Monday, May 10, 2010

Loving yourself...

"People think," the Previous Rebbe once explained, "that the mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael, loving one's fellow Jew, means that you love the other person as much as you love yourself. It means loving yourself as much as you love the other person!"

It is only when we love ourselves that we can properly love others.

How can we foster this self-love? We can start by studying and internalizing the first words that a Jewish child is taught. "Torah Tziva - the Torah that Moses commanded to us is an eternal inheritance to the Jewish people."

We have been given a precious gift from G-d - the Torah. The moral, ethical and spiritual teachings flowing from the Torah are ours. We have the ability to grow and change by bringing these teachings into our lives. They were tailor made for us by G-d, who loves every Jew as a parent loves an only child born to him in his old age.

The Torah is eternal and its teachings are eternal; G-d's love for every single Jew is also eternal. G-d love us! Surely we can love ourselves!

From "Torah Tziva" we go on to "Shema Yisrael - Listen Jews, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One." These words acknowledge that G-d is everywhere and affirm a basic Jewish teaching that G-d is good. There is nothing disconnected from G-d and everything G-d does is ultimately good.
In Pirkei Avot Rabbi Yishmael instructs us to "Greet everyone with joy." Extrapolating from the Previous Rebbe's words above, this means that we should greet ourselves with joy! When awakening we should say "Good morning" to ourselves with gusto.

Loving ourselves has nothing to do with what we do, who we are, how much money we make or how we look. It is loving what we are at our very core. And essentially, we are all sparks of G-dliness, sparks of the same One G-d. So when we love ourselves, we truly love everyone else.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Honoring Parents. "Mother's Day".

Why do we honor our parents?

This mitzvah is considered so important that it is one of the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments were given on two tablets. The first tablet are for those laws that deal with a person's relationship with G-d, while the second tablet deals with the laws of human interaction. Surprisingly, the law to honor one's parents are on the first tablet.

Although we have a natural tendency to honor our parents, this tendency can wane depending upon circumstances. When, however, we are reminded that this is a direct command from G-d, we are made to understand that fulfilling this obligation has nothing to do with our personal feelings or experiences. Instead, the idea is reinforced to honor our parents not because of our natural feelings, but because the "Commander in Chief" has so ordained.

There are three partners in the creation of a new life, G-d, the mother and the father. We are required to view our parents not only with love, but with awe as well. We must place our parents upon a pedestal and keep them there.

In Judaism, every day is Mother's Day. We learn that every day has to be a day that we must honor and cherish our parents.

That means that we ought to make an active effort to look after their needs both physical and spiritual, as well as treating them with the utmost respect, whether we agree with them or not.

It is not just a nice or sensible thing to do; it is a direct commandment from G-d!