We are commanded to love our neighbor (fellow Jew) as oneself.1 Who can do this? It may be possible to tolerate or like a stranger, but a bothersome neighbor whose faults are patently obvious? How can it be done?

The mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael is the mitzvah which hastens the coming of Moshiach.2

The First Bais HaMikdash (Temple) lasted for 410 years and was destroyed because of idol worship. Jews were expelled from Israel and experienced a relatively short golus (exile) in Babylonia. 72 years later, Ezra returned3 with them to Israel and built the Second Bais HaMikdash which lasted 420 years, and was destroyed by the sin of causeless hatred.4 The second destruction has left us in this golus for over two thousand years. Idol worship caused golus for 70 years and the sin of hating other Jews for no reason has caused a golus for two thousand years. Clearly therefore the sin of hating a fellow Jew is greater in a sense than idol worship. The Rebbe has explained that Moshiach will be brought by the opposite of this sin, causeless love, which is the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael.

Not only must there be causeless love but also the love for the other must be the same as the love one has for oneself.

This is a very difficult requirement for most of us are not naturally so forgiving of a space-taking associate whose faults glare like beacons.

There is a key to understanding how to do it. We will learn the chochmah and binah (see Building Block No. 3) together, which are great secrets. The daas must come from each man trying to climb the mountain of Chassidus. It is difficult. We go a step at a time and, as the fingernails tear from the climb, remember the view from the top…

We have learned that every neshomah (divine soul) has its yeridah (descent) into its body in order to refine the body by overcoming the Nefesh HaBahamis and elevate the environment in order to make a dwelling place for Hashem in the lowest of all possible worlds, the physical world.5 We have also learned that neshomos are given a perfect arena to achieve their purpose in life. If a neshomah’s purpose in life is to give charity, money may be plentiful; if to overcome lusts he may be given bountiful opportunities to exercise control. It bears repeating that living out one’s purpose has as its by-products fulfillment, satisfaction and indeed happiness. Ignoring one’s purpose puts one in the position of always seeming to be bumping into doors.

There is however a negative side to this in that every neshomah has certain areas of vulnerability. The neshomah is vulnerable because it is necessary for that neshomah to have the capacity to be tempted in a certain area or to have exposure to failure in a certain area.

Conversely, every neshomah has its strengths; every person will know where he is on more solid ground than his neighbor, whether in kindness, integrity, strength or intellectual ability, etc. Every neshomah has a positive high watermark upon which that neshomah can rely.

It now becomes clear why Torah forbids judging a man until one is in his place.6 What does “in his place” mean? Simply, the same circumstances as those of the other individual. At a deeper level however we can understand that, even if Shimon’s physical place is similar to that of Reuven, this says nothing of his spiritual position. Unless it is in the same spiritual position, how can one neshomah possibly judge another?!7

A wider point is that one neshomah ’s mission in life is not the same as somebody else’s mission in life. Again, therefore, how can they compare? So why then is one’s neighbor failing when we are not failing? Because his neshomah is vulnerable in a specific area and our neshomah is not vulnerable in that specific area.8 Success is only an achievement for the neshomah with the difficulty. There is nothing remarkable about being able to walk; but it is an achievement for a lame man to walk. For a man who is not lame to compare his walking to a man on crutches is not only inappropriate, it is foolish.

We criticize another man because we make a judgmental decision about that person’s inability to function in comparison to our ability to function in a given situation. This is an unjustified judgmental decision because it assumes the other person has the same givens. It is just as unfair as demanding of a six year old to lift a suitcase because it is not heavy for an adult.

So a fundamental problem with people’s inability to deal with one another’s failings is that they measure those failings against their own strengths. This is absolutely forbidden and unjustifiable. If a man observes a weakness in his neighbor in, for example, the neighbor's propensity to gossip, he cannot measure this against his own lack of interest in gossip because that is not his weakness. He may have a weakness with lust. If he were to compare at all, and we have seen this is idiotic, it should at least be a comparison between the neighbor's gossip and his lust. Ultimately however the only Judge can be Hashem because only He knows with what strengths and weaknesses each neshomah began.

The above will assist understanding the concepts of causeless hatred and its obverse, causeless love. Normally, healthy psychologically sound people concentrate on the positives in themselves. They congratulate themselves on their abilities and successes and make a point of overlooking their shortcomings. Indeed, they justify and rationalize their shortcomings. The requirement of the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael is that a man function in the same way with other people. This is to love another person like oneself. Like oneself means to spend no time on their faults and to spend a lot of time on their positives. How does one spend no time on their faults? By understanding that the matters which are unappealing and unattractive about them exist because of a weakness in their neshomah which we do not share. If we shared it, we may not do any better and may do much worse.

There is a story about a Rebbe who had a very rich Chosid who lived in a very beautiful home. Whenever the Rebbe traveled to the town of the Chosid, it was expected that the Rebbe would stay in the Chosid’s mansion. Whenever the Rebbe arrived into this town however the Chosid was away on business with the house closed up. One year the Rebbe arrived unannounced and requested to stay over Shabbos. Over Shabbos, the Chosid confessed to his Rebbe that he had always been away deliberately on previous visits. He expected the Chassidim, who would crowd to see the Rebbe, to trek mud and dirt on his beautiful white carpet and white sofas. The Rebbe told him an extraordinary story. Apparently, once there was a man who died, and, when he reached the gates of Gan Eden, it was judged that his transgressions outweighed his merits. Before judgment was passed, his defending counsel pointed out that once he saved a family’s life. This was put on the balance but it was not enough. His counsel reminded the court that he had saved all the family’s possessions and they were thus able to marry off three generations of daughters. The scales were now even. Finally, the angel argued that when he saved the family, they trekked mud and filth onto, and ruined, his only wagon. This tipped the balance. Counsel for the prosecution argued that mud and dirt should not count because that was not part of the mitzvah. The defense attorney pressed the recognition of the dirt. Mud and dirt on the scale, off the scale, on the scale. Judgment could not be resolved until, finally, it was decided that that neshomah must descend again, its sole test to be the issue of dirt….

His neighbors could not judge the Chosid for loving his white carpet and sofas because they could never know the givens of his neshomah. If the weakness in his neshomah is specifically for white carpet and sofas, then when he has learned to tolerate their use by sincere Jews needing to see their Rebbe, he is springboarded to Gan Eden.

The Talmud explains that when we are confronted with a person’s9 fault, we see a mirror image of our own problem. Shimon may for example be sitting at a table with Reuven who is obsessed by dishonesty. Reuven believes everyone steals; the housekeeper steals, the cleaner steals, the employees steal. He has five sets of keys and a combination lock and still they steal. Everyone robs him day and night. Why is Shimon hearing this? Because he Shimon has a problem with stealing. One of the surest tests in Chassidus of where one’s own negatives are in one’s neshomah, is to isolate the things most personally troublesome about other people.

So to summarize: We are upset by others in areas we need to remedy in ourselves. However, we cannot judge them because if we had their givens we may well do worse. What we must do is regard them with the same accent on their virtues and blindness to their faults as we do with ourselves. These are the instructions to the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael. One can vary the speed and effectiveness of success at performing mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael by focusing through the lens of what we learned in Building Block No. 4 on space. A man who has trained himself to require little space will not find these instructions as difficult as the man with a swollen yeshus. Which comes first? Keeping the instruction or working on oneself? The answer is both; nowhere in this book is there a promise that any of this is easy. There is however a promise that these are gates to Paradise.