Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  The Living Law
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshios Acharei Mos & Kedoshim

Love Your Neighbor: Who Needs Friends?

The Mitzvah:

The Torah famously instructs “you shall love your fellow as yourself, I am G-d” (Leviticus 19:18). The mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael, love of a fellow Jew is a maxim of Jewish living.

The mitzvah of loving one’s fellow Jew is an all-important principle of Judaism. The magnitude of this mitzvah resonates in Rabbi Akiva’s tenet “love your fellow as yourself is a great axiom of Torah” (Sifra, Vayikra 19). Summarizing the Torah, Hillel told a would-be convert, “What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your friend – all the rest [of the Torah] is commentary” (Shabbos 31a).

Every Jew is to relate to his brethren and to always be sensitive to all his fellow man’s needs. Indeed, more than just empathizing, he makes his brother’s concerns his own.

But why is it necessary to love and wholeheartedly identify with every individual member? How can one achieve this to “love your fellow as yourself”? And what has the end of the verse “I am G-d” got to do with this very interpersonal precept?

That the “commandments between man and his friend” and the “commandments between man and G-d” share parity is manifest in the similar-sized Two Tablets. They are on an equal footing. Neither is superior. Neither can be neglected and, in fact, one cannot exist without the other.

In our relationship with our fellow man, the underlining factor cannot be purely emotional feeling of “pity, compassion and humanity” per se but rather of emulating “divinity” – namely of observing the divine will and following in His footsteps. Which explains the stress placed in the epitome of interpersonal conduct – loving one’s neighbor – that there must be based upon the universal principle of “I am G-d”.

Interestingly, the mitzvah “You shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart…” (Deuteronomy 6:5) has its parallel in the law “You shall love your fellow as yourself”. There is no contradiction here, as the two are interrelated.

Special because he is fashioned “in the form of G-d” (Genesis 1:27), every human being – without exception – is the spiritual handiwork of G-d and endowed with “a divine spark” – a soul. This is the essence of the individual’s identity, and for a Jew, the common characteristic he shares with his brethren.

No matter their differences, the ability to love one’s fellow is via relating to his soul. This explains a literal interpretation of the word to love one’s neighbor Komacha, “as yourself” in the sense that the love for another is, in truth, connecting with the very same component that lies within yourself – namely identifying the innate holiness of the soul. (In fact, Komacha has the identical numerical value as the Holy Name Elokim (86) – highlighting the divine spark within man). Through this he can successfully endeavor to attain a deep-rooted love for every member of the Jewish people as he “tunes into” their spiritual roots. Indeed, the Chasidic works teach that the pathway to “love of G-d” is exactly via ahavas “love of a fellow Jew”.

The Jewish people are considered “one” entity.

That “all Jews are held responsible for one another” (Shevuos 39a) means that each person acts as a surety for his fellow and to be entrusted with the capacity to exempt another in a religious act (called Arvas, guarantor). The mutual responsibility results from the common goal and mission shared by the chosen people. So too, it makes no sense whatsoever for one Jew to harm his fellow. Any harm is, in effect, self-inflicted.

Pulsating to the same heartbeat, the Jewish people share the common aspirations in their national identity as the nation which embraced the Torah at Sinai, when they stood, united “as one person with one heart” (Mechilta, Yisro).

An awareness of the G-dliness and potential greatness within one’s friend makes it incumbent upon a Jew to love and respect every member of his brethren. They are related to him and he is to them. Importantly, he cannot lose sight of how me and my neighbor are, at root, one and the same.


Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene and Torah.org.


 
Sell Chometz Online







ARTICLES ON PESACH AND THE OMER:

View Complete List

The Evil Son
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

Pesach: The Obligation of Profound Appreciation
Rabbi Label Lam - 5764

Yosef’s Bones And Splitting Of The Sea: A Lesson In Unity
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5767

> Taking It Personally
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5764

Sea the Miracle
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5764

There's One in Every Generation
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Love of Money, or Money of Love?
Rabbi Gavriel Prero - 5761

To Be Chosen Again
Rabbi Label Lam - 5768

A New Outlook
Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig - 5763

ArtScroll

The Great Shabbos
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5758

Pesach Answers - Chad Gadya
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

Shabbos Hagadol
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5759

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

"HaKol B'Seder!"
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5762

4 Seder Cups & 1 Yiddishe Cup
Jon Erlbaum - 0

The Students of Rabbi Akiva
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

Tarnished Treasures of Pesach
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5759



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information