Ahavas Yisrael and Achdus Yisrael

Ahavas Yisrael is the term used to describe the commandment to love a fellow Jew. Implied is that there are two separate entities, the lover and the beloved, and the imperative is that the intensity of the love between them should be on the level of “as you love yourself.”

Achdus Yisrael is the term used to describe the reason why one Jew can truly love another “as yourself,” because in essence, they are one.1

The Talmud Yerushalmi2 explains the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael with a parable: If a man were to cut a piece of meat with a knife and by mistake the knife cut his hand, would one imagine that one hand would hit the other to reprimand it? So too, in ahavas Yisrael, each Jew must view the other as part of the same body.3 Living with a day-to-day awareness that all Jews are limbs of the same body is the true fulfillment of the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael.4

We All Need One Another

Every Jew possesses two distinguishing features:5

1. A feature that he shares with all other Jews, i.e., that he has a Jewish soul which, in essence, is one with all other souls.

2. His own distinct character, as it is written, “[from] your heads ... to your water carriers.”6 Everyone possesses a quality unique to him alone.7 Our recognition of one another’s individual contributions and qualities is vital to achieve unity among us, and each person must understand that he is not perfect without the other. A Jew must feel like “half a shekel,” his other half being every other Jew.8

True achdus Yisrael is achieved when these two dimensions are fused.9 Each individual must view his own distinguishing features as part of an entire body which has multiple distinguishing features.10 And therefore, each soul shares in the individual characters of all other souls, because all souls have their source in the same essence.

An analogy may be drawn from a Sefer Torah. In a Sefer Torah, each letter has its individual characteristics. Each letter must be completely surrounded by blank parchment and no two letters may be touching. However, even if just one letter is missing, the entire Sefer Torah is rendered invalid. Israel is thus compared to a Sefer Torah — the word Yisrael is an acronym for “There are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah.”11

To Do Your Will

In the Rosh Hashanah prayers12 we say, “And so, L‑rd our G‑d, instill fear of You upon all that You have made, and dread of You upon all that You have created; and then all works will be in awe of You, all the created beings will prostrate themselves before You, and they will all form a single band to carry out Your will with a perfect heart.”

The meaning of this prayer is that only when the created beings get together to do G‑d’s will can there be a “single band.” If, however, the purpose of the band is not to do G‑d’s will, then it will not be a single band.

The reason:

1. People, by nature, are different from one another. When they come together for any purpose, they join forces with only those soul powers necessary for the joint venture; they do not invest all their soul powers and they certainly do not invest their essence.

2. Even in their joint venture, each participant is doing what suits his ego and his feelings. It just so happens that in this particular area, all happen to be doing the same thing.13

3. The joint venture will only be of a temporary nature, for since each participant has only invested certain soul powers, when the venture no longer suits him, he will pull out and the group will disband. This has been seen time and time again with many groups whose beginnings looked promising but did not withstand the test of time.

When, however, the foundation of any gathering is Torah and mitzvos, the result will be everlasting, for in such a case, each participant invests all his soul powers. On the soul level, every Jew wishes to do that which G‑d wants him to do. True achdus Yisrael can only be forged when the aim is to fulfill the will of G‑d.14

Unity and Peace in the World

On the very first word in Genesis, “Bereishis,” Rashi comments that the world was created for two things: for Israel and for the Torah. Since Israel is the purpose in creation, the unity amongst Israel will also cause a unity in the entire world, bringing the entire world to the recognition of the One G‑d.15

“If you shall walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them ... I shall give peace in the land.”16 Peace in the land is granted by G‑d with the condition that we walk in His statutes. Since ahavas Yisrael is the great principle of the Torah, it follows that if there is peace amongst Jews, this will bring peace to the entire world, and in particular, peace to the Land of Israel.17

The vessel for G‑d’s blessings is peace.18 In our daily prayers19 we say, “Bless us our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Your countenance.” When will G‑d bless us? When we are one.20 The Midrash compares us to sticks. Each stick by itself is easily snapped; however, when they are bound together they are not so easily broken.21

United in a Sefer Torah

In the year 5742, the Lubavitcher Rebbe proposed that all Jews unite through the writing of a Sefer Torah.22

Torah is one: indivisible and eternal. A Sefer Torah comprises many thousands of letters, each separate and distinct from another. Yet a Sefer Torah is valid only when all the letters are present and combine to form one Sefer Torah. Should even one letter be missing or imperfect, the entire Sefer Torah is rendered invalid. This is true unity.

There are 600,000 letters in a Sefer Torah. There are 600,000 all-encompassing souls from which the souls of all Jews derive. These foundational souls correspond to the letters in the Torah. A missing letter invalidates a Torah scroll; a “missing” Jew renders our people imperfect. Torah unites the letters; they are not separate and unrelated, but part of a larger unity. Torah unites Israel; we are not unrelated, separate individuals when Torah brings us together.

Unity Through Learning Rambam

In order to hasten the final Redemption, it is necessary to search for different ways to unite the Jewish people. One of the ways to do this is to unite Jews through learning the same subject in Torah. This has two advantages:

1. The Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya23 that when a Jew learns Torah, “he has comprehended with his intellect the Will and Wisdom of G‑d ... and this is a wonderful unity, the likes of which there is none other.” When many Jews learn the same subject in Torah, they are all unified in this “wonderful unity.”

2. Although no two minds are alike and people have different opinions, when people learn the same subject in Torah together, they delve into and discuss the issue which brings about and develops strong ties between them.24

Since the Zohar states that a Jew connects with G‑d through the Torah, it therefore follows that a true connection is forged when Jews learn the Torah in its entirety. This is certainly achieved in the learning of the Mishneh Torah of the Rambam in which he gathers and codifies the entire Oral Torah25 in halachic form. The learning of Rambam, in addition to gaining knowledge of the Torah in its entirety, is an excellent way of uniting the Jewish people and thereby hastening the Geulah.26