September 29, 2009 | 12:11 pm
Posted by Rabbi Barry Gelman
Recently I have been studying the works of Abraham Joshua Heschel’s forbearers. His namesake, Avraham Yehoshua Heschel, the Apter Rebbe, was known as the Oheiv Yisrael – The Lover of Israel. He was one of the main spokesman for Chassidut after the death of the Baal Shem Tov.
Although he was the Rebee of other towns after Apt (Opatów), we was so enamored by the people of that town and they by him that he promised to always be known by the name of their town, hence he is known as the Apter Rav.
He is known as the Oheiv Yisrael because he would teach that one who loves all Jews will be glorified before the heavenly court. In fact, before he died he instructed his children to have only one phrase written on his tombstone – “Oheiv Yisrael”
The book that contains the bulk of his teaching is also called Oheiv Yisrael.
The Apter Rebbe was well known for giving others the benefit of the doubt, this was one of the ways he practiced loving all Jews. This is a difficult task as the courtrooms of our mind often are quick to find fault with others.
I often wonder if Rabbi Heschel’s love of humankind was in some kindled by the Oheiv Yisrael’s love of Israel. Maybe Rabbi Heschel just took it one step further. Rabbi Heshcel could be called the Oheiv Olam - The Lover of the World.
The following advice on how to judge others favorably is from Orchot Tzadikim , written in the 15 century. The author is unknown.
Sounds like good advice to me.
The humble person judges everyone favorably.
As an example:
When they asked one of the pious, “How is it that you deserved to
become a master among your contemporaries?”
He responded, “Because everyone whom I saw I assumed him to be
better than I.
“If he was wiser than I, I said:
He is also more reverent of God than I because of his great wisdom.
“And if he was lesser in wisdom than I, I said:
He [sins] unknowingly, but I [sin] knowingly.
“And if he was more advanced in years than I, I said:
His merits exceed my merits.
“And if I was older than he, I said:
His transgressions are fewer than my transgressions.
“And if he was my equal in wisdom and years, I said:
His conscience is clearer before God [“his heart is better to God”] than
my conscience, since I know the sins I have done, but I do not know the
sins he has done.
“And if he was richer than I, I said that he does more charitable deeds
than I do.
“And if he was poorer than I, I said that he is more contrite and more
subdued in spirit than I and he is better than I.
“And through this thinking I would honor all people and I would defer to
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