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Leading with Love


Dear Friends,

We are approaching Tisha B’Av, the commemoration of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and the saddest day of the Jewish year. Our Sages tell us that the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed because of sinat chinam – baseless hatred. Rather than banding together to fight the enemy, Jews turned against each other. There was no compassion, kindness, or solidarity. Factions of Jews even let others suffer and starve, setting fire to food supplies while the Beit Hamikdash burned.

What have we learned from the mistakes of our past? Today, too, divisiveness is the norm and people are pulling away from each other. We find it easy to be dismissive of others and to disregard their thoughts and feelings. Finding common ground has become increasingly difficult, leading to feelings of anger and isolation. Sinat chinam pulls us under like quicksand. How can we combat this polarization?

We can take a lesson from the Libenu clients and Lev Respite children, who exemplify ahavat chinam – unconditional love: Jacob, who values friendship and accepts people without preconditions; Chuck, who greets everyone with a warm smile and a cheerful disposition; Michel, who has an endearing alliterative nickname for everyone he meets; Gabe, who greets visitors with a “thumbs up”; Shmuel, who befriends the lonely; Josh, whose smile melts your heart; Heather, who welcomes people with “I love you” in sign language; Samantha, who will make you feel like you are one of the family. Each is unique in the way that he or she expresses love, but all give ahavat chinam with full hearts.

We can follow their examples to create a better world by emulating their kindness, acceptance, and love, without prerequisite. We can extend the ideals of inclusion and belonging for all. We can be as enthusiastically welcoming as they are. We can see past our differences and value the humanity that connects us all. Most importantly, we can show the kind of kindness and compassion for others that knows no bounds.

May these efforts usher in an era of peace and happiness, a time when Tisha B’Av becomes a celebration instead of a day of mourning.

Wishing you and yours a Shabbat shalom and an easy and meaningful fast,

Shana Erenberg, PhD


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