A Chassidic Rebbe once saw two drunken gentiles stumbling down the street while embracing each other. “I really love you.”

“No, you don’t,” answered his friend.

“Yes, I do.”

“No, you don’t,” went the conversation back and forth for several minutes. “If you really love me,” the second drunk concluded, “tell me what I’m lacking.”

The Rebbe turned away, because he had heard the lesson he felt that he was supposed to hear. Loving somebody means being more than a far-weather friend and even more than being an all-weather friend. It means entering into a relationship where you are totally involved with the other person. And when you are totally involved with another person, you know what they are lacking.

Parshas Kedoshim

This week’s Torah reading contains the commandment: “Love your fellowman as yourself.” How is that possible? Seemingly, no matter how much we care for another person, it is impossible to love them as one loves his own self.

Chassidic thought explains that this is possible, because in truth loving another person is loving one’s own self. All souls are actual parts of G‑d. In the spiritual realms, they are bonded together in one transcendent unity. Indeed, from our souls’ perspective, we are all brothers. It is only our bodies that separate us and prevent us from appreciating this oneness.

This understanding also gives us a key to how to establish unity: by focusing on the spiritual dimensions of our being and downplaying the material ones. As long as we are focused on our own needs and wants, we will look at another person in terms of what we can get from him or her. This is not to say that we will seek to mistreat that other person. On the contrary, we may act very fairly and ethically, but in the long run, what’s going to concern us in our relationship is how that relationship will benefit me, what will I get from it. When, by contrast, we look beyond our necessities and desires and focus on the G‑dly nature that permeates all of us, we are able to look at the other person for who he or she is and be sensitive to their needs.

Indeed, when we are conscious of another person’s spiritual source and see him in need, we feel a strong imperative to help him, for it is painful to see how that material need holds him back from realizing that spiritual potential and being the person who in truth he could be.

Looking to the Horizon

The holy text Meor Einayim notes that the verse: “A star will shout forth from Jacob” is interpreted in many sources as referring to Mashiach, but in the Jerusalem Talmud is interpreted as referring to every individual Jew. There is, however, no contradiction between these two interpretations. For within every Jew, there is a spark of Mashiach.

This enables us to understand why the message of redemption can be communicated to every person. A person will identify with the redemption, because the desire and the potential for redemption lie at the core of his own being.

At that time, the true unity and bond between all mankind will surface. An awareness of G‑d’s transcendental oneness will pervade all existence and this will produce a higher and more inclusive conception of unity than is available at present.

Since Mashiach is not a dream of the far off future, but a potential that is accessible at present, at least in microcosm, we can experience a foretaste of this love at present. As we project this love to others, it will awake the spark of Mashiach in their souls and encourage them to spread the ripples of redemption further.