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On Love

by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

Transcribed by Rivka Haut for Connections Magazine, Brooklyn, 5745.

Listen to me, sweetest friends. Just to talk about loving people, loving G*d, about healing people, you touch the center of the world, the center of life. Because, what is the most G*dlike thing you can do to another human being?

How does G*d give us life? Rav Nachman calls it “noam elyon” – high sweetness. There is nothing sweeter in the world than loving somebody. Even in this world, it’s sweet. Rav Nachman says that heavenly sweetness is coming down into this world every second, every billionth of a second. It’s flowing down. The only thing is, you must have the sense to pick it up.

There are two kinds of love in the world. Can you imagine, I am walking down the street, don’t feel any love in my heart, not hatred, not love – nothing. Suddenly, I meet a very beautiful girl and I fall in love with her. That means, I needed something to touch me, to bring about that I suddenly have felt love. This is the love after Creation.

The Torah says, in Psalms, “olam chesed yebaneh” – G*d created the world with love. That does not mean that there is a world, and G*d loves that world. That is already the love after Creation. It means, G*d had so much love in His heart that He had to create the world.

Let’s talk about children. There are two kinds of love you have for children. There is a love of after they are born; they’re born, they are your children, and you love them. But, you only created them because you have so much love in your heart. This is like the love of before creation.

Imagine, some people just get together without loving each other, and children are born. They are so angry, because they are missing the most important part – you only create with love, because G*d created the world with love.

Now, I want you to know the deepest depths. Remember, when G*d made a covenant with our father Abraham, Abraham circumcised himself, and on the third day, he was really in pain. The Talmud says that the third day is somewhat dangerous. So, the sun came out very strong, and there were no guests. Abraham sent his servants to find him a guest. How can one live without guests in his house? But, there were no guests. So, three angels came.

Abraham was welcoming guests all his life, the kind of guest who really needed to eat and to sleep. The Torah, however, does not record that. The Torah records that he took in three angels, who really didn’t need to eat. The Talmud says that they just pretended they were eating.

Abraham, after he entered the Covenant with G*d, didn’t need a poor man to bring out the love in him, which is the love after Creation. After he entered the Covenant with G*d, he was so G*d-like, he just had to do good, like G*d. He was not in a state where, if you see a person you love them, you see a poor man and want to give him food. He was looking for a poor man. He was looking to love somebody.

The Talmud says that G*d came to heal Avraham; that means that G*d came to give him the secret of healing. Because, if you remember, the Covenant with Noah was only that the world will always exist. Noah was not concerned with how many people will live and how many will die – as long as there will always be a world, there will be survivors. The Covenant with Abraham was that some day the world will be fixed, some day the world will be healed, the world will be cured. So, after G*d made the Covenant with Abraham G*d came to give him the secret of healing. The secret of healing is like creating the world.

There has to be not the kind of love there is after Creation. There has to be the kind of love before Creation.

G*d has many names. G*d has the name “Hashem”, and the name “Elokim”. “In the beginning, Elokim created…” This is basically the name of justice, of sternness. There has to be “Elokim”, there has to be order – day is day, night is night, winter is winter; there must be order in the universe. When candle-lighting is 4:20, there is nothing you can do about it that’s when it is. You cannot say, listen, I will be able to feel Shabbos better if I rest now and kindle the lights later. You cannot change when Shabbos is. You cannot say, “I am living by the name of “Hashem”, I am infinite.” You are not infinite. Don’t kid yourself. G*d is infinite. The world is not infinite. You are not infinite.

But again, the other side. The finite people are so disgusting, Gevalt, are they disgusting. They are murderers. You can kill somebody. You can say, “This person is a thief – put him in prison. He did this – shoot him.” No mercy. The deepest secret of life is that you have to keep both together. There has to be Absolute order, and also the infinite. Both together. When it comes to educating children, you have to be “Hashem Elokim”. You teach them Day is Day, Night is Night. But, on the other hand, if that is all you teach them, you cripple them. You kill G*d’s name, “Hashem”, inside of them, that infinite name of G*d. You have to teach them both.

G*d forbid, if somebody is sick, he is sick. Have you ever heard people whisper that if somebody is sick, he probably deserves it? People have excuses, people give lectures on why the six million had to be killed. Who are these people? They are murderers! They may not kill people, but they have murder in their hearts. What is their problem? They are not connected to G*d’s infinite name.

Sometimes, we love somebody in a measured love. We want to know how much money her family has, how many degrees she has. This is not love in an infinite way. This is not the love before Creation. Before Creation there was nothing, except for G*d’s infinite love. There was nothing else. Only the infinite.

