Not Naive – Just Loving: Your weekly message from Rabbi Gourarie

August 13, 2010 by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
Read on for article

A gentile seeking to convert to Judaism once approached the great sage Hillel and said: “Teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Hillel responded: “What is hateful to you do not do to others. This is the essence of Jewish teaching – the rest is the commentary which you must go and study.”

Rabbi Michol Gourarie photo: Henry Benjamin

The Tzemach Tzedek, a great Chasidic Rebbe explains that Hillel’s response is not just about treating others well. Hillel was teaching us a fundamental lesson how to accept and tolerate everyone, even those individuals that are difficult to relate to and have annoying personalities.

Try the following experiment. Think of a weakness, a negative trait or fault that you acknowledge possessing. Now try and imagine what would happen if someone else criticized you by pointing out this very problem. Chances are that you would feel hurt, insulted and might even respond angrily. Why is there a difference between knowing your own failings and someone else pointing them out to you?

We all love ourselves. In a healthy person this love is not egocentric but rather a positive acceptance of ourselves and a recognition of our intrinsic value and worth. At the very essence of every human being, there is a Divine spark of infinite goodness and purity, which is totally independent of one’s strengths and weaknesses. It is this pure soul that creates our essential identity. Being aware of it allows us to recognize our faults on a cognitive level without affecting us emotionally. We take responsibility for our deficits, but we don’t define ourselves by them. We work on improving ourselves all the time, but we accept ourselves the way we are now

However, when someone else points out the very same failing we don’t feel that same love and acceptance. We feel judged and put down. We feel that we are being defined by our faults and we react with emotional pain.

Hillel taught us that what we don’t like done to ourselves we shouldn’t do to others. We don’t have to be naïve and believe that everyone is perfect. We don’t have to be blind to the failings of others. But we do have to see them as we would like to be seen. We cannot judge others and define them by their failings. We have to learn to accept the ‘whole person’, love them and recognize their infinite value and intrinsic worth.

If we can accept others and ensure that their negative traits don’t affect us, G-d will do the same for us. He knows everyone’s dark side better than anyone. He wants us to improve all the time. But He still accepts us unconditionally and loves us the way we are


One Response to “Not Naive – Just Loving: Your weekly message from Rabbi Gourarie”
  1. Tusiya Brandt says:

    Loving others as you love yourself, is the foundation of the Torah, as you say. Being nonjudgmental, compassionate, gracious& longsuffering , in our second to second dealings with our, ‘ neighbour’, is what constitutes equity,[just balances]. But, when we muck up in any of these,do you mean ‘improving yourself’ to mean repentance and restitution? . Repentance, and restitution, surely,is what is required by the Torah to reestablish equity with our neighbour. Isn’t pride the enemy of our ‘pure soul’, humility our only hope of pleasing G-d, who has no truck with ‘the dark side’, sin.? Isn’t pride behind all, so called ‘self improvement’? Wasn’t that what Chava was doing, when she reached out for the fruit on the tree of knowledge?Hillel’s answer to the aspiring convert, was truly humble,I find. This man ,who sought him out, esteemed him greatly. He would have gladly spent his income to gain Hillel’s wisdom,[ so he could boast about it] and Hillel could have basked in his adoration for many years, [a la Plato and Aristotle] but he pulled him up short, bringing him back from the brink of idolatry, making him mindful of what we all owe oneanother, in one short sentence: Equity.

Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

Got something to say about this?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.