- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On April 27, 2018
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings!
What if, when reading the Torah, we don’t begin at the moment of creation but go right to the Torah’s heart, to its very center? Where would we be?
We would arrive to Leviticus 19:18: Love your neighbor as yourself. It is in this week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim.
In the Talmud (Shabbat 31a), the great teacher, Hillel, responded with a version of this exact phrase when someone outside of his community challenged him to summarize the Torah. Without missing a beat, he offered the central tenet of religious living: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the entire Torah. He then added. The rest is commentary. Now go and learn it.
Before we consider the commentary, let’s focus on the actual Torah passage first. Why not just say: Love your neighbor? Why is the “as yourself” added? This is where I think the Torah gets to the very heart of human existence and what Hillel understood. Learning to love ourselves for whom we are, for our perfections and imperfections provides the practice we need for how we regard others. In the Way of Man, the philosopher and theologian, Martin Buber, stressed that we should start with ourselves but not end with ourselves. It is another way of saying what this central passage of the Torah lifts up. We are inextricably intertwined with those around us.
Nachmanides, the 12th century commentator, wrote: The text commands that one should not nurture petty jealousies, but love one’s fellow with the same unlimited love that one has for oneself. Rashi, of the 11th century France, like Hillel, voiced it differently: It is forbidden to do to others what you would not want done to yourself.
We understand what it feels like to be treated well. We feel good. Our sense of being is elevated. When we are regarded with distain, it hurts our hearts and our souls. As we get older, we learn to regulate and to navigate through these reactions caused by others. Sometimes, however, we forget the power we each hold in the way we regard and behave toward another. When Hillel summed up the Leviticus verse with the assessment, All the rest is commentary, he could have stopped there but what followed makes all the difference: Go and learn it. He meant: Go and live it.
This is why the very beginning of a prayer service includes this intention: I hereby accept upon myself the sacred obligation of loving my neighbor as myself.
Living our lives is the commentary where we learn every day, whether entering into prayer, into a conversation, into a meeting, or into the greater world, we gain a greater understanding of the impact we can make by loving others as we love ourselves.
As we enter into Shabbat and nourish our inner lives, let it be one more way we practice loving ourselves so we can love one another.
Tonight we are excited for Cantor Einhorm, who will speak about Climate Justice in honor of Earth Day – come support the Earth! And next week, we look forward to welcoming a Dreamer.Qabbalat Shabbat begins at 6:00 p.m. Live stream HERE. Torah study begins at 9:00 a.m. with a short service followed by a lively Torah discussion.
I look forward to receiving your reflections and comments HERE.