In this week’s Parsha, Kedoshim, we are commanded one of the most famous mitzvot in the Torah. In fact, Rabbi Akiva says this is the most important verse in the whole Torah? Do you know what it is?
Chapter 19, verse 18 commands us: “Love your fellow neighbor as yourself”
What does that mean? Go around the table and give examples of how one fulfills this mitzvah.
Can you think of a time when maybe it’s hard to do this? You don’t have to say it aloud, but there must be a person whom it is hard to “love as yourself”!
So, how does God command this? Is it fair of Him to expect me to feel love for all my fellow Jews? Discuss.
These are two possible ways to comprehend this mitzvah which are raised by commentaries:
1. Yes, you must love everyone – and you can. Some people/friends are harder to love at first, but you can control and work on your feelings. And you must. Each person is created by God, and therefore, is lovable. Find the beauty/goodness in everyone. That’s your challenge!
2. Notice the prefix for the direct object in Hebrew in this verse: it says לרעך not את רעך, which is the normal way to introduce a direct object. The Torah might be hinting that we don’t have to feel love for everyone, but we must show love towards everyone – לרעך is translated as “to your friend”. We must show/exhibit/extend love towards each person. That would mean doing acts of kindness. You can do that, right?
Sometimes, after acting a certain way, we begin to feel that way. So, maybe if we act with love and care, we will begin to really, genuinely feel that love for the other. Try it!