Anyone can eat shmurah matzah on Pesach, or take a minute to wash their hands before they eat bread, but ahavas Yisroel — the command to love our fellow Jew —is one of the hardest mitzvahs in the Torah, and loving another person as yourself — is that even possible?
Michal Horowitz posed these questions, and then referred to Rabbi Akiva, whose students died as a result of the lack of respect they had for one another.
While the Torah recognizes that due to self-preservation, a person will always be more concerned about himself than another, we should nevertheless be compassionate to our fellow Jew, she said, adding that we are not commanded to love the personality of another person, or even to like them, but being a true baal rachamim is a requirement that we can fulfill. We should be able to cry for another’s pain.
Ahavat Yisroel comes not from the heart, but from the mind, as Rav Hirsch said.