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Lech Lecha

In the introduction to his fabulous Jewish Classic, Mesilas Yesharim, the holy Ramchal expounds upon the importance of learning Mussar - Jewish Ethics and Reprimand. He explains that it is actually the only way to master perfection in the service of Hashem; something which every righteous Jew wishes to achieve. He then states, "If we were to consider the matter truthfully, we would discover its reality, and we would do good to ourselves; and teach it to others and do good to them too."

I find it very interesting that the author naturally assumes that if we find something beneficial, we will surely share it with others so that they may, likewise, benefit from it. This, apparently, is one of the many positive character traits which we Jews inherited from our Patriarch Avraham. As soon as he discovered the True Creator of the world, he wasn't satisfied to serve Him alone. He immediately went out into the streets and announced his important find to the whole world, as it says, "And there he built an altar to Hashem and called out the Name of Hashem" (Bereishis 12:8). The Ramban explains this passage to mean that Avraham used to publicize his important find and called out the Name of Hashem for all to hear and recognize.

But it is important to realize that Avraham didn't just reach out to good people whom he liked. He attempted to influence everyone in the world, including those who were wicked. Avraham developed an attitude which separated a person from his actions. He could hate a person's evil ways, yet he would love the person himself, for he, too, was created in the image of G-d. Avraham understood that just as a father loves every one of his children, even those who cause him aggravation, so does Hashem love every human being, even those who do not follow in His directives. And just as a father greatly appreciates someone who helps his wayward son straighten out, so does Hashem love and bless those who help His disobedient children repent and return to Him.

It is told that the Ba'al Shem Tov said of himself, "I wish that I could love the greatest tzaddik as much as Hashem loves the greatest rasha!"

In his book Sippurei Chassidim, a wonderful collection of Chassidic tales, Rabbi Zevin relates that before the great Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin zt"l, passed away, he instructed his students to go to the Rebbe of Nishkiz zt"l. Rabbi Uri of Strilisk zt"l followed his master's instructions and went to see what he could learn from the Rebbe of Nishkiz that he hadn't already known. When he arrived, he was immediately ushered into the chambers of the Rebbe who was, at that moment, catering to the needs of a Jew who had come to him for his blessing and advice. The Rebbe received the man with a big smile and sincere love, just as he did everyone who came before him.

Reb Uri was a very holy man and he was able to sense that the Jew who was standing before the Rebbe had recently committed a very evil sin. It bothered him, therefore, that the Rebbe was being so kind to someone who, in his opinion, did not deserve this kind of treatment. The Rebbe sensed the turmoil in Reb Uri's heart and yelled at him, "Leave my room immediately." Overwhelmed and frightened, and weary from his trip, Reb Uri quickly left the Rebbe's room and headed for the beis Midrash (study hall) where he sat down to learn Torah.

After the Rebbe finished receiving all of his entreaters, he went to search for Reb Uri and found him in the Beis Midrash. The Rebbe greeted him warmly and explained, "I saw the same thing you did. But, do you know why your Rebbe sent you to me? He wanted you to learn that someone who sees a Jew who has committed many serious sins and cannot love him with all of his heart has not even reached half of the goal in Hashem's service. Because only if you reach out to the sinner with genuine love can you cause him to become a penitent Jew, who is considered even greater than a tzaddik."

If someone sees a Jew driving his car on the Shabbos, G-d forbid, and throws stones at him, what has he accomplished? This method is good if he is only concerned with protecting himself and his children from seeing the desecration of the Holy Shabbos. But what has he done for the sinner? At best, he will stop driving and will stay at home where he will watch TV, smoke and do other things which are forbidden. However, if he cares for the sinner, as he should, then he should invite him to partake in a Shabbos meal and taste for himself how beautiful it is to be an observant Jew. Then he may succeed in returning this person to his roots.

Students of HaGaon Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztvk"l, the beautiful person who loved every single Jew, relate that he had a unique way of dealing with a severe case of Shabbos desecration in his neighborhood, Sha'arei Chessed. A woman who lived there would consistently drive in on Shabbos, when the religious residents were returning from shul, and park her car near her home.

Reb Shlomo Zalman instructed the neighbors not to reprimand her but, whenever she drove in on Shabbos, they should turn their faces away from her and not witness the actual desecration of the holy day. After a while, the woman realized that she was hurting the sensitive feelings of her neighbors, who had never done anything to hurt her. She decided, therefore, on her own, to park outside of the neighborhood on Shabbos and walk home a block or two. Then, Reb Shlomo Zalman instructed everyone to approach her with a big, sincere, smile, and wish her a warm gut Shabbos whenever they met her coming home from her car. The woman was so moved by the friendliness of her religious neighbors that eventually she stopped driving altogether on Shabbos, and subsequently became a complete ba'alas teshuvah!

This is the way of our Patriarch Avraham. And this is the way that will bring us true happiness in this world and in the World-to-Come.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel