To All Jews

The mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael extends to all categories of Jews:

1. To a Jew who is distant geographically — even if he is on the other side of the world,1 and even if one never saw him before in one’s life.2

2. To a Jew who is distant spiritually, even if he is on the other side of the spiritual world and even if one has never experienced a person such as this before.3

3. Not only to simple Jews4 but even to the wicked.5 In fact, the Maggid of Mezeritch said that one’s love for the wicked should be equal to one’s love for the righteous.6 The reason for this is as stated above: since ahavas Yisrael is an essential love from the essence of one to the essence of another, then there are no differences between a tzaddik (righteous person) and a rasha (wicked person).7

The Love/Hate Relationship

As to what the Sages said,8 that “One who sees one’s friend who sins; it is a mitzvah to hate him” applies only to one who is Torah observant and one who has already been rebuked and nevertheless has not repented. On the other hand, one who is not Torah observant must be treated with love and kindness, for only with such a loving approach will he be drawn to Torah and mitzvos.

In chapter 32 of Tanya, the Alter Rebbe writes:

“As for the Talmudic statement that if one sees his friend sinning, he should hate him, and should also relate the fact to his teacher so that he too will hate him, this applies only to one’s companion — one’s equal9 — in the study of Torah and the observance of the mitzvos.

The sinner in question is a Torah-observant scholar, but has lapsed in this one instance. In this case his sin is much more severe than usual, since it is written that even the inadvertent misdeeds of a scholar are as grave as deliberate sins.10 But even this general assumption of the gravity of his conduct is not sufficient cause to hate him, as the Alter Rebbe continues. Yet another condition must first be satisfied:

He has also fulfilled with him — with the sinner — the injunction, “You shall repeatedly rebuke your friend.” The word used here for “your friend” also indicates as the Talmud points out — “him who is on a par with you in the Torah and the mitzvos,” as it is written in Sefer Charedim. But as for one who is not his companion in the Torah and mitzvos, so that (as our Sages say concerning the ignorant in general) even his deliberate transgressions are regarded as inadvertent acts, since he is unaware of the gravity of his sin; nor is he on intimate terms with him; — not only is one not enjoined to hate him: on the contrary, he must in fact, strive to become closer to him, as the Alter Rebbe states shortly.

To hate such a sinner is surely unjustifiable, since no sin that he commits is considered deliberate. There is also no reason to keep one’s distance from him out of fear that he will learn from his evil ways (in fulfillment of the exhortation of the Mishnah, “Do not fraternize with a wicked man”), since he is not on close personal terms with him in any case.

Therefore, on the contrary: Of this situation Hillel said, “Be one of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving creatures and drawing them near to the Torah.” This means that even those who are far from G‑d’s Torah and His service, for which reason they are classified simply as “creatures” — indicating that the fact that they are G‑d’s creation is their sole virtue11 — even those one must attract with strong cords of love.12

Perhaps thereby one will be able, after all, to draw them close to the Torah and the service of G‑d. And even if one fails, he has not forfeited the merit of the mitzvah of neighborly love which he has fulfilled by his efforts in this direction. Furthermore, even those whom one is enjoined to hate — for they are close to him, and he has rebuked them but they have still not repented of their sins — one is obliged to love them too.

But is it possible to love a person and hate him at the same time? The Alter Rebbe explains that since the love and the hatred stem from two different causes, they do not conflict.

And both the love and the hatred are truthful emotions in this case, [since] the hatred is on account of the evil within them, while the love is on account of the good hidden within them, which is the Divine spark within them that animates their Divine soul.

One must also arouse compassion on [the Divine soul of the sinner], for in the case of the wicked, it is in exile within the evil of the sitra achra13 which dominates it. Compassion banishes hatred and arouses love — as is known from the verse, “Yaakov, who redeemed Avraham.”14

To summarize:15

1. Complete ahavas Yisrael must be shown to those who keep Torah and mitzvos properly, and non-observant Jews with whom one has no personal relationship.

2. To an observant Jew who has lapsed in his observance and has been rebuked yet still does not change his ways, a love/hate relationship is applicable.

3. Regarding the Jew who is non-observant yet with whom one has a personal relationship, the Tanya appears to offer a word of caution. On the one hand, one must show full ahavas Yisrael, but on the other hand, one has to be careful that the friendship results in one’s friend being drawn to the ways of the Torah and not the reverse, G‑d forbid, that one should be drawn to his ways.

The Previous Rebbe brings out this point in Likkutei Dibburim:16

“In whatever direction one can involve a fellow Jew in a positive activity — to reinvigorate his inner essence — that is the direction in which one should exert oneself. This should be done only through kiruv, bringing him close to the mitzvos in a spirit of friendliness. One must, however, keep in mind that this kiruv requires caution: such friendship must be kept within limits. For just as one man exerts an influence on his friend, so in turn does his friend exert an influence on him.

This is a process that passes through various stages. At first one feels compassion for the other. This gives rise to a limud-zechus: one seeks ways of justifying the other’s conduct. And this is as it should be: one should indeed seek such ways. The person who is the object of this thought, however, must not know of it. The place where this limud-zechus belongs is within oneself, when, with tears from the heart, one reads a passage from Tehillim for another’s sake, and through its words requesting the A-lmighty to have pity on him. This is ahavas Yisrael, the love of a fellow Jew, which each Jew should practice toward his good friend — in the meantime being wary of excessive companionship, until, with the A-lmighty’s help, the friend is properly set up in an upright manner so that one may and should seek his companionship.”

The obligation to reach out to Jews and draw them near to the ways of Torah and mitzvos applies to all types of Jews:

Ahavas Yisrael must extend to Jews who can be categorized as a “desolate wilderness”17 : those who are empty of any worthy traits, who possess neither Torah, wisdom, good character traits nor derech eretz, and who have even lost their sense of humanity. Their only advantage is that they are a creation of G‑d18 — yet one must reach out even to those Jews, as the Mishnah says: “Love the creations and draw them near to the Torah,” i.e., even if they have no other trait except that they are creations of G‑d, they must be loved and drawn near to the Torah.19

Even those who claim to be agnostic or even atheistic must be drawn near to Torah.20 Efforts should be made to be mekarev even those who may be categorized as minim or apikorsim (non-believers and heretics).21 There are two reasons for this:

1. Even though King David said22 about the apikorsim, “I hate them completely,”23 and the Sages rule that they have no portion in the World to Come,24 the verse25 nevertheless says, “Let sin be destroyed from the world”, ‘sin’ and not the ‘sinners.’26 Their sins should be hated27 and despised; however efforts must be made to cause them to do teshuvah.28

2. In today’s generation, disbelief is largely due to ignorance.29 In addition, no man can know what lies deep in another man’s heart,30 and therefore, even if the person verbally denies belief in G‑d,31 it is possible that deep down he does believe32 and he should be judged favorably.33

It was for these reasons that the Rebbes of Chabad sought to be mekarev (bring close) every Jew.34