Why I love you


Reish Lakish says (Bereishis Rabba 80:7) that Hashem expressed his love of the Jews using three expressions: בדביקה, בחשיקה, ובחפיצה. (Loosely translated, דביקה means that we cling to Him, חשיקה means that He longs for us and חפיצה means that He desires us). But these expressions are originally found in the story of Shechem and Dina.

ר”ל אמר, בג’ לשונות של חבה חבב הקב”ה את ישראל. בדביקה, בחשיקה, ובחפיצה. בדביקה – ואתם הדבקים. בחשיקה – לא מרובכם מכל העמים חשק ה’. ובחפיצה – ואשרו אתכם כל הגוים כי תהיו אתם ארץ חפץ. ואנו למדים אותה מפרשה של רשע הזה. בדביקה – ותדבק נפשו. בחשיקה – שכם בני חשקה נפשו בבתכם. בחפיצה – כי חפץ בבת יעקב 

Asks the Nesivos Shalom, why does the Torah learn about the awesome love that Hashem has for his chosen nation from the deplorable feelings that Shechem had for Dina? The Torah actually calls Shechem’s actions scandalous (נְבָלָ֞ה עָשָׂ֣ה בְיִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל). Can’t we find a more refined place to use as the headquarters of love, rather than the abduction of an innocent young woman?

The Slonimer Rebbe answers by explaining how Shechem’s soul was a very high soul, but I’d like to give my own answer.

Rebbe Nachman tells a story of a certain tzaddik who was overcome with a terrible sense of sadness. Eventually this tzaddik fell so deep into sadness that he found it literally impossible even to moveHe wanted to encourage himself and pull himself up, but nothing could make him happy or inspired. No matter what he tried to be happy about, the Evil One found some reason to make him depressed about it. Finally, after trying everything, he tried to make himself happy by dwelling on the fact that Hashem created him as a Jew. This is certainly a reason to feel immeasurable joy, because the vast difference between the holiness of even the simplest Jew and the impurity of the gentiles is beyond all measure. The sad tzaddik started making himself feel happy about this. He started rejoicing and raising himself little by little. With each passing moment he felt greater joy until he reached such a level of joy that he attained the joy Moses experienced when he ascended to receive the Torah.

The Rebbe’s story is so profound because any happiness from a personal achievement can always be scrutinized and criticized. No matter what the achievement is, there are always shortcomings and deficiencies which can bring sadness. But to be created as a Jew is a gift of Hashem alone. Hashem Himself did it, it’s exclusively the work of God, so there is no lacking in that joy. Regardless of what kind of Jew the person may be, there is certainly an immeasurable difference between himself and the gentiles. So there is always a reason to be happy.

Most people either love themselves or hate themselves based on their personal achievements. Successful people are often egotistical because they imagine that they deserve to be loved for their accomplishments. On the other hand, so much sadness and self-loathing today is a product of people believing that due to their failures, they are underserving of love.

By introducing the expressions of love with the despicable relationship of Shechem and Dina, Hashem is showing us what true love is. He doesn’t love us because we are religious or because we are good Jews. He loves all Jews the same because we are His people. Period. Our spiritual accomplishments are certainly beneficial because they allow us to experience our relationship with Him, but even those with no spiritual accomplishments whatsoever have that same loving relationship. If the Torah introduced us to Hashem’s love with the example of our forefather Issac and Rebecca, then we might mistakenly think that Hashem only loves us when we have the character traits of Rebbeca, who entered her home and instantly performed miracles. So instead the Torah initiates the idea with a seemingly disgraceful type of love, to show that the love can’t be broken by our poor actions.

This point is driven home, as the Slonimer Rebbe also points out, from the fact that every time that the Torah uses an expression of love in the Shechem story, it follows with the words בת יעקב. He loves the daughter of Jacob. Meaning, Hashem loves us because we are His children, not because of any other reason.

I think this lesson is so important to internalize. We need to stop hating ourselves because of our shortcomings and we need to stop idolizing people because of their accomplishments. None of that matters. Everyone of us is lovable. Every one of us!

Barely Moving


Rebbe Nachman tells a story of a certain tzaddik who became so depressed that he couldn’t get out of bed. He tried whatever possible to bring himself joy but everything intensified his depression. Finally, he reminded himself that at least he could be happy that he was created a Jew and it started to work. Because in reality it’s the one thing that we can’t mess up. God made us a Jew and we had nothing to do with it! So he kept meditating on this idea and his joy increased “until he was as happy as Moses was when receiving the tablets”. He started to fly! He was flying millions of miles in higher worlds until it was time to land. When he landed, he realized that although he advanced to unbelievable heights in the other worlds, in this world he only moved a hair’s breadth.

Sometimes we feel impossibly far away from God, and that everything we do just pushes God away more. The Rebbe teaches (תנינא מ״ח) that we need to remember in this low state, that every little movement we make towards God is exceedingly precious to Him. Every ‘insignificant’ movement we make, shoots our soul in the hidden worlds farther than we can ever imagine!

I’m sure we’ve all heard similar words of encouragement before. But let me explain why this lesson is so comforting.

There are two types of people, or better yet there are two types of struggles we all go through. Sometimes we feel so defeated because nothing we do makes a difference at all. And sometimes we feel frustrated that although we do so much and our actions should be ‘changing us’, we end up accomplishing very little.

These negative perceptions couldn’t be farther from the truth. We don’t appreciate the small things we do but God does. Many times we look at our ‘results’ and feel disappointment, but let’s remember that we’re not seeing the whole picture. Nothing goes unnoticed and we’ll be surprised how much we’re truly appreciated!