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    Rav Aryeh Levin was
    known as the tzadik of
    Yerushalayim, the
    righteous man of
    Jerusalem. He was
    incredibly pious, kind,
    and a great scholar. He
    lived in the quaint area of Nachlaot, right
    behind the shuk in Machaneh Yehudah. There
    was a young man who grew up in the
    neighborhood whom R’ Aryeh knew well but
    he felt the boy was avoiding him. One day,
    they bumped into each other in the narrow
    alleys of Nachlaot and Rav Aryeh confronted
    him and said, “I can’t help but feel you are
    avoiding me, tell me how are you?” The
    young man sheepishly replied that it was
    true, he was avoiding the great rabbi as he
    had grown up observant but had chosen to
    walk away from observant life altogether.
    He said, “Rebbe, I was so embarrassed to
    meet you since I have taken off my kippa and
    am no longer observant.” Rav Aryeh took the
    young man’s hand into his own and said the
    following. “My dear Moshe. Don’t worry. I
    am a very short man. I can only see what is in
    your heart, I cannot see what is on your
    Our Parsha commands us V’ahavta l’reiacha

    kamocha, to love our neighbor as ourselves.
    “Kamocha” doesn’t mean love your neighbor
    as you love yourself, which is unrealistic, if
    not impossible. It means love you neighbor—
    why? Because “Kamocha,” he or she is
    similar to you. You both possess the same
    spark of life, the same Godly soul, you both
    have strengths and weaknesses, you both
    have virtues and faults, you both have things
    to be proud of and areas to work on.
    We cannot love others, certainly not all
    others as much as we love ourselves, but we
    certainly can learn to love more. Why should
    we and how can we? Kamocha, because if
    you can cut away their different kippa or their
    lack of a kippa, if you ignore how they dress
    differently, act differently, think differently,
    if you cut away their idiosyncrasies and
    habits that drive you crazy, you will find they
    are kamocha, just like you.
    Rebbe Akiva witnessed thousands of his
    students fail this lesson. They focused on
    their differences rather than choose to
    embrace their similarities and the result was
    that they couldn’t see themselves in one
    another, they could not relate or identify.
    They saw their fellow student as different,
    the other, and that caused them to disrespect
    one another. Rebbe Akiva attended thousands

    of funerals and delivered thousands of
    eulogies as his students were cut down by a
    punitive plague and he turned around and
    כלל גדול the is ואהבת לרעך כמוך ,taught
    בתורה, the primary principle of the Torah.
    It is not a coincidence that the same Rebbe
    Akiva is quoted in Pirkei Avos as teaching us
    every is precious ,חביב אדם שנברא בצלם
    person because we were all created in the
    image of God. Internalizing that is the secret
    of loving everyone.
    We may not have the capacity to love others
    as much as ourselves, but we can do a whole
    lot better at loving others, especially those
    who are different than us, by focusing on the
    Kamocha, that as different as they seem, they
    are in truth just like us. Loving those who
    are just like you in hashkafa, halacha and are
    your dear friends is wonderful but it is not the
    most authentic expression of ahavas yisroel.
    Peeling back the layers of that which
    separates us from others until we find
    common ground and that which connects us,
    that is ahavas yisroel.
    But love goes beyond tolerating, it goes
    beyond finding commonality. To truly love a
    fellow Jew means something even more.
    R’ Moshe Leib Sassover used to tell his
    chassidim that he learned what it means
    to love a fellow Jew from two Russian
    peasants. Once he came to an inn, where
    two thoroughly drunk Russian peasants
    were sitting at a table, draining the last
    drops from a bottle of strong Ukrainian
    vodka. One of them yelled to his friend,
    “Do you love me?” The friend, somewhat
    surprised, answered, “Of course, of
    course I love you!” “No, no”, insisted the
    first one, “Do you really love me,
    really?!” The friend assured him, “Of
    course I love you. You’re my best friend!”
    “Tell me, do you know what I need? Do
    you know why I am in pain?” The friend
    said, “How could I possibly know what
    you need or why you are in pain?” The
    first peasant answered, “How then can
    you say you love me when you don’t
    know what I need or why I am in pain.”
    R’ Moshe Leib told his chassidim, he
    learned from these peasants that truly
    loving someone means to know their
    needs and to feel their pain. Real love is
    not lip service, it is not just tolerating one
    another. Love is noticing someone is
    having a bad day, it is feeling their pain,
    it is showing someone you care, even
    when that person is someone you barely
    know or don’t know at all.
    The blessings of Birchos HaShachar are
    said in the plural – מלביש ,עורים פוקח
    ערומים, etc. There is one exception –
    who ,God you thank שעשה לי כל צרכי

    fulfills all of my needs. Why is this blessing
    written in the singular?
    The same R’ Moshe Leib Sassover who
    taught us what it means to love a fellow Jew
    explains that when it comes to ourselves, we
    should have an attitude that I have everything
    I need. We should feel content and satisfied.
    However, when it comes to others, we must
    be thinking – he or she don’t have everything
    they need. What are they lacking? How can
    I help them? What can I do for them?
    There are people around us hurting, lacking
    or in pain. If we claim to love them, we
    cannot fail to notice. While Shabbos is the
    happiest most peaceful day of the week for
    many, for others, it is filled with stress,
    anxiety, and pain. Imagine being alone and
    each week as you get closer to Shabbos
    wondering if you will get invited out for
    meals. Imagine coming to shul still not
    having dinner or lunch arranged and
    wondering if anyone, even those who “love”
    you, will make sure you have a place to go or
    will give you greater dignity by inviting you
    earlier in the week. Imagine the prospect of a
    long Shabbos day by yourself. How much of
    a nap and how much reading can you do
    before you feel lonely? If we love our fellow
    Jews and our neighbors, we must make sure
    none of them feels alone.
    In the sefer Kavanas Ha’Ari, it says that
    before beginning davening in the morning,
    הריני מקבל עלי מצות ואהבת :say should one
    כמוך לרעך, I hereby accept upon myself the
    positive commandment to Love your fellow
    as yourself.” Based on R’ Moshe Leib
    Sassover’s insight, we can understand this to
    mean that before we can pour out our hearts
    to Hashem for all of our needs, we must
    pause to think about our fellow man and their
    needs. Before we ask Hashem to be there for
    us, we must commit to be there for others.