Day 13 of the Omer

הַחֲסִידִים שָׁאֲלוּ אֶת אַדְמוּ"ר הַזָּקֵן: אֵיזֶה עֲבוֹדָה נַעֲלֵית יוֹתֵר, אַהֲבַת ה' אוֹ אַהֲבַת יִשְׂרָאֵל. וַיַּעַן: אַהֲבַת ה' וְאַהֲבַת יִשְׂרָאֵל שְׁתֵּיהֶן כְּאַחַת חֲקוּקוֹת בְּנִשְׁמָתוֹ רוּחוֹ וְנַפְשׁוֹ שֶׁל כָּל אֶחָד מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל. וּמִקְרָא מָלֵא דִבֵּר הַכָּתוּב אָהַבְתִּי אֶתְכֶם אָמַר ה', הֲרֵי דִּגְדוֹלָה אַהֲבַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, דְּאוֹהֵב מַה שֶׁהָאָהוּב אוֹהֵב.

Chassidim once asked the Alter Rebbe: “Which kind of Divine service is superior — cultivating a love of G‑d or cultivating a love for one’s fellow Jew?”

[The Alter Rebbe] answered: “Loving G‑d and loving one’s fellow Jew are both equally engraved in the soul1 of every Jew. Nevertheless, it is explicitly stated:2 ‘I have loved you,’ declares G‑d.’ From this we can conclude that the love for one’s fellow Jew is superior, because it involves loving what one’s Beloved loves.”3

Living as a Chassid

The letter from which the above teaching is taken describes a farbrengen of chassidim at which the Mitteler Rebbe was present. During the farbrengen, one of the chassidim raised his glass and said, “May G‑d enable me to attain a genuine love for Him!”

Shortly afterwards, the Mitteler Rebbe raised his glass and said, “May G‑d enable me to attain a genuine love of my fellow Jew!”

The debate among the chassidim over which service was more elevated lasted for several weeks. Ultimately, they posed the question to the Alter Rebbe, who gave the answer above.