Love Your Neighbor- To What Extent?

14 05 2012
Based on a series by Rabbi Hanoch Teller: Honorable Mentchen II

Chesed is normally translated as loving kindness, but it’s more. A secular government can legislate laws such as not speeding or not killing. It cannot, however, expect people to act in a conjointly sense of ‘we’ on behalf of the community.

The Rambam teaches that “V’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha” (Loving ones fellow Jew) means caring about someone’s monetary possessions. The mitzvah also includes praising others. However, the Chafetz Chaim cautions us to be careful as excessive praise is likely to generate negative comments.

It can be hard to feel happy for someone when their fortune soars and to feel sad when their situation plummets. To fulfill the mitzvah of V’ahavta l’reicha one must work on obliterating his feelings of jealousy.

The Baal Shem Tov explained this mitzvah to mean that your behavior towards someone else should be based on the other person’s likes and dislikes, not your own.

The Gemara explains a pasuk in Chabakuk, “V’hatznea lechet im Elokecha.” You shall walk modestly with Hashem. This refers to burying the dead and helping a bride get married. At some weddings the focus is not on the other person but on yourself. What do they think about me? How do I look? V’haznea lechet teaches us that we are there for the other person.

Loving ones fellow Jew includes being hospitable to guests. We should do more than just providing a meal. We should look out for their needs, correct someone for doing something people would consider odd, chastise someone for sinning, lend money or other articles, pray for those in need, save someone from injury, greet people with a happy countenance, teach Torah, and share good news. A craftsman fulfills this mitzvah when he has in mind to do his best work for the benefit of his customer. A doctor fulfills this commandment when he heals someone.

On one of his travels Rav Moshe Leib Sassover entered a tavern. He heard a Russian horse trader say to his companion, “Igor I love you.” Igor tearfully replied, “No you don’t. If you really loved me you’d know what I am lacking.” Rav Moshe Leib learned a great lesson. True ahavat yisrael means being concerned about what the other person is missing and truly caring about them.

When Its OK to Bend the Truth

16 12 2010

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Permissible Falsehood

There is a common practice for sales people to tell customers the advantages of a product while ignoring its drawbacks. Torah law demands integrity; covering up a flaw is deceitful and forbidden. The gemara in Bava Metzia tells us that a person may not ask a seller the price of an item if he has no intention to buy it. This is onaat devarim (hurting with words). Similarly, asking to see a product in a store when you intend to buy it on the internet at a cheaper price is prohibited.


The Torah says, “Cursed is the person who leads a blind man astray.” This applies to anyone who takes advantage of another person’s naiveté or lack of knowledge.  All of us have our expertise and blindness in certain areas. When we engage in geneivat daat (deceiving the mind), we incur a curse upon ourselves. Lying in the courtroom is not only a violation of one of the Ten Commandments, but is a desecration of Hashem’s name. The Torah writes, “Tzedek tzedek tirdof. Pursue justice.” The repeated word teaches us how critically important justice is.  Thwarting justice undermines society which is a severe crime.


There are cases in halacha when it is permitted to bend the truth.  When delivering bad news to a patient, a doctor should be careful not to deprive the person of all hope. On the other hand, if the patient is in advanced stages of a terminal illness, then it would be foolhardy and inappropriate for the doctor not to apprise the patient at all. One may lie to a poor person to get him to accept charity or to save someone from embarrassment. The gemara brings many instances of this. One example is the story of Shmuel Hakatan who confessed to something he did not do to save someone from humiliation.  Additionally, the gemara writes that one may lie in three instances: to protect someone from being exploited, for reasons of modesty, and in order to conceal matters of intimacy and personal life. In general, exaggeration should be avoided, but if you are using it to make a point and people will not take it literally, it is permitted.


The prophet Yishayahu tells us, “Tzion b’mishpat tipadeh. Zion will be redeemed in the merit of justice.” May our efforts to live with truth and integrity bring the redemption closer.