Parashat Kedoshim The Weekly Torah Portion
Parashat Kedoshim is ranked fifth for the number of mitzvot in a single parashah. (For the record, number 1 is Ki Teitzei with 74. Almost every verse has a mitzvah!) Of all the mitzvot listed one is front and center. According to the great Talmudic sage Rabbi Akiva, it is the most important verse in the Torah, וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ- V’ahavta L’reiacha kamocha- Love your neighbour as yourself.(Lev19:18)
What Exactly Does This Mean?
The truth is that today most of us wouldn’t even know the names of our neighbours. So how can this be the most important verse in the Torah?
We can offer a number of answers to this question.
- We are meant to build a relationship with our neighbours.
- The term reiacha doesn’t mean neighbour but someone else. Reiacha is normally referring to one’s spouse. The verse would mean love one’s spouse as oneself.
- The Torah is teaching us that before we can love anyone we first have to learn to love ourselves. The Text says, “Love your reiacha as yourself -kamocha.” The first step is to learn to love yourself.
- One of the most powerful explanations to this phrase is found in the Torah commentary of the Ramban- Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman (1194-1270). In his commentary, he is bothered by our question and offers an answer, which when I read it for the first time, completely changed the way that I approach, not only this mitzvah but how I treat others. What follows is my interpretation of his words.
Trick Up Your Sleeve
Imagine that you are a gifted chess player and you teach a student how to play chess. You will take great pride in his achievement and as he improves you continue to take pride until he can almost beat you. Now here is the question. You have a trick up your sleeve that you can use to beat him. Do you share it with him, knowing that you will never beat him again? What do you do?
The answer formulated by the Ramban is ואהבת לרעך כמוכה – love your fellow as yourself! If you were the student, wouldn’t you want your teacher to give you all the skills that he has so that you can achieve greatness? So too, you share the skill and watch with pride.
Parashat Kedoshim: Sharing Is Caring
So often, we hold something back so that we will have that one up on our friend, student or child. But if we lived by the principle of loving our fellow as ourselves, we would share- because that is what we would have wanted for ourselves.
Loving our fellow is more than a lesson of love and empathy, it is a call to do what we can for the other because if it was us that is what we would have expected from them. This is the lesson to take away from Parashat Kedoshim.
Would love to hear your thoughts. Comment, like and share. Shabbat Shalom.