When you want to cure somebody who is sick, you cannot cure a person with the love of after Creation. When somebody is in pain, somebody is crying, and you tell them they are wrong, you think now is the time to educate them? Especially little children. The adults say: “Why are you crying? Your father hit you? He was probably right.” Sure, he was right. But, if I talk this way to a child, I can’t cure her. I make her sicker. You have to connect them with G*d’s name that existed before there was anything in the world. When I want to cure somebody, it has to be on the level of before Creation. There is nothing there – and there is everything. I want to talk about healing with hands. Basically, our hands are finite. How much can you do with your hands? Everything you can do with them is finite. True? No, it isn’t true. Words are finite. Imagine, I tell a girl I love her very much. So, I told her, with finite words. But, imagine, if, while I tell her, I hold her hand. The hands have the power of giving over something infinite.

The Talmud says that G*d created the world with His hands. There are the hands of before Creation. The hands of before Creation don’t know of any limits, don’t know of anything finite. The hands of before Creation don’t do anything wrong, It’s impossible. On such a high level, evil doesn’t exist.

If I love a girl very much, and I find out she is not so good, and I decide I won’t see her anymore, the problem is not that she is bad, but that I don’t really love her so much. If whatever she did wrong can destroy my love, then my love wasn’t so strong! But, if I really love her, and someone says; “Listen, she is a terrible girl”, I would say: “I don’t care.” It doesn’t mean that I don’t care for her being wrong, but that her doing wrong doesn’t reach the place where I love her. My love is so high, that the wrong she did remains lower, and doesn’t reach the love.

So, there are the hands of before Creation, and there are the hands of after Creation, and there are the hands of Moshiach. “Mikdesh Hashem Koininu Yadecha” – “The Temple of G*d, Your hands will fashion.” The first two temples were built by us, by human beings. The third temple, for which we are waiting, will be rebuilt just by G*d’s hands. Suddenly, it will appear.

There is a kind of healing and there is a kind of love, which takes time. G*d created the world in six days. In six days! But then, sometimes G*d’s hands heal in one second. So, there are two kinds of healing. There is the healing of the six days of Creation. With all the being infinite, it still took six days. When the Messiah comes, the hands that will rebuild the holy temple will do so in a second. When you love somebody very much, you can hold their hand and they will sense if it is the hands of before Creation, or the hands after Creation, or, are they the hands of Moshiach? Of the third temple? Children are carried in ones’ hands; they are so connected to hands. Some children grow up with the hands of after Creation, and some grow up with the hand of when Moshiach is coming.

Have you ever seen sometimes when a child is crying, and you pat her head and try to soothe her, and she still cries? Sometimes, you put your hands on her head, and she stops crying. It doesn’t take any time – she is suddenly smiling. It is Moshiach’s hands. It doesn’t take any time.

Some people do not have even a taste of the Infinite. Do you know who are the lonely, broken people? They don’t have a taste of the All. Some people don’t have the All, but, for once in their lives, they had a taste of the All.

Imagine, I love my wife very much, and I buy her an apartment in New York one in Paris, one in Israel. I give her a lot of things. One day, I was praying at the Holy Wall, and, while I was praying, a little stone fell down from one of the Holy stones. I picked it up, and I brought my wife that stone. This is All. So much deeper. Sometimes, I give my child many things. But, where is the All?

The Talmud says that G*d’s presence, the Shechinah, is above the head of a sick person. This has millions of meanings. When a person is sick, what do they need? They don’t need little things. They need the All.

When it comes to words, you can only utter one word after another. When it comes to hearing, you can only hear one thing at a time. The Gemarah says, “Trei Kolei Lo Nishmaain” – two voices cannot be heard clearly at the same time. You can hear only one word after another, one. One voice after another. But, when it comes to seeing, you can see many things at once. Seeing is connected to the All.

When do people cry? When I miss particulars, I don’t cry. When it touches my All, my eyes, then I cry. When you love somebody very much, you look in their eyes. You don’t look at their ears, only their eyes. Eyes are so deep. With some people, when you look at their eyes, you see only dollar bills. With others, when you look in their eyes, you see G*d’s presence.

This is an Ishbitzer Torah. Animals eat exactly what they need – they don’t overeat. Why is it that we human beings don’t know limits, not only in food, but in everything? Why is that? Because, spiritually, I can reach beyond myself. What is so special about this world? In this world, everything is open. So much so that yesterday, although I was the lowest person in the world, today I can reach the highest level. Yesterday I had a fight with someone. Today we can be great friends. This world has something that is not finite. If you ever thought that heaven is infinite, you are mistaken. Heaven has the finiteness of heaven. Heaven is also finite. You know what really is infinite? This world! Right here, in the chair we are sitting on – this world is infinite.

