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Love Thy Neighbor - In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z'L)
“Love your fellow as you would yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) In the Talmud (Shabbos 31a; Compiled 200 CE - 500 CE), Hillel explained to a convert that the concept of “what is distasteful to you, do not do to your fellow” is the crux of the entire Torah and the rest is commentary to properly performing the mitzvah of loving your fellow.

However, the Sforno (Rabbi Ovadia ben Yaakov, Bologna, Italy; 1475 - 1550) is not satisfied with this interpretation. If properly translated the verse is understood “love to your fellow as you love yourself.” What is the extra reference of the word “to”?
 
The Sforno juxtaposes the verse “Love to your fellow as you would yourself” with the verse that follows, “My (G-d) statutes you shall keep.” (Leviticus 19:19) The term “statutes” refers to laws whose reasons are beyond human comprehension and the statute in the above verse refers to not mixing animal breeds, keeping apart different crops in the field so they don’t mix, and not wearing a garment of wool and linen.

How do you love your fellow as yourself? When you recognize your fellow has submitted himself to the will of G-d and even upholds those precepts he cannot possibly understand, when you look at what he has achieved and recognize you share those very same goals, then you will look at him with awe and love him as you do yourself.

Loving your fellow must begin with a sense of awe. It is an awe that springs from an understanding of what your fellow strives to achieve and has achieved and a kinship because you aspire to achieve the very same.

The Torah cannot command you to have a certain emotion, particularly one as difficult as loving another as you would yourself. Rather, the Torah commands you to recognize the greatness in your fellow to the point you will be in awe of his achievements and will naturally come to “Love your fellow as you would yourself.”

The Torah neither asks nor desires a baseless love for our fellow man but rather a love derived from our recognition of the greatness in others.
Shabbat Shalom

 


 
   
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