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FRUMToronto Articles Thoughts for the Week

Inspirational words of Torah from Gedolei Yisroel.

Blog Image: Hakhel.jpg
Repairing Our Interpersonal Relationships
As we move closer to the Nine Days, as evidenced by our beginning to wear freshly-laundered garments now, so that they will not be freshly-laundered then, we begin to reflect upon the causes of our most recent Churban, our behavior with our fellow man, Sinas Chinam, as highlighted in the Gemara with the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza (Gittin 56A).
Improper behavior can manifest itself in different ways in different generations.  We all have trials that we have to pass.  Just one example in our generation would be reading emails, texting or playing with your cell phone while simultaneously talking to others.  As you go through your day, you may find the particular “up-to-date” situations which need a takana—correction--in our technologically advanced times.
It is for this reason that we present several brief but important excerpts from the absolutely essential guidebook Journey to Virtue: The Laws of Interpersonal Relationships-In Business, Home and Society by Rabbi Avraham Ehrman, Shlita (Artscroll).  In this monumental work, Rabbi Ehrman provides a thorough review of the Halachos and Hashkafos that the Torah wants us to practice in order to be successful in this world.
1. V’Ahavta L’Reyacha Komocha includes the expression of love and caring for one’s fellow in practical ways. For example, we are commanded to:
~          Speak only in a positive manner about others.
~          Be as protective of their money and property as of our own.
~          Show the same degree of concern for their honor as we do for our own.
~          Help those in need to the best of our abilities.
~          Camouflage others’ deficiencies just as we would wish our own faults to be overlooked.
~          Try to deflect and defuse a person’s anger at another individual through any means available.
All types of kindness (emotional support; physical and financial assistance, large or small; and even a friendly smile) are included in this mitzvah.
2. The mitzvah of loving a fellow Jew applies to anyone included in the category of “your fellow,” namely any upright Jew who believes in the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith and observes the fundamentals of Torah Law.  In the present era, we consider all Jews to be included in this mitzvah (as well as all other interpersonal mitzvos), even those who are not observant, since they have not yet been exposed to true Torah values.
3. One should constantly look for ways to give to others the zechus--the merit of helping other people, for Chazal said that causing others to do good is greater than doing good oneself.
(a)        Identify a needed action.
(b)        Consider who would be appropriate to perform it.
(c)        Suggest the mitzvah to that person.
(d)        Assist him to overcome any obstacles that may arise.
4.  Included in the mitzvah of doing kindness to others is praying for their well-being and feeling for their concerns as if they were one’s own.  Chazal said that anyone who is in a position to pray for someone in need of prayer, and does not do so, is considered a sinner.  In particular, if the person in need is a Torah scholar one should go to great lengths when praying for him.
5.  Rabbeinu Yonah writes: “A person is obligated to exert himself to be beneficial to his people and to attempt with persevering toil to search for helpful solutions to the problems of his friends, whether rich or poor.  This is one of the most serious and fundamental obligations demanded of each person.”
6. Chazal taught that Yerushalayim was destroyed because people insisted on their rights and did not compromise.  Apparently, this is not merely an abrogation of a positive commandment--but indicates a lack of something very basic to the Torah personality.
7. In the course of interpersonal relationships it is quite natural for one person to feel dislike toward another.  Such instinctive feelings are not included in the Torah prohibitions since they are involuntary.  However, the Torah does command: (a) not to act negatively to this person on the basis of these feelings, and (b) not to allow the feelings to fester.  Rather, one must remember that Hashem created and lovingly provides for every person.  Every human being (including oneself) has positive and negative aspects, and our reaction to negative traits of others should be sorrow and a desire to help them overcome those traits.  When you feel, say, or hear the following types of statements; you should immediately remind yourself about the prohibition against hate.
~          “I hate...”
~          “I can’t stand…”
~          “He/she is such an obnoxious person!”
~          “I won’t talk to him.”
~          “Nobody likes him!”
The Torah teaches us that when we feel dislike for someone we should perform acts of kindness for him; in this way our feelings toward that person will slowly change.
8. Certain modes of speech, while not exactly crude, are nonetheless unseemly.  Chazal taught us never to allow even this form of speech to emerge from our mouths.  It is better to utilize lengthy circumlocutions or strained euphemisms, than to speak in such an unseemly manner.  Furthermore, it is a mitzvah to choose words that are as refined as possible.
Do not say: This stinks.
Instead, say: There is a highly unpleasant odor.
Do not say: This room is as filthy as a pigsty.
Instead, say: This place needs a major cleaning.
In situations where one must, according to Halacha, convey negative information:
Do not say: He is a lazy, good-for-nothing.
Instead, say: He really has no interest in achieving any potential in life.
Do not say: He is a big slob.
Instead, say: He is not a neat person.
Do not say: He is a stupid idiot.
Instead, say: He is not very smart. (When it is necessary to emphasize the point one may add: That is an understatement.)
There are two reasons to avoid unseemly speech: (a) to make sure that we never come even close to speaking crudely; (b) when we are careful not to belittle anyone or anything, even inanimate objects, we are less likely to ever deprecate a human being; we are thus protected from speaking lashon hara.
In the coming days, may we pay very special attention to our interpersonal relationships.  Perhaps we can begin by going out to buy a Sefer such as this--or at least taking one that we already own off the bookshelf--and starting our own self-styled plan to learn more about--and better practice--the love that Hashem wants us so much to display and demonstrate to the rest of His children!

Hakhel MIS

Posted 7/21/2009 12:00 AM | Tell a Friend | Thoughts for the Week | Comments (1)

This article is extremely insightful and brings practicality to Torah, which in the secular world is hidden. More of this stuff is needed when providing an explanation what the Torah has to offer secular folk. Rather than it being a historical genealogy of our forefathers.

I would like to attribute this to one of my Rabbis currently guiding me R. Houchhasser in Melbourne (Apologies if I have misspelled his name).

Posted: 5/6/2018 11:24:57 PM   by:   Craig Levitan

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