There is a Torah from the Jikavor. The Jikavor says, the soul in heaven, before I was born, when I was dwelling in heaven, was beautiful, but – who needed me? Nobody needed me, and I didn’t need anybody else. In heaven, who needs friends? Friends can’t do anything for you. But, only in this world can you be a friend to somebody, and somebody can be a friend to you. Some days, I can walk on the street and hear somebody cry, and you know where I can reach in one second? Beyond myself. Let’s assume if I work hard, I can reach a certain spiritual height. Let’s say I’ll be a million miles high. But then, there can be one moment when I am eternally high – beyond everything. So, the Ishbitzer says, every person has an absolute drive to reach beyond, to be infinite. The only thing is – if I don’t know how to handle it, I want more food, more money, more clothes. You have this drive.

The question is, there is “le-eiteh” – stuffing. What are you stuffing your self with – to be a better friend, to love people more, or are you stuffing your self with yet another good time? So, he says, what Hashem did was to take a Tzaddik, a holy man, and put him in charge of “le-eiteh.” What are holy people doing in the world? To let the world know, don’t put your drive for the infinite in stupid things. You should be searching for that absolute stuffing yourself, reaching beyond yourself, every second.

When somebody is sick, they get in touch with the deepest depths of their life. What are they missing? If you ask a sick person if he wants to live, he’ll say yes. Why does he want to life? He is crying, why didn’t I reach beyond myself? I had such an opportunity, why didn’t I do that? Why wasn’t I infinite? What are friends for? What does it mean to love somebody? It means that person puts me in touch with the Infinite, to reach beyond myself. A wedding begins when the groom covers the face of the bride. That means he is telling the bride that, because of her, he is becoming infinite. The eyes are infinite. I can reach even beyond the All; what I thought was All, is not.

When somebody is sick, the Torah says, our holy fathers had “Ba kol mikol kol” – they had the All. You know what Avraham taught the world? Before Avraham, there were a lot of holy people, but they taught the world that you can reach beyond yourself. Avraham is “bakol mikol kal”, deeper. If you have the All, you are so full. If you have everything in the world, but the All is missing, qevalt are you empty. You are aching.

I have seen people who have everything – family, money. But, they are broken. I have seen people who have nothing, no money, but they have the All, they can reach beyond themselves.

When Jacob had a dream, he dreamt that there is a ladder going up to heaven. A ladder is finite – it has a beginning and an end. Even heaven is finite. But, then he saw “Vehenei Hashem Nitzav Alav” – G*d was standing above him. Do you know what he saw? That you can reach beyond yourself. You can do one thing, and suddenly, you are something else.

When we see people crying, at that moment they are open for the All. At that moment, they are ready to reach beyond themselves. When the Holy Temple was destroyed, it says “Aynai, Aynai, yorda mayim” – my eyes can’t stop crying. What is the Temple all about? How can G*d be limited to one place?

There are many people who say, “I am infinite I cannot limit myself to one religion.” What’s their problem? Between Infinite nothing and Infinite something, there is such a thin line. Gevalt, is it thin.

You know, when you love somebody very much, you sit under a tree for an hour, and you know what you experience? Not the infiniteness of heaven, but G*d’s infiniteness, which is only in this world. You can do a favor to one person, just be close to one person, and see what you experience; G*d’s infiniteness, which is only in this world. Esau comes to us and says, let’s face it, you know what G*d is all about? Do this, do that. He is holding a stick over us. I can’t stand G*d’s stick. G*d makes me so finite. In order to get out of it, I stuff myself. You know what to answer him back? You want to be infinite? When you pass by a street, and see one poor man dying from hunger, give him all the money you have. Be Infinite – just one person. When you pray to G*d, don’t look at the clock. Be Infinite.

When you have a chance to heal one person, you are not healing just one person. It’s not finite. At that moment you can reach beyond yourself, reaching that love of G*d which was before Creation. Infinite. When you walk up to a person and give them a good word, when someone is heartbroken and you give them a good word, when you utter some words – sometimes they are your words, sometimes they are Moshiach’s words. In one second, you can cure that person, you can give him back his self-confidence.

The world understands today that you cannot cure the body without the soul. What does that mean? You cannot cure their finite parts if you also cannot cure their infiniteness.

What is my soul? My soul has this deep longing, because my soul knows that I am here in this world to reach beyond myself. I want something so deep, so glorious.

You know friends, sometimes children are so angry at their parents, because all their parents talk to them about is the finite part of them – be a doctor, make money, have two cars. Children feel, how come you never talk to me about something deep, something holy? Where is the Infinite?

