Hebraic Studies - Parashat Kedoshim

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Love Your Neighbour

Parashat Kedoshim - Study One

 

Vayikra - Leviticus chapters 19:1 to 20:27.

 

With Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

“… thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am Vayikra – Leviticus 19:18 (JPS version of the Torah).

Moshe has been told to speak to the whole community and say to them:

“And spoke unto Moshe, saying: Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them: Ye shall be holy; for I your - Elohim am Holy … and ye shall keep My Sabbaths: I am your Elohim. Turn ye not unto the idols, nor make to yourselves molten - gods: I am your Elohim” Vayikra – Leviticus 19:1-4 (JPS).

I believe the heart of the Torah, is “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18). However, the truth be told, it does seem, that many of us are constantly striving for the exact opposite , for we tend to desire others to love us.

Sadly always seeking love can have a profound impact on our lives. So often we act or hold back actions, consciously or subconsciously, with great consideration as to how a decision will affect our popularity. However, when our main mission is to love, not to be loved, we are free to choose what is right, even if it is not necessarily the popular choice.

Who is Beloved? He who Loves all Creatures

To be loved, of course, one must also love. There is story I read once, about a rabbi Chaim from the olden days, that he had to pass with his students through a forest. But then suddenly, a band of robbers surrounded them and declared their intention to rob them of the little money they would have had and then murder them. The rabbi requested that the robbers wait a few minutes, so that he and his students may prepare for their imminent death. His request was granted, the rabbi’s spent this time with his gaze concentrated on the leader of the robbers’ face. After a few minutes passed, the leader yelled at the rabbi and told him and his students to flee, and rabbi Chaim and his students escaped. When the students asked the rabbi how the miracle happened, he explained as follows: when the robbers said that they were going to murder us, I became filled with hate and anger. I did not want to leave this world with feelings of hate and anger, so I wanted to overcome my negative emotions, by working on empathy for the band of robbers. Apparently no one had ever looked at the leader with such loving eyes, with so much empathy. Therefore, he could no longer harm us. We can also learn this idea from Sefer Mishlei.

“As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man” Mishlei - Proverbs 27:19 (JPS).

Thus just as with water when a person looks and sees his eyes smiling it is smiling and if his are distorted it is distorted, so too is the heart of man is to his fellow man, if he shows love this to him, he will also feel that love!

Love to the Near and Far

There are those who have charged Judaism that the command to “Love your neighbour” limits to love only to “your neighbour”, while love must truly be spread to all of mankind. This claim is refuted a few verses later when the Torah explicitly writes:

“And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not do him wrong. And thou shalt love him as thyself … for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am your Elohim” Vayikra – Leviticus 19: 33-34 (JPS).

Thus we are commanded to love our neighbours and the strangers in our land separately, since love must start naturally from a place of closeness; only from there it can spread to distant places. The truth of the matter is that the Torah comes to remind us that love must start from an even smaller circle. The love for “your neighbour” must be “as yourself”. From here we see that man must first love himself. Someone who is not at peace with himself, who hates himself and is not accepting of himself, will ultimately come to relate similarly towards others.

As we will be well aware we are living in a time where the world is full of evil, hatred and malice, and we need to remind ourselves of our blessed mitzvah to love. Many have the custom each morning to recite, “I accept the obligation of fulfilling my creator’s mitzvah in the Torah: Love your neighbour as yourself.” I hope that as Jews we take this obligation seriously, and through this wonderful Parashat Kedoshim, holiness, we transform our world into one of sacred relationships between each other and strangers of course, and between us and our beloved Elohim, blessed be He!

 

For those who have a yearning to learn more about the Torah and grow in being a good and faithful Jew, there are many valuable studies on Hebraic Studies enter the index below. If you have any questions you are welcome to email me.

And please remember our motto seen on the logo at the top of this page: “The More Torah, the More Life”, for Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, is the one who gave us our Life!”

Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

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