Shmini (Leviticus 9-11 )
GOOD MORNING! Imagine the scene -- a young man intently gazes into the eyes of a beautiful young woman and with great feeling says, "I love you!" The young lady responds, "You love me? Define love!"
Likely, the young man will become all flustered and say something inane like, "To define it is to lose it." Yet, how many of us could give a cogent definition of "love"? It certainly behooves us to have one just in case someday we get challenged for a definition!
The Torah teaches that love is the pleasure one has in focusing on the virtues in another person -- and identifying the person with those virtues.
Sometimes we confuse love with infatuation. If you ever hear someone say, "She's perfect" or "He's perfect" -- they're infatuated. No one is without faults or weaknesses. When people say, "Love is blind" they really mean that "Infatuation is blind." Love is completely open-eyed -- you see the reality, good and bad, and you choose to focus on the good and identifying the person with his or her virtues.
This is the fallacy of Western Civilization's concept of love. We believe in the Greek idea that Cupid comes and shoots an arrow and two people fall in love ... forever! If that worked then there wouldn't be such a high divorce rate. Then again, we can always blame it on that little rascal Cupid! He has no respect for relationships or marriage. He goes around shooting arrows through the boss's and secretary's hearts or through the doctor's and comely drug representative's hearts. Accordingly, we are not the beneficiaries of Cupid; we are the victims. Cupid is the biggest excuse and biggest con for not taking responsibility for one's actions!
What does the Torah teach us regarding Love? Love is not just an emotion, it is an obligation. The Almighty commands us in the Torah, "Love your neighbor as yourself ..." (Leviticus 19:18). And ... if the Almighty commands us, then it must be possible!
What's fascinating about love is that virtually everyone thinks that it's a good idea to love your neighbor. However, if you ask, "Can you command someone to love his neighbor?" more than likely they'll respond, "Are you nuts? You never met my neighbor. Never a meaner, nastier human being on this earth!"
How is it possible to love everyone? Many people love humanity, they just hate individuals. First, we have to realize that love is truly not just a sporadic, fleeting emotion, it is both an obligation and a matter of choice. Ask a young man or woman who doesn't think that it is possible to love all people, "Someday, if you get married and have a baby, will you love it?" What will they answer? "Of course I will! How can you ask such a question?" Then ask them, "But, what if he's like your mean, nasty neighbor?"
We all know that there is someone who loves that mean, nasty neighbor and it is probably not his wife or ex-wife -- it's his mother. Ask the mother of a juvenile delinquent who is hooked on drugs, has a police record, skips school and doesn't make his bed, if she loves him. She'll say, "Yes!" What about the fact that he's a juvenile delinquent? "I should have disciplined him more." That he's hooked on drugs? "He has bad friends." That he has a police record? "What do you expect growing up in this neighborhood?" That he skips school? "If the classes weren't so large and the teachers were more interesting, he'd go!" That he doesn't make his bed? "No one is perfect!" If asked why she loves him, she might respond, "He has a good heart." She has an "answer" for every negative attribute. However, she chooses to focus on the positive and to love her son.
We all have the power to find the positive qualities in others and focus on taking pleasure in them. Likewise, we all know that we can take positive qualities and identify them with the negative. The person is generous? He's only doing it to gain goodwill. The person is kind? He's just hiding his terrible temper and looking to build a good reputation.
How can you develop your power of love? Play the Love Game. Take the person you least like and for 30 days write down something positive about him or her each day. After 30 days, spend 5 minutes a day for a week prioritizing those good qualities. For the next 30 days, write down what bothers you about that person -- one trait or action a day. Then spend 5 minutes a day for a week trying to understand why he responds that way. Perhaps he or she has low self-esteem, has a father who was domineering, angry and easily frustrated -- or the person isn't even aware of how they treat people.
The Hebrew word for love is "ahava". The root of the word is "hav" which means "to give." By giving to others and doing for others we increase our love for them. Who loves the other more -- the parent or the child? Parents love their children more because they have given so much more to their children. Want to love someone? Think of something you can do to help them.
Loving people -- taking pleasure in and identifying them with their virtues -- does not mean letting them take advantage of you or control you. The results are more pleasure for you and less frustration. Want to learn more? Please read: Rabbi Noah Weinberg's article on "Loving Humanity" -- aish.com/LoveHumanity.
Torah Portion of the Week
Concluding the 7 days of inauguration for the Mishkan (Portable Sanctuary), Aaron, the High Priest, brings sacrifices for himself and the entire nation. Nadav and Avihu, sons of Aaron, bring an incense offering on their own initiative, and are consumed by a heavenly fire (perhaps the only time when someone did something wrong and was immediately hit by "lightning").
The Cohanim are commanded not to serve while intoxicated. The inaugural service is completed. God then specifies the species which are kosher to eat: mammals (those that have cloven hoofs and chew their cud), fish (those with fins and scales), birds (certain non-predators), and certain species of locusts. The portion concludes with the laws of spiritual defilement from contact with the carcasses of certain animals.
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based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And these you shall consider an abomination amongst the birds, they shall not be eaten; they are detestable ... and the stork" (Leviticus 11:13,19).
The Talmud (Chulin 63a) states that the Hebrew name for the white stork is chasida, because it acts with kindness, chesed, towards its friends.
The Ramban, Moshe Nachmanides, a great Torah scholar, writes that the birds enumerated in this portion are forbidden for consumption because of their cruelty. Why, then, should the stork be considered "detestable" and an "abomination"? It should be permissible since it does kindness!
The Chidushai Ha-Rim answers: The stork does favors only for its friends. Since it doesn't do chesed for strangers, it is considered not kosher. Chesed, kindness, must be done for everyone, not only one's friends!
CANDLE LIGHTING - April 20
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 5:59 - Hong Kong 6:27 - Honolulu 6:34
J'Burg 5:29 - London 7:47 - Los Angeles 7:11
Melbourne 5:30 - Mexico City 7:37 - Miami 7:29
New York 7:23 - Singapore 6:50 - Toronto 7:49
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Choice, not chance, determines destiny!