We live in a cynical world. The vast majority of attention is paid to external appearances and little true value is lent to things like simplicity, kindness, sincerity, and happiness. As individuals we might recognize that much of the hubbub of modern life can be hollow, but since everyone else seems to be impressed by it, we tend to jump right in too.

The core and essence of Judaism, which is seeing the best in every person, and every thing, can be hard to take seriously in today's day and age. It is difficult to put our own worries and struggles on the side for a moment to think about someone else's predicament. How often do we think, 'If he/she would only behave in a proper manner, then I would respect them. But how can I respect them now?'

Yet as Jews we are charged with the Mitzvah of loving others as we love ourselves. We were given the mandate to view every human being as a brother or sister. Just as we celebrate our own triumphs, love our own children and forgive our own misdoings, so too must we do for others, however challenging that may be.

In this week's Torah portion we read how Jacob, the third and last patriarch of the Jewish people, gives a final blessing to each of his children before passing away. An interesting twist to his blessings is his comparison of each child to an animal: Joseph to an ox, Benjamin to a wolf, Judah to a lion etc.

Why? There are many reasons, but here's one:

The primary difference between the human and the animal is the human mind: our power of intellect. Of course us humans have natural instincts (like animals) such as anger, lust, jealousy etc. But it is in our minds that the human spirit resides. It is there that we comprehend that even though we might have unethical desires, we must act appropriately nonetheless. It is this that makes a human, a human.

The noble aspirations of the human spirit however are only part of us. We must take into account our instinctive natures as well. In the world of pure intellect every human is nearly identical. We all understand that we should help others. We all understand that we should always be understanding, compassionate and kind. In that we are nearly homogeneous.

True acceptance of another person is accepting them as a whole. To accept them means to accept their faults - their 'animal' side - too.

At the end of his life, Jacob turns to his children and tells them that although they are all lofty, spiritual individuals, each a founder of a tribe of Israel, they should not only appreciate each other's intellectual, idealistic side, but embrace each other entirely, faults and all.

Ahavat Yisrael, or love for our fellow Jew, even for one who has has erred, is the linchpin of Judaism itself. Without it there is no Torah, no Mitzvahs, no Israel, nothing. And just as one's true love for one's own family only enhances their kindness towards humanity at large, so too does Ahavat Yisrael only enhance our love and  for every human being.

Rabbi Avrohom