Not To Be Taken Lightly
By Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Ginsberg

When a person accustoms himself to speaking only good about others (especially the Jewish people as a whole), he draws down blessing and success and reveals good that was previously hidden. * An occasional reminder is helpful for everyone


Approaching the month of Elul and in connection with Chamisha Asar b’Av, the Rebbe shlita makes several references in Likkutei Sichos to the seifer Darchei Chaim v’Shalom, authored by the Rav of Munkatch, in which it states that the gematria of “Chamisha Asar b’Av” is the same as “k’siva va’chasima tova” (may you be inscribed and sealed for good [in the Book of Life]). Thus, it is customary to begin expressing our good wishes and blessings for each other for the coming year (both verbally and in writing) starting on this date. 


(As the Rebbe has often pointed out, this does not mean that the k’siva va’chasima tova has to wait until next year. Rather, it should start even now, as a foretaste of the good things to come.)


It is, therefore, timely to reiterate something that the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach always emphasized about the act of wishing someone well. More than just a nice custom or tradition, bestowing a blessing has a powerful effect on both giver and recipient.


To explain: Any action taken by a Jew, whose soul is “a veritable part of G-d above” and whose physical body has also been chosen by G-d, is enormously significant, with far-reaching effects in the spiritual worlds. When one Jew wishes another Jew well (in speech or in writing), it exerts a beneficial influence.


When one Jew bentches another he draws down blessing and success, even if it is not immediately visible to the physical eye. When he says only good things about him, he reveals the goodness hidden within. If, G-d forbid, he does the reverse, his words will have the opposite effect.


A story is related in HaYom Yom about a resident of Mezhibuzh who once remarked that he wanted to tear someone apart like a fish. The Baal Shem Tov told his disciples to close their eyes and place their hands on each other’s shoulders, whereupon they started screaming in fright, having actually seen the violence take place on a higher plane.


How upset the Rebbe always became if someone uttered something contrary to the praise of the Jewish people, especially during Elul, when what we really need is blessing and not negatiWvity for the coming year.


The Rebbe often reminded us that even so holy a person as the Prophet Yeshayahu was punished for saying, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips,” even though his intentions were surely good. For it is forbidden to utter anything negative about a single Jewish person (how much more so the totality of Klal Yisroel), even if the objective is to improve their behavior.


It states in Yeshayahu (43:21), “This people have I formed for Myself; they shall proclaim My praise.” The very existence of a Jew, even before he begins to learn Torah and do mitzvos, proclaims and reveals G-d’s praise throughout the world. It is, therefore, impossible and prohibited to say a negative word about such a creation.


“The attribute of goodness is greater.” When a Jew says only good things about his fellow man, especially about the Jewish people as a whole, he draws down Divine loving-kindness and success, and reveals goodness that was previously hidden. Moreover, not only does it have a positive effect on the recipient of the blessing, but also on the one who bestows it.


This is similar to the Baal Shem Tov’s famous teaching on the words of the Mishna, “Know…before Whom you are destined to give a judgment and accounting” (“judgment” before “accounting”), and “Retribution is extracted from a person, with his knowledge and without his knowledge.” When, after 120 years, a Jew comes before the Heavenly court and is asked to account for his sojourn on earth, the court lacks the proper authority to pronounce judgment, as the Jew’s soul is “a veritable part of G-d Above.” To circumvent the problem (that the Jew is on a higher level than the court), the Jew is asked his opinion about what he thinks a person who has done such and such deserves in terms of reward or punishment. After he offers his verdict (“with his knowledge”), he is shown how these deeds and circumstances parallel his own life. He has, therefore, unwittingly (“without his knowledge”) passed judgment on his own life and pronounced his own verdict.               


An illustration of this principle is found in Tanach, when Nosson HaNavi came to David HaMelech after the incident with Uria. When the prophet asked him to pass verdict on a rich man who steals a lamb from a poor one, the prophet then declared, “You are that man!”


