The Jewish Spirit Journal
A Journal of Jewish Mysticism and Spirituality
Vol. 1, No. 2 Feb. 1999

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

What We See

On Passover night, Rabbi Simha Bunim of Pshis'ha, made a Seder for his close disciples. Visitors who arrived in Pshis'ha were sent to various homes in the town for the Seder. When one of these visitors got to the home that had been arranged for him, his host lamented that, unfortunately, he didn't have enough food for his own family. So this guest had to return to the Rebbe's house to attend his Seder.

In the middle of the Seder, he noticed that a peasant walked in and began to talk to the Rebbe in Polish! At one point, they began talking about the state of the crops-- in the middle of the Seder! When the visitor asked the holy Rabbi of Vorki, one of the great disciples of Rebbe Bunim, who this person was, the Vorker replied, "You see one person, I see someone else, and the Rebbe sees someone altogether different."

To Love Yourself

People occasionally remark that the mitzvah is to "love your neighbor as yourself"-- and that one should love oneself. There certainly seems to be something deep about this thought, which also appeals to our generation, but one so rarely reads anything about it. One may see a comment here and there in the tradition or from a contemporary teacher. Hillel said: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am for myself alone, what am I?"

In his wonderful book Netivot Shalom, the current Slonimer Rebbe in Jerusalem, sometimes mentions that one must love God, people, and oneself. He says this a number of times in passing, but with no further elucidation. We all know that there is a bad "self-love," but we intuitively feel that there is a good self-love or self-esteem, without which nothing is possible. I have often had thoughts about this, but all undeveloped and fragmentary. For example, I feel that when a non-believer loses his native faith in himself, after encountering crises in life that a non-God viewpoint cannot overcome, he may eventually rediscover faith -- in God. Faith in oneself and faith in God are not dissimilar. The difference is in what one understands as one's "true self." The mystic tradition explains that our soul is a "part" of God, that God is our true Self.

Someone should write something, from a Jewish perspective, about this deep topic, of loving oneself. It would require deep psychological and spiritual wisdom. If people will send in their thoughts about this-- their references to traditional teachings and also their own wisdom, I'll try to collect and edit it and put it back on this web site, for any future author to draw on the material.

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Copyright 2004-2005, Yitzhak Buxbaum. All rights reserved.