A day of baseless love

“Yom Ahavat Hinam” is a day of Jews showing their love for each other through simple acts of kindness.

By AKIVA GERSH
June 3, 2013 21:29
4 minute read.
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You know that feeling you get when you’re driving in the morning, in a major rush, and someone lets you go in front of them? It’s such a simple act of kindness, but doesn’t it make you feel so good? Don’t you feel connected to that person in that moment, no matter who they are or how different from you they may seem? When we are the ones doing those small acts of kindness for someone else, we feel empowered and believe that we actually have the ability to help the world become a better place.

That’s the idea of “Yom Ahavat Hinam” set to take place on Friday, June 7, Erev Rosh Hodesh Tammuz.

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While on some level it’s a form of social action in response to the increased social, religious and political divide in Israel society today, it’s not at all your typical protest or rally. It’s simply a day of Jews showing their love for each other through simple acts of kindness.

About five times a year, I visit the Mount Herzl cemetery with my students from Alexander Muss High School, where I teach Jewish and Israel history.

We visit the graves of the people who dedicated their lives to creating and maintaining a home for Jews in this world. One of those graves is Yitzhak Rabin’s.

By Rabin’s grave, I share with my students that I grew up in a suburb outside of New York City with a large secular Jewish population, and only 10 minutes away there was a very large ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

When I was younger, I tell them, I thought the worst of religious Jews and believed all of the negative stereotypes about them that you could imagine.



They probably didn’t think so highly of me either, or of the rest of the secular Jews in my town, but, on some level, it didn’t really matter because our lives never met, they never mingled and they never had to.

We could live our separate lives forever and we would never have to even talk to one another, despite the fact that we were technically part of the same people.

In Israel we don’t have that “luxury.” With the creation of the State of Israel came an influx of Jews not only from different lands, but with different ways of being Jewish and different understandings and expectations of what a Jewish state would look like. Unlike in America or other countries, we don’t have the option of ignoring each other. Here, we’re forced to live together, driving on the same roads, shopping at the same stores and creating a government and a society that reflects our diverse hopes and dreams for the Jewish people. And we’ve learned election after election and issue after issue how incredibly challenging that is.

But this challenge also reminds us not only of the historic opportunity but also of the historic responsibility we have to fix an ancient wrongdoing of our people, that of sinat hinam, which 2,000 years ago, in this same land, led to the destruction of Jerusalem and scattered us among the nations of the world for a long and painful exile.

Sitting across from Rabin’s grave I end by telling my students that the Rambam would view the situation in Israel today as a perfect chance for Am Yisrael to do perfect teshuva (repentance).

In his writings, he teaches that the highest form of teshuva is achieved when a person finds himself in the exact same situation in which he previously did something wrong, but this time overcomes his negative inclination and doesn’t do it again. Only in this past century has the situation been recreated where Jews once again live on this soil and, once again, live in a society made up of an overwhelming number of conflicting ideas of what it means to be a Jew living in a Jewish homeland. And because of that, we have the chance, the perfect chance, to not repeat our past mistakes and to achieve complete teshuva on the national level.

So I invite you to take part in “Yom Ahavat Hinam” on Friday, June 7, Erev Rosh Hodesh Tammuz. The idea is simple but significant. On that day perform an act of kindness for at least one other Jew, ideally someone who comes from a different religious, political or lifestyle perspective than you and show them through your actions that you honor and love them simply because they are your fellow Jew. It’s a grassroots effort to help us change the way we look at each other.

Let someone with only a few grocery items pay before you at the supermarket before they even ask.

Offer a ride to someone trying to get home for Shabbat.

Bring some watermelon to someone working outside in the hot sun. Be creative and have fun with it. Most importantly, do it with ahavat hinam.

The writer teaches Jewish history at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel program in Hod HaSharon (www.amhsi.org) and is the co-founder of an on-theroad college study abroad program in Israel called Tiyul B’Aretz (www.tiyulbaretz.org). He lives with his family in Pardes Hanna.

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