Perhaps one of the most well-known and universally accepted Torah commandments is “You shall love your fellow like yourself” a commandment found in this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Kedoshim. When we take a look at the Torah portion, however, we see that this Mitvzah does not stand alone. There are in fact several more specific commandments that lead up to these words that perhaps quantify a bit more, what the Torah is referring to when it speaks about loving another.
In the verse that precedes this, the Torah states Do not hate your brother in your heart, you shall reprove your fellow and do not bear sin because of him (which the commentaries explain mean that you shall not embarrass him). By juxtaposing the commandment to reprove your fellow right next to the prohibition to hate your brother in you heart, the Torah teaches us a lesson that is pivotal for human relationships and effective communication.
There is a beautiful verse in Mishlei that states “As water reflects a face to a face so to one person’s heart is reflected in another.” The real meaningful messages we want others to accept don’t travel with sound waves. They travel from heart to heart, from soul to soul.
The great Rebbi R’ Simcha Bunim (of P’shischa) asks the question, why is it that the verse compares the reflection of hearts to water and not simply a mirror. He answers by noting a very important difference between the reflection of water and the reflection of a mirror. Water only reflects things that get close to it. As long as there is a distance, the reflection isn’t seen. So too, we can only expect that the feelings in our heart will be reflected by our loved ones, once we have minimized the space between us and them, and brought them closer.
This is the secret to positive and meaningful communication between spouses, and between parents and children. From time to time sharp words must be said, but if we would first take two minutes to remind ourselves how much we love this person, or what virtues this person has, we can actually see that our message will be heard with much more acceptance. How much more so, if we actually preempt our rebuke with a brief expression of those feelings! However, if what we are feeling inside is, “he is lazy, she is so irresponsible, how annoying, etc.” than even if we try to cushion are rebuke with some superficial kind words, our message will be rejected and that same negative energy that we are giving off will be reflected right back onto us. This creates a transparent but very firm wall of negativity that separates us and the person who we truly love.
Our sages teach that “words that are spoken from the heart, enter the heart”. to really inspire someone, to really touch someone’s heart, to really cheer someone up who is going through a difficult time, to really make a person feel loved, or feel joy, we can’t just talk the talk, we must fully be there with them in a much deeper way. So speak less. Feel more. And let the love and joy in your heart be reflected in theirs!