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  • Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

The next guy

Rosh Hashanah 

“Hashem Loves Me” is a bumper sticker I once saw on a car. Hmm. The Baal Shem Tov was once addressing a large group of Yidden in the marketplace, as was his custom, and shared this analogy: There was a Yid, Reb Yankel, who knew the entire shas with Rashi and Tosafos by heart. Once, while reviewing a long and complex Tosafos, Reb Yankel’s young son disrupted him with a clever thought he wanted to share. Reb Yankel adoringly and lovingly listened to the little boy’s chochmeleh, although it obviously paled in comparison to what he had been studying. “Hashem does the same for us!” the Baal Shem Tov exclaimed. “Hashem is busy all day studying Torah and tending to His world. He interrupts His learning when a Yid does a mitzvah, runs to daven in shul, or grabs a word of Torah at a shiur to share with his family. Hashem stops to lovingly and adoringly listen to the Yid’s tefillah or notice his mitzvah. He prides Himself in His creation of man and reminds the angels that it was for moments like these that He created man. For unlike angels, man is weighed down by responsibility and yet he makes time to serve Hashem. Like Reb Yankel, Hashem is happy to be interrupted by His beloved child.” What do you think the listeners felt like after this speech?

I’d certainly feel good, and also uplifted and motivated to serve Hashem with joy. Similar to a child who hears from his parents how much they love and adore him. But was the Baal Shem Tov’s message just that—a reminder that Hashem loves us? The Rebbe told[1] this story and pointed out a subtlety. The Baal Shem Tov’s message that day was actually about ahavas Yisroel. A reminder that Hashem loves the Yid next to you! Is it important for me to know that Hashem loves me? Absolutely. But a bumper sticker reminding me that Hashem loves me might be better-placed on the dashboard of my car, facing me, rather than on a bumper sticker, facing the next guy. Otherwise, it’s like a bumper sticker that reads, “I’m a Millionaire.” Whoopedoo. How pretentious. What is gained by others knowing about Hashem’s love for me? A child who goes around announcing that his tatty loves him, is usually self-absorbed, immature or insecure. Society today, compounded by social-media, dictates that I can’t be content without the validation of others. I’m not really a millionaire until you know and validate it for me. Hashem’s love for us should make us feel so secure that we have no need to announce it or have others validate it. So what was the Baal Shem Tov’s intended message? Every Yid should know that Hashem loves the next guy! In which case, it’s time for a bumper sticker that reads, “Hashem Loves You.” This, the Rebbe explains, is why we read the sedra of Nitzavim before Rosh Hashanah. It’s a new year’s message from Hashem. The sedra begins by listing ten different types of Yidden assuring us that we are each beloved regardless of our status. From the sage to the water carrier. This is important for us to know for ourselves but even more important for us to know in view of our fellow Yid. If our father tolerates, loves and adores our siblings, shouldn’t we? Gut Shabbos and a Ksiva V'Chasima Tova, Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier [1] Sicha of parshas Nitzavim, 5718 (1958).

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