By Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss
In Havdalah, we declare that Hashem differentiates between the Holy and the mundane, between day and night, between the Jew and the gentile, and between Shabbos and the weekday. There is a fundamental truth expressed here. There is as much a difference between the Jew and the goy as there is between day and night. This statement is by no means derogatory to the non-Jew. After all, we believe that all humans were created with the tzelem Elokim, the likeness of Hashem, Jew and gentile alike.
However, the rigorous expectations of a Jew are much more than that of a gentile. The dictates of mind control that are expected from a Torah personality are entirely absent for the seventy nations. Thus, the gentile can think about ‘me’ in his mind – whatever he wants. But, a Jew is commanded “Lo sisnah es achicha bilvavecha – Do not hate your fellow man in your heart.” When a non-Jew sees his colleague in a late-model Cadillac or sporting a brand new Rolex, he may enviously covet his friend’s new acquisition while a Jew who would behave so would be trespassing on the Tenth Commandment of Lo sachmod, not to covet that which belongs to your neighbor.
Here’s another example. Let’s say that Ike, the goy, asks his friend Luke to borrow his lawnmower. Luke says no. Three weeks later, Luke asks Ike if he could use his barbeque grill, and Ike says sure, stating, “I’m not like you who was stingy with your lawnmower.” In this scenario, we might give Ike good marks for being the better man. But, a Jew would not be able to behave this way for he would be transgressing the negative prohibition of Lo sitor, not to bear a grudge. And, if the Jew would say, “Ask someone else – you can’t expect me to give me my grill when you didn’t share your lawnmower,” he would be trespassing the prohibition of Lo sikom, not to take revenge.
If a Jew hears that his friend won a raffle for two to Eretz Yisoroel or a new kitchen in a Chinese auction and isn’t happy for him because he wishes that he would have such luck, then he’s trampling upon the positive commandment of V’ahavta l’rei-echa k’mocha, to love your fellow man like yourself. For, just like you would be happy if you won the trip of the kitchen, you’re supposed to be happy for others as well.
These are just some of the examples of how the Torah doesn’t only govern what we do and what we say, but also legislates how we should think as well. Thus, when a non-Jew sees someone rudely talking on his cellphone during an important business presentation, he can very well think to himself “What a rude fellow. How disrespectful!” But when a Jew sees someone talking on his cellphone while wearing his tallis and tefillin, he has a mitzvah of B’tzedek tishpot es amisecha, to judge his friend favorably and to think, “Maybe he’s talking to his wife who is in her ninth month and having contractions, or maybe he’s calling his elderly father to remind him to take his medications during breakfast.”
There is even a difference in our discipline of speech. While at many corporate offices the water cooler and the coffee station are regular spots to hear the latest office gossip, a Jew is seriously warned Lo seileich rachil b’amecha, do not be a talebearer and Oroor makeh rei-eihu basoser, cursed is he who talks behind his fellows back.
The great Hillel paraphrases the commandment Love thy fellow like thyself as follows: “Mah d’soni loch l’chavreich lo savid – What you do not like, do not do to your friend.” We are commanded not to scream at people because we certainly don’t like to be screamed at. We should not speak to others sarcastically for we hate when others are sarcastic with us. We certainly should not talk to people in a childish voice for it angers us when we are treated in this manner.
These disciplines are Torah values and only when embracing them can a person be considered a Ben Torah or a Bas Torah. It is vital that our yeshivas and Beis Yakovs make it a priority to instill in our children these fundamental values while they are young. That is when it is much easier to mold their personalities. It is obvious that a spouse who has been trained from his or her youth to judge people favorably will find this a great talent in their marriage. When we, from a young age, understand that in the filing cabinets of our mind we are not supposed to harbor grudges and file away hatred, we will be a lot closer to the Torah goal of Kedoshim ti’hiu, to be Holy, for when a person doesn’t only watch what they do and what they say but is also circumspect about what they think, then they are really Holy through and through.
May it be the will of Hashem that we embrace these Torah values and inculcate them into our descendants and in this merit may Hashem bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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