’s meant to be.
But here’s what’s not obvious…
Whether you make a good choice or a bad one…
The consequences are always independent of your choice.
And that's why you can choose to do the right thing and fail
Or you can choose the wrong thing and succeed
Because whether you fail or succeed—it’s G-d's plan.
What matters is that you made the right choice or learned from the wrong one.
And of course, you get credit for making the right choice…
(and you're held responsible for making a bad choice)
But that's where your freedom of choice ends…
Your life today is exactly what it's supposed to be, regardless of your past choices.
So, let go of those "if only" regrets.
They don't belong in your life.
Because whether it came through your positive choices… negative choices… or no choices…
The life you have is the life G-d gives you.
And if G-d is giving you this life…
That means this is the best life.
The only life that you’re meant to fix.
So, roll up your sleeves and get to work…
Nothing went wrong—this is your challenge.
Rabbi Manis Friedman
The blueprint for a better world
Facts and truths: they're often confused, but they're not the same thing.
Because a fact describes the world as it is right now, while truth represents the world as it ought to be.
I’ll clarify with an analogy of a house and its blueprint…
A house that’s been lived in is like the reality we see around us… the facts.
It's got the faded paint, the chipped edges, the wear and tear that comes with time.
On the other hand, the blueprint represents the house as it was meant to be… the truth.
The blueprint tells us where every wall should go, the ideal measurements, the grand design.
Now, imagine if the actual house—say, your house—doesn't quite match the blueprint.
Maybe there's a wall that's not straight or a window that doesn't quite sit right… that's the reality of our world right now.
The facts of our world, like a flawed house, don't always align with the blueprint, the truth.
Put another way: think about someone you know who's not as kind as they could be.
The truth is they have the capacity for immense kindness, the same as any of us.
But the fact is, they're not there yet.
That's our world—a collection of facts that haven't yet caught up with their truths.
So, what do we do about it?
We don't try to tear down the house and start over.
We chip away, little by little, to align it more closely with the blueprint.
We each do our part to bring the world's facts a bit closer to their truths.
And one day – in the era of Moshiach – every fact will match its truth.
That person you thought of? They'll be as kind as they were always meant to be.
The world will not just be what it happens to be, but what it's supposed to be.
Because with the Torah, G-d showed us the way the world should be, as He intended.
You and I—we hold the blueprint… and with every action, every word, every decision, we bring the world closer to its intended design.
Now here's your homework:
Find one way to bring the house - your world, your actions, your words - a bit closer to its blueprint.
Maybe it's a kind word to someone who's been on your mind… or it might be a few moments of quiet reflection on a busy day.
Take that step today.
Because when you do that, you're doing your part in shaping the world, not just as it is, but as it's meant to be.
All the best
Rabbi Manis Friedman.