Sometimes, parents and children have those moments that are just Infinite. You know, it is possible that somebody gives me a million dollars. I like them. But, one person gave me one handshake, and I love him forever, because, the million dollars was finite – the handshake was infinite. You know, sweetest friends, the closer we get to Moshiach’s coming, the stronger the desire gets to reach beyond ourselves.

Basically, medicine is the most finite science in the world. Somebody’s body is sick you cure the body. If the feet are sick, you cure the feet. Now, something is happening to the world. They feel that if the feet are sick, the pain is felt not just in the feet, but all over. The whole person must be cured, not just the feet. I can walk with my feet two blocks, and I was finite. I can walk with my feet to do somebody a favor and I was Infinite.

You know, friends, sometimes a person needs just a finite friendship. Sometimes a person absolutely needs an infinite friendship. Sometimes children come home from school and they need just a peanut butter sandwich. Sometimes, they need an infinite peanut butter sandwich.

The deepest secret of life is, if you are connected to a person only on the level of after Creation – you don’t get it. If you are connected to them on the level of before Creation, you have a Covenant with G*d, you are like Avraham Aveinu.

Before Abraham entered the Covenant with G*d, Covenant meaning I am completely given over to G*d in an infinite way, to serve G*d every second – before Avraham entered the Covenant he knew that if he saw a poor person he had to give them food, and a place to stay. After the Covenant, he had a different kind of welcoming guests. He knew that if a person has no home, he needs more than a place to stay. He knew that a person who has nothing needs everything. Suddenly, Avraham Aveinu realized that a person who has no home, nothing, has vessels to receive everything. And, when the angels who were greeted by Avraham told him that he will have children, suddenly Avraham realized that a child needs everything, everything!

I want to bless you and I want to bless all the people who heal people. We are all sick. When a person is, G*d forbid, a little bit sick, when things go wrong in our lives – at that moment, we have a vessel for everything. It says of the Holy Land: “Eretz kol be” – a land that has everything. We were 2,000 years in exile, and G*d didn’t give the Holy Land back to us. You know when we suddenly had vessels for the Holy Land? When we walked through gas chambers. We had nothing any more. There was nothing left. Nothing.

We have to see the Holy Land – G*d should give it to us completely. We still think we have something, we think we have Western civilization, we have the U.S.A., – we really have nothing. We have only G*d. The moment we have nothing, we become a vessel for everything.

When I have Shabbos, I don’t want a little Shabbos, I want the All of Shabbos – “Yom Shekulo Shabbos” – a day that is All of Shabbos. We don’t need friends just to say hi to. We need friends who are infinite friends. Today we have a chance. G*d opens gates to us. We can reach beyond ourselves.

Remember, Rav Kook says, the sign that moshiach is coming is that our children are so beautiful. The children coming down from heaven now are so beautiful, so special. We have to give them All. I want to bless you and me. There are so many children running around in the world, whose parents don’t have the faintest idea what All is. You and I have to be G*d’s messengers. We say, “Refaeinu Hashem Venerafeh” – “G*d, heal me.” I want to be healed on a G*d level. When something hurts me, I don’t want just to cure my body. I want to cure my life.

A lot of times, we have these infinite moments. But, we are still living in a finite world. There is day, there is night, I have to make a living. I have to go to work. The saddest thing is, we don’t incorporate these infinite moments into our finite lives.

Many people stand by the Holy Wall and cry their eyes out. At that moment, they are infinitely Jewish. But, when they come back, they go back to the way they were. Their “Elokim” and their “Hashem” don’t work together. Because we are finite, G*d created a finite world. G*d wants something more from us, even deeper. Moshiach is coming. G*d’s name that will be in the world will be “Eheye asher Eheye” – “I will be what I will be.” This means, not finite and not infinite. It’s deeper than that.

I want to bless you and me and all of us, when we are learning, we learn one page, but let that page be infinite. But, I want to hold the page in my hands, it’s finite, it’s one page, but it’s infinite. A love letter is just a page but, it’s really infinite. It’s everything.

The world is so broken. The world has vessels for the unbelievable things that are happening. If only all the doctors, all the psychiatrists, would have enough sense, and maybe some day they will, to fix the All, really to fix, to give people the strength to reach beyond themselves … Children want to reach beyond themselves. If you don’t tell your children that they are the most beautiful in the world – don’t talk to them. Then you’ll tell me, but, what about my neighbor’s child? She is also beautiful. Ah, on a finite level, it’s a contradiction, but on an infinite level, my child is the most beautiful in the world, your child is the most beautiful in the world, for G*d, every human being is the most beautiful in the world. Maybe one we shall know that all of us, every single one of us, is the best in the whole world.