The Rebbe shlita has always taught us how important it is to be melamed z’chus on others, even if it appears as if the other person has done some really awful things. Not only does it help the other person, but it also helps the one who insists on regarding him with an uncritical eye. That is, by judging the other person favorably, he simultaneously determines the standard by which he himself will be judged. In other words, what a Jew says matters.


(The Rebbe has even explained that we should extend this high level of caution about what we say to non-Jews: A Jew once came to the Rebbe for “dollars” on Sunday. He wanted to curse the goyim for all the suffering and hardship they inflict on us. The Rebbe rejected the idea out of hand, and suggested that he daven that the goyim do t’shuva and conduct themselves properly, as it states, “The sins shall disappear from the earth,” as opposed to “The sinners shall disappear.”)


On another occasion the Rebbe stated that his entire job is to bless Jews.


As all of us sincerely wish to be mekushar to the Rebbe, and we strive to emulate even his most external gestures, how much more so should we try to copy the Rebbe’s essential connection and genuine love for every single Jew. Like the Rebbe, we should also be zealous about never uttering a negative word about anyone, ever.


In the past, one of the major complaints leveled against Lubavitch was that they roll out the welcome mat to everyone, even Jews who openly oppose Torah and mitzvos. But the Rebbe always rejected the approach of zealots who call people names like apikoros and rasha.


I’ve mentioned this story before but it bears repetition: There was once a Jew from Bnei Brak who was very critical of the Rebbe shlita on this particular point. What happened? His own son abandoned the straight and narrow and was eventually brought back to Yiddishkeit by one of the Rebbe’s shluchim. At that point the father felt obligated to go to the Rebbe in person and ask his forgiveness. In a yechidus, the Rebbe said to him: The same way you felt when people spoke [negatively] about your son, I feel about every single Jew.  


Today, baruch Hashem, the Rebbe’s open approach has been adopted by virtually everyone. (This, of course, is part of Moshiach’s characterizing actions of “compelling the Jewish people.”) In fact, by now many Jewish groups are even convinced it was their own invention…


The Rebbe shlita has taught us that all our zealotry must be directed inward. We must be scrupulous and stringent about our own behavior, but about someone else’s? - never!


The Rebbe often referred to the Rebbe Rayatz’s comment when asked how he could justify encouraging even those Jews whom the Shulchan Aruch rules should be shunned. The Rebbe Rayatz explained that in matters of Torah, even the order in which topics are arranged is significant. These particular halachos are in the last chapters of the last sections of Choshen Mishpat. This teaches that we must first observe the entire Shulchan Aruch with all its minutiae and make sure that our own conduct is one hundred percent above reproach before we can be “mehader” and shun another Jew, G-d forbid.


Another example: A judge on the Israeli Supreme Court once came to the Rebbe for hakafos. The man was a Kohen who was not only married to a divorcee, but was extremely vocal about his disdain for Torah law. Nonetheless, the Rebbe insisted that he be honored with a hakafa!


Then there’s the story about a certain person who had played a not-insignificant role in the religious coercion and forced removal of Yemenite and other “Oriental” Jewish children from their parents’ homes. At the same time that the Rebbe Rayatz and the Rebbe shlita publicly fought this terrible injustice, they continued to instruct community leaders to maintain their relationship with this man and treat him respectfully. In other words, the Rebbe related to him according to his potential, not according to the way he was behaving. In the end, as so often happens, this individual became a baal t’shuva, and was transformed into an advocate instead of an adversary…


Of course, one must be careful not to confer legitimacy on what the person represents if it is contrary to Torah. But in general, every Jew must be treated respectfully and with love, even if his behavior is lacking.


The Rebbe demands this level of ahavas Yisroel even if we are forced to fight against someone who opposes Torah and mitzvos. The battle must always be waged in a manner of “the left repels and the right draws near.” We are only allowed to push another Jew away with the weaker hand, while bringing him closer with the dominant, stronger one.


