fellow Jew as yourself - this is a most fundamental principle in the Torah [Yerushalmi
Nedarim, chapter nine].
One may think himself holy if he goes into
isolation and practices extreme stringencies and extra religious customs. This is false.
For a person to be holy, he must be able to steadily act in a holy manner in all
interactions with his fellow man [Chasam Sofer, Parshas Kedoshim].
One's behavior towards other people can
have enormous good or bad impact on them, whether by active deed or by passive neglect.
The closer a person is to you, the more powerful that the impact on that person tends to
We are in a long and brutal exile because
we had causeless and petty hate and strife between us in the time of the destruction of
the second Holy Temple [Yoma 9a] and we only gave, in our conduct with each other, what
the law required but not more than the law required [Bava Metzia 30b]. We are still paying
the price and we are still guilty of the same. Every generation in which the Holy Temple
is not built, it is as if it were destroyed in that generation [Yerushalmi Yoma 1a].
One's behavior towards other people is one
of the biggest tests of who one is as a person. The Jew is responsible for being an
instrument of good to others and is obligated to guard against doing bad to others. The
Torah's standards, its extensive body of laws and morals, its severity of punishments and
enormity of reward for interpersonal behavior, compels the thinking person to examine,
correct and perfect his interpersonal conduct; to learn all he can about what the Torah
requires and expects; and to keep one's standards on the highest possible level at all
There are many interpersonal commandments
which obligate us to never to do bad such as to guard against damaging; to not harm, pain,
cheat, bear a grudge or neglect others; and to give of ourselves for the good of others.
The Torah [Deuteronomy 13:5] says, "You shall go after the L-rd your G-d." the
gemora [Sota 14a] says that it is impossible for a human being to literally go after G-d.
The verse means that man must follow the traits of G-d, Who does kindness and charity,
such as giving clothing to the impoverished, caring for the sick, comforting mourners and
burying the dead.
Rabbi Chayim Ozer Grodzinsky was the gadol
hador [the Torah law leader of his generation] before World War Two. One of my rovs, Rabbi
Avraham Asher Zimmerman, z'l, was with him for some time while learning in pre-war Europe.
On one occasion, a mourner required a minyan in order to say "Kaddish." Rov
Chayim Ozer said to Rov Zimmerman that one should not refrain from attending the minyan,
trying to excuse himself by saying, "Davening [prayer] is only de'rabonon [from the
sages]." This would be wrong. Helping to make a minyan, especially for a mourner, is
a chesed [kindness] and doing chesed is de'Oraisa [from the Torah, heard personally from
Rabbi Zimmerman's son, Rabbi Eliyahu Zimmerman]. We see from this that, in order to
fulfill the Torah in general and interpersonal obligations in particular, one has to learn
much Torah, have good guidance AND have his priorities straight; so that one can know the
right things to do in practical life. It is easy to be selfish, lazy, mean, indifferent or
to engage in religious activities directed towards G-d at the expense of other people.
There are many of the Torah's 613 commandments and thousands of laws in the Shulchan Aruch
[Code Of Law] and poskim [Torah law authorities] which show the regard, sensitivity, care,
fineness, consideration, honesty and generosity constantly required of us by the Torah
towards our fellow Jews. This includes refraining from doing bad to them as well as
actively doing them good. The Torah's demands and standards in interpersonal areas are
very high, holy and exacting. When confronted with conflicting mitzvos at one time, the
Torah's laws include kedimos [orders of priority or precedence] that tell us what we must
do, when, how, for whom, when to completely stop one thing to do another, when to briefly
interrupt something for another but then go back to the first thing, when to do one thing
and then a second thing also, and many other details.
The reader should seek out a rov or rebbe
for guidance in working on your interpersonal life, especially when there are issues with
two sides to the story which require objectivity, experience, wisdom, Torah knowledge and
This "Interpersonal Relating &
MItzvos" section is designed to furnish many practical and important subjects to help
the Torah Jew to make significant strides towards improving interpersonal behavior and to
maintain the Torah's high standards in order to truly:
* "Turn from bad and do good, seek
peace and pursue it [Psalm 34:15],"
* accord with, "[The Torah's] ways are
pleasant and all of its paths are peace [Proverbs 3:17] and
* "Love your fellow Jew as
yourself" [Leviticus 19:18]."
- Mitzvas Shalom (The Mitzva of Peace)
- Chesed (Active Lovingkindness)
- Derech Eretz (Civil, Polite &
- How To Be Sensitive To & To Not
- Ahavas Yisrael (The Mitzva To Love