Out of loss, empathy and compassion. Out of our own pandemic experiences, fresh insights about how to treat people; the goal to uplift them. For a broken world, redemption.
The 19th century Sfas Emes, among others, comments that just as the second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred, the third and final Temple will, with G-d’s help, be built because of love of others. Rabbi Eliezer Papo reminds us in his book “Pele Yoetz” that “there is no sin of all the sins like hatred,” because it causes us to quarrel, to celebrate the misfortune of others, and to transgress commandments such as “v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha,” love your neighbor as yourself.
Judging others favorably, treating others how we’d like to be treated; these are practices that can help us finally eradicate baseless hatred from our midst and condition us to love baselessly instead. We are better equipped to do these things after collectively experiencing so much trauma and loss. We have always been masters at justifying negative emotions toward others; we can adapt that same enthusiasm to convince ourselves of reasons to love others.
The heart is a muscle. This year is an opportunity to create new muscle memory, conditioning “baseless love” by judging others and ourselves favorably and remembering the golden rule. It is a year to practice compassion for the person who cut ahead of you in the checkout line, whether it helps to imagine that they might be having a tough day or simply to briefly remember the year and a half we have all had, and choose, in that moment, to be someone’s relief. We may find that this workout creates love and neighborly bonds that are not so “baseless” after all. “Pele Yoetz” suggests that all hatred is gratuitous, and I would like to suggest that conversely, no love is truly gratuitous among people, all worthy and created in the image of G-d.
Maayan Schoen graduated from Torah Day School and Atlanta Jewish Academy and studied in the Migdal Oz Beit Midrash for Women in Israel. She is a junior at Yale University.