With the incapacitation of its Prime Minister, Israel is undergoing uncertain times. Like many synagogues all over the world, as soon as we found out the seriousness of Ariel Sharon's condition we sent out an e-mail announcing a prayer gathering and urging those who could not attend to pray independently, for Israel and Mr. Sharon's recovery.

Some of the recipients of our e-mail replied saying that they would pray for him. Other responses, however, were disturbing. One came from a very well meaning individual who asked, "Why should we pray for him? Have you already forgotten what he did to our brothers and sisters in the Gaza Strip? And it's not over yet: most of those who were expelled are still without homes! I am sorry but I don't feel sorry for him." Another response asked me whether my desire to pray for the Prime Minister's recovery meant that I supported his "disengagement" policy.

Now any reader on my column knows that I was vociferously opposed to the Gaza evacuation and the so-called "disengagement plan." Indeed, I wrote impassioned articles about this both before and after the pullout. However, this does not mean that when the Prime Minister of Israel is ill I should not feel his pain and not desire to do my bit—pray—to help him recover.

Let me explain using the following story. There were two well-known Chassidic Jews who passionately disagreed with each other's approach to certain Chassidic practices. One of them wrote and spoke passionately about the errors of the other's ways. During the dispute, it happened that each of them celebrated the engagement of a child. Upon meeting each other in the street, they exchanged greetings and hugged each other warmly. The students of one of these Chassidim asked him: How you were able to show such warmth to each other, when you so passionately disagree on such fundamental matters? His reply was both profound and moving. "One has to differentiate between the cheftza (object) and the gavra (person)," he said.

(This Chassid's response was a play on terminology used in advanced Talmudic logic, in which the terms cheftza and gavra are often employed in analyzing a concept in Torah law. For example: a Jew is obligated to search out and destroy the "chametz"--leavened food—in his or her possession prior to the festival of Passover. Is this obligation a derivative of the object of the chametz (i.e., because there may be leaven in one's possession and it needs to be gotten rid of before Passover), or is it an obligation to search out and destroy chametz that rests upon the person? The practical difference between the two opinions would be if the individual knows that s/he does not own any chametz. If the search for chametz is a cheftza/object matter, then the ritual searching would not need to be carried out; if it is a gavra/person matter, it nonetheless has to be done.)

This type of approach to inter-human relationships stems fom the ability to see the deeper reality of existence. To most of us, the world is one-dimensional—all we perceive is the material, outer crust of life. Mystics and those who practice meditation see the world on multiple levels—they sense the divinity inherent in everything. The mystic perceives the human being in this way too. Thus, although all humans have failings and at times those flaws can seriously impact the lives of others, the mystic is still able to see other humans on the soul level—where they are pure and divine. On the soul level, all people are equal and connected to each other as being in the image of G‑d. We all must take inspiration from this and endeavor to see others in this way, as well.

Indeed, I opposed and continue to oppose any expulsion of Jews from their homes and land—throughout history, we as a people have experienced too much of that. I also completely disagree with and am baffled by the logic, or lack thereof, inherent in the, in my view, dangerous disengagement policy—as indeed I have elaborated on these points in previous articles.

Now, however, we are not dealing with policy issues. We are dealing with the life of a fellow Jew, and in this we must be able to distinguish between the cheftza--the policy, however ill-conceived—and the gavra, the person made in the divine image. May G‑d grant Prime Minister Sharon, together with all others who may need it, a speedy and full recovery.