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Is it really "the thought" that counts?

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

A cornerstone of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s 10-point mitzvah campaign is the commandment of ahavat Yisrael, which means loving every Jew like yourself. This mitzvah entails being available to assist any Jew, both in their material and spiritual needs, regardless of their location.


Moreover, being there for your fellow Jew extends beyond mere actions. While helping and offering kind words are important, even thinking positively about others is part of this mitzvah of loving your neighbor as yourself.


From a halachic perspective, a person's thoughts can have significant consequences. This is evident in various laws associated with the Temple in Jerusalem, particularly concerning offerings and the mindset during sacrifice. The concept is particularly noticeable in the unique laws of "nullification."


In the realm of kashrut, there are instances where a forbidden item becomes mixed with a permissible one, or when a piece of meat accidentally falls into a dairy dish or vice versa. There are specific regulations concerning when the offending item can be nullified, allowing the remaining food to still be consumed. Typically, the 1/60 rule applies, meaning that if the forbidden item is less than 1/60 of the permissible item, it becomes nullified and ceases to retain its independent existence.


The nullification threshold is higher when dealing with "terumah." When an item is designated as terumah—a gift to a Kohen—it can only be consumed by a Kohen and is forbidden to others. If this designated item becomes mixed with regular food to the point where it is indistinguishable, everything in the mixture becomes forbidden for non-Kohanim. However, when there is 100 times as much regular food as the consecrated item, the terumah is nullified and no longer reserved for the Kohen.


In an intriguing twist to this law, the Talmud discusses a scenario involving a consecrated fig falling into a pile of 100 non-consecrated figs, half of which are black and the other half are white. If the fallen fig matches the color of either half, it would not be nullified since it is visually distinct and lacks the 1/100 threshold. However, if the owner did not know the color of the fallen fig, perceiving all figs as the same, it becomes nullified in the pile, and non-Kohanim can eat it.


This example underscores the significance of a person's thoughts. The color of the fig and the composition of the pile remain unchanged, but the fig's nullification depends on whether the person was aware of its color. What one person knows can prevent nullification, while another person's lack of knowledge leads to nullification. It emphasizes that one's thoughts can make all the difference.


Recognizing the importance of thoughts and their impact on halachic reality informs us of how our thoughts can also influence the well-being of others. Positive thinking has proven psychological benefits for oneself, but based on the above example, it can also affect others.


Hence, the Rebbe's promotion of ahavat Yisrael as a fundamental aspect of Chabad's activities extends beyond mere actions. The Rebbe taught that to genuinely be there for every Jew, we must not only act with love but also cultivate loving thoughts. In our minds, we should harbor only positive thoughts about our fellow Jews, which will benefit them spiritually and materially.


As we commemorate the Rebbe's yahrtzeit this week, we are reminded that the exponential growth of the Chabad movement stems from the Rebbe's care for each individual. The Rebbe's focus was not on expanding the movement, constructing large buildings, or massive endowment funds. Rather, the Rebbe's emphasis lay in caring for each and every Jew and imparting this responsibility to his emissaries: Do good for others, speak kindly about them, and, most importantly, train yourself to always think positively about every Jew you encounter.

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