The same rule must apply to our fellow Chassidim, T’mimim, and mekusharim. All of us serve the same Kadosh Baruch Hu, follow the same Torah, the same path of Chassidus and the same Rebbe. Our ahavas Yisroel must be inclusive of everyone, even someone who is still embarrassed or uncomfortable about writing “shlita” or “Melech HaMoshiach” and only feels comfortable referring to the Rebbe as “Nasi HaDor.” Even a person who uses terms that are completely unacceptable and inappropriate knows, in his heart of hearts, that “the Nasi of the generation is the Moshiach of the generation” and that the Rebbe is chai v’kayam. Doesn’t he also write to the Rebbe for advice, travel to the Rebbe, learn the Rebbe’s Torah and try to follow his directives? Okay, so he finds it hard to implement some of these directives. Who among us can claim to be perfect?


This doesn’t mean agreeing with someone who is clearly wrong or making compromises. The Rebbe taught us to “bring the creatures nearer to Torah” and not the other way around. We must never yield “the tip of the letter Yud” when it comes to principle. However, this does not contradict the necessity for indiscriminate ahavas Yisroel. On this point, we should all be zealots.


By hashgacha pratis, I found the following letter of the Rebbe Rayatz as I was working on this column. (The letter is on page 369 of Volume 4 of the Rebbe Rayatz’s Igros Kodesh [free translation]):


In answer to your letter…I was unable to reply simply because I was too upset over something I had heard - that even before you were able to correct the situation regarding public shiurim and a yeshiva for children, a scandal has broken out.


Even if you are 100% righteous you are still guilty of having committed a very big sin: the choice you made in resorting to disrespect for others and embarrassing them, which is an absolute prohibition. There are whole chapters in Tikunei T’shuva about how to make amends for this particular transgression…


The only permissible methods of persuasion are honesty and pleasantness, as Chassidus teaches. Anyone acting otherwise loses more than he gains, and is called a transgressor, who transgresses the command of our holy Rebbeim, may their memory protect us.


Yet what really pains me most is the lack of unity and obedience, the unwillingness to listen to an elder Chassid and do what he says… With the proper degree of unity and deference your conduct would be most exemplary and effective, and everything would turn out well.


As far as correcting the past, you must follow whatever instructions my son-in-law, the Rashag, gives you. I hope you will do everything with the appropriate hiddur, and with G-d’s help I will derive much pleasure from you and from all your brethren, T’mimim, and Anash, may they live and be well.


I ask and caution you to be very careful about showing respect to Chassidim. Give thought to trying to draw them near by whatever positive means you come up with. And may Alm-ghty G-d give you and your family an abundance of life and blessing, wholeness and good health and plentiful livelihood, in a tranquil and carefree manner, that you may also be able to devote yourself to Torah and the service of G-d. And may my eyes merit to see much nachas from you and all Anash and T’mimim, materially and spiritually.


I do not intend these words to apply to anyone in particular. Nonetheless, all of us could use a little reminder now and then to improve the vessel for Hashem’s blessing: “Bless us our Father, all of us as one, in the light of Your countenance.”


The theme of achdus becomes even more pronounced the closer we get to the Hakhel year, which is almost upon us. “Gather the people together - men, women, and children.” Accordingly, now is the perfect time to start thinking about traveling to the Rebbe MH”M for Tishrei.


The primary way to achieve unity is through hiskashrus to the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach, as “the Nasi is everything.” The Rebbe is the head of Klal Yisroel, who unifies and connects all the various limbs of the body into a single upstanding entity.


May we all enjoy continued success in fulfilling “the only service that remains - to greet Moshiach Tzidkeinu in reality.”


Yechi Adoneinu Moreinu v’Rabbeinu Melech HaMoshiach l’olam va’ed!


How upset the Rebbe always became if someone uttered something contrary to the praise of the Jewish people, especially during Elul.




All our zealotry must be directed inward. We must be scrupulous and stringent about our own behavior, but about someone else’s? – never!




We must first observe the entire Shulchan Aruch with all its minutiae before we can shun another Jew, G-d forbid.



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