Loving Others Unconditionally

Yael Eckstein  |  December 22, 2020

mother daughter hugging. The LORD said to Moses, “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people.” — Numbers 31:1-2
Mother and teenage daughter giving each other a big hug.

Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. — Genesis 45:14

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Vayigash, which means “and he approached,” from Genesis 44:18–47:27.

I came across a story written by a woman who works as a cashier at Wal-Mart. She wrote about a young couple whose credit card was declined when they tried to pay for their merchandise — mostly baby items — at her register. The husband tried card after card, and his wife became visibly shaken. As they started to take things out of their bags, the man behind them took out his credit card and swiped it. When the cashier told the couple what the man had done, they cried tears of joy as they thanked him, and everyone around them was moved to tears as well.

In a time when our world seems to be filled with so much animosity, it is heartwarming to see such unconditional love between complete strangers.

Loving Others Unconditionally 

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the reunion between Joseph and Benjamin — the only two sons of Jacob whose mother was Rachel. When they finally reunited and embraced, the two brothers shed many tears. However, according to Jewish tradition, the bothers did not weep from joy. Rather, they shed tears of sorrow.

Why sorrow? According to Jewish teaching, while the brothers embraced, they both experienced prophecies. Joseph foresaw the destruction of the two Temples that would be built in Benjamin’s tribal territory, while Benjamin prophesied the destruction of the Tabernacle that would be built in Joseph’s tribal territory.

The Temples were destroyed because of the sin of baseless hatred between people. Joseph and Benjamin foresaw that the hatred and jealousy that resulted in the selling of Joseph would surface repeatedly and bring unimaginable pain and suffering to all of Israel.

As long as the Temple is not rebuilt, the Jewish sages teach it means that we are still guilty of harboring unwarranted hatred toward others. And there is only one antidote for the disease of hating others for no good reason – and that is loving others for no good reason.

This is the time to turn jealousy into empathy and judgment into compassion. We need to override petty disagreements with deep caring and respect. It’s time to love each other unconditionally and bring an end to all suffering in the world.

Your Turn:

This week, do something kind for a complete stranger, for no reason other than the fact that he or she is a child of God.

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