Answering a question

Answering a question

Here is a question I received recently. I have a feeling that others might have the same question as well, and I hope the answer will shed light on the topic.


Dear Rabbi:

I know that Chabad is very into the mitzvah of ahavat Yisrael — love your fellow Jew. If I understand correctly, that was the main motivator for the rebbe to send his people to open Chabad Houses all over the world, which I appreciate.

However, I do wonder: are all Jews truly worthy of our love?

(Feel free to reply publicly)



Dear Unsure,

Great question! And thank you for allowing me to respond publicly.

To answer your question: are all Jews worthy of our love? Well, let me act a bit Jewish and reply with my own question: what do “love” and “worth” have to do with each other? Worth indicates an even exchange, but genuine love is often anything but. You don’t want to pay for the car more than it’s worth. You do want your client to pay the worth of your services.

Now, let’s look at the purest love of all — parents’ love for their newborn child. Their love is boundless, and they will move mountains to make the baby happy. Not only has the infant done nothing to “deserve” it, the child’s arrival actually deprives the parents of sleep, freedom, and personal time. Yet they love wholeheartedly, simply because, as they would say, “It’s our child!”

Ahavat Yisrael works the same unconditional way. We may vehemently disagree with certain Jews’ actions or choices, but despite everything, we are always connected. We are all one family.

This idea goes even deeper.

Think about the love of the parents for their newborn. In some ways, this is when they experience the purest love.

Later in life, when the child matures and becomes “worthy” of their love, the love can be clouded with pride of their accomplishments or qualities. But in the first weeks of life, they love their baby simply because it’s their child.

The rebbe taught us this lesson using the mitzvah of the four kinds that we shake on Sukkot.

The four kinds include the lulav (from a palm tree), the etrog, hadas (myrtle) and arava (willow). The arava is the only tree on the list that has no good scent or fruit; it’s a simple tree, with very little to show for itself.

What does the arava bring to the table? Nothing but itself. Which is perhaps one of the most important lessons. It has nothing to show, but we still need it as part of our mitzvah. Without it, we would not be complete.

This week, we will celebrate Lag Ba’Omer, a day dedicated to Jewish unity. May this serve as a reminder that when we meet someone who is not worthy of our love, we should know that we just met an arava, and we now have the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of ahavat Yisrael in its purest form.

Mendy Kaminker is the rabbi of Chabad of Hackensack and an editorial member of He welcomes your comments at

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