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PARSHAT KEDOSHIM – BE KIND

בס”ד

PARSHAT KEDOSHIM 5784

Introduction



In our quest for meaningful relationships and a peaceful society, the message to love our neighbor as ourselves is of invaluable importance. This age-old wisdom, preached by various cultures and religions, calls us to show empathy, compassion, and honesty, even in the most challenging circumstances.



Understanding the Commandment

Leviticus 19:17-18

You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kin but incur no guilt on their account. לֹֽא־תִשְׂנָ֥א אֶת־אָחִ֖יךָ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ הוֹכֵ֤חַ תּוֹכִ֨יחַ֙ אֶת־עֲמִיתֶ֔ךָ וְלֹֽא־תִשָּׂ֥א עָלָ֖יו חֵֽטְא
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against members of your people. Love your fellow [Israelite] as yourself: I am Hashem לֹֽא־תִקֹּ֤ם וְלֹֽא־תִטֹּר֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י עַמֶּ֔ךָ וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵֽעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ אֲנִ֖י יְ”הוָֹֽה

To love your neighbor as yourself or as Hillel says “what is hateful to you do not do that to another” or as the Dutch proverb puts it, “what you do not want done to you do not do to another.”

Don’t hate… I don’t know about others but sometimes I come across people I would rather stick behind the wallpaper. People who treat you unfairly, constantly get in your way or who you feel they say “B” out of habit when you say “A”. Now to say that I “hate” those people is a very big word, but the verse seems to be saying that I should also love that person? How can you force love and how as yourself, what if I don’t like myself at all.

Challenges in Loving Others

The text gives guidance on how to deal with people you would rather see go than come. You cannot turn off emotions, but negative emotions should not be left in your heart. The anger, the annoyance, the feeling of being wronged should not be kept in your heart. But you must go to the person and tell him what is on your heart. The moment you want to go to the person you can realize that there is not really anything going on but that you are overreacting. It may be that in talking to the other person it turns out that everything was a misunderstanding, problem solved.  Maybe the person really did something nasty, and you are now giving him the opportunity to say sorry to you and modify his behavior. It may be that the person in question is aware of his behavior but doesn’t care. Then you can recognize that that person will not be your crony have you done what you had to do…but what about that person…should you love that neighbor as well?

The Importance of Accountability

The Torah gives an example of what can happen when you let negative emotions into your heart.

The Rambam gives the example in the Bible of the incident with Amnon and Tamar. After Amnon committed a terrible act, the prophet tells us that Tamar’s brother, Avshalom, carried a great hatred for his half-brother, Amnon, and does not talk to him about what happened in the first place. The Ralbag writes that if he had talked to Amnon about what had happened, the hatred would have disappeared. Instead, it only grew to the point that Avshalom killed Amnon two years later. Although Amnon had clearly committed a grave sin and Avshalom seemingly had every right to be furious with him for what had happened, he is nevertheless put to the test for not talking to Amnon and letting the hatred grow with terrible consequences.

Practical Examples of Loving Behavior

Who see from this example how important it is to hold someone accountable because negative emotions will always remain in your heart and will fester and at some point ignite like a fire.  They manifest themselves in revenge – consciously doing something negative to someone. For example, someone should not borrow your car because you were not allowed to borrow his car. It can also express itself in vindictive behavior.  That’s when you do lend but with a sneer that you’re doing it anyway while the other one sold you no.

Example of “hateful” behavior are as we saw above revenge and vindictive behavior below are a few more examples:

  • Do not embarrass others.
  • Do not gossip or talk negatively about others.
  • Do not disturb another person’s concentration or sleep.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • Don’t keep others waiting.
  • Don’t show anger toward others.
  • Protect others from injury or loss.
  • Be fair in business dealings.

“Loving your neighbor” can manifest itself in regularly visiting someone, making sure someone has food/clothing etc. But we in this text that it may have even more to do with what a person needs psychologically for his soul. For example, that you teach someone that they need to watch their language, that someone needs to work on their temperament. One step further is that you point out to someone what he needs spiritually, that someone learns to keep the 7 mitzvot of Noah. For example, point out to someone that if he brings home utensils from work that this is actually theft.

The Relationship Between Self-Love and Loving Others

Should we love everyone? At least we should try to in each other. When the Torah teaches/commands us to love our neighbor/our enemies it gives us a realistic program of how some can achieve that most of the time:  By being honest with each other and talking things out.

Practicing Love Daily

Other examples of loving behavior toward your neighbor are:

  • Greet everyone with a smile.
  • Keeping your word.
  • Help someone struggling with a burden.
  • Ask an elder for “wise counsel.
  • Visit patients at the local hospital.
  • Take special care of widows and orphans.
  • Call your mother with gratitude for the gift of life.
  • Be careful with the property of others.
  • Offer the grocer a human word. (“Are you doing well today?”)
  • Make peace between two people who are arguing.
  • Serve meals at a homeless shelter.
  • Remove temptations that may cause others to falter – e.g., don’t make it easy for people to steal your belongings.
  • Offer constructive criticism.
  • Don’t stand still when another person’s life is in danger.

The Holiness of Love

When I see such a listing, it makes for me that the concept of “loving my neighbor” becomes much more practical. Loving then becomes some more manageable chunks of “being kind to your neighbor” broken.  It is the behavior that yourself would also like to receive from another. That is one way we can read “loving as yourself.” If you are kind to someone else you will hopefully receive positive feedback on that. This makes your self-esteem grow.

Your self-esteem, the love for yourself is very important. The greater this becomes the better you can put the above points into practice. Only when you truly love yourself can you let that love flow outward.

Thus, there are actually two things you could start your day with as mitzvah.

The first is: Focus on your own virtues. Pat yourself on the back for the good qualities you have. Are you a caring friend? A hard worker? Ambitious? Sincere? Enjoy your strengths.

The second is: Every morning, proclaim aloud, ” I accept that I am concentrating on the mitzvah of’ Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The text reminds me that we humans are made in the image of G-d. Here G-d teaches the Jewish people that they are to be holy as He is holy. The thought that we are made in His image, that we should actually act as He would act can frighten us. But just as He loves people, we must love people. Do not hate your neighbor and love your neighbor. This starts very small: do not be unkind and be a little kind to yourself and also to the other person.

By Angelique Sijbolts

With thanks to Rabbi Tani Burton for the feedback

Sources:

Do Not Hate Your Brother In Your Heart Kedoshim (Leviticus 19-20) by  Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen
Love Your Neighbor Kedoshim by Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen
Of Love and Hate Kedoshim by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Middot Series #2 – Love Your Neighbor as Yourself by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
Love Humanity by Rabbi Noah Weinberg

Text: Sefaria.org

Mitzvah: In common usage, a “mitzvah” often means “a good deed” that connects you with your fellow humans, a good deed that connects you with G-d.

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