In recent months, Israeli society has become tense and divided, with gratuitous hatred expressed by opposing factions that seem determined to destroy one another. Against this background, the events team at Beit Tovei Ha’ir Senior Residence in Jerusalem initiated a study day on the theme of Ahavat Chinam, bringing in some of the country’s best lecturers to address the topic.
Rav Chaim Navon discusses the essence of the mitzvah to love your neighbor as yourself. Mrs. Rivka Ravitz, a Charedi social activist who was Chief of Staff to President Reuven Rivlin, shared anecdotes and stories from her professional life, to illustrate how it is possible to build positive relationships even in today’s deeply divided society.
Rav Mordechai Noygershel discussed the question of whether Ahavat Chinam and Sinat Chinam are really ‘free’? He led the listeners to the conclusion that such hatred stems from jealousy, as we see in the Talmudic stories of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza and the leaders of their generation. They clearly demonstrated gratuitous hatred because the possibility of becoming a Talmid Chacham is open to anyone. Indeed, Jerusalem was destroyed because that generation chose to ignore the Torah and focus on their jealousy of the Talmidei Chachamim. It was clear from Rav Noygershel’s words that he believes that jealousy also lies at the heart of the current reality that is eating away at the best parts of Israeli society.
Mr. Uri Shechter, a social activist and reserve commander of the Nahal Brigade, treated the audience to a flood of stories of people who demonstrate Ahavat Chinam because they look kindly on others and treat them nicely. He called on everyone to look around and notice every small opportunity, such as people who are needy and people doing good for others, and to share the love with ourselves, our families, our community, and our entire nation.
The seminar ended with the presentation of a fascinating and moving documentary directed by filmmaker Noam Demsky. It tells the story of the Tarnovsky family – righteous gentiles who saved Shoshana Gezundheit and her family during the Holocaust, motivated by compassion and their faithful commitment to helping others.
The residents of Beit Tovei Ha’ir and their friends enjoyed a significant experience through this seminar. It has prepared us for Tisha B’Av with profound insights and conclusions about doing the right thing, and how each of us can share Ahavat Chinam by acting lovingly toward other people.
It certainly gave us lots to think about.
Written in Hebrew by our resident Tzvia Levovy and translated.
Speakers at the English-language event also included Rabbi Shay Finkelstein and Rabbi Alex Israel.
For information about future events, please contact Binyamin at 054-446-5276.