Love on Demand

“…You should love your fellow as yourself…” – Vayikra 19:18

וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ – ויקרא יט, יח

The Torah’s command to love your fellow man—and to the same degree that you love yourself—raises a number of difficulties. How can we be “commanded” to experience an emotion, in this case, to love our fellow like ourselves? The average person can choose how he or she will act, but cannot necessarily control how they feel! Besides, is it even possible to love someone else to the same degree that you love yourself?

Love on Demand

Rashi answers these questions by citing Rabbi Akiva, who said, “‘You shall love your fellow as yourself’: This is a fundamental principle of the Torah.”

Being that the mitzvah to “love your fellow like yourself” is a principle, it follows that our actual observance of this mitzvah is primarily through the concretedetails that result from it, i.e., the numerous mitzvos in the Torah that govern our interactions with others. Those mitzvos can, in fact, be observed by any person, “on demand.”

In addition, by citing Rabbi Akiva as the source for the great significance attributed to this mitzvah, Rashi hints how you can truly come to love your fellow Jew on a scale comparable to your love for yourself.

Rabbi Akiva taught in the Mishna, “Beloved are Israel, for they are called children of G-d” (Avos 3:14). Moreover, the Talmud (Bava Basra 10a) relates that Rabbi Akiva explained the virtue of providing for the Jewish poor with the following parable: “Suppose an earthly king was angry with his son, and put him in prison and ordered that no food or drink should be given to him, and someone went and gave him food and drink. If the king heard of it, would he not send him a present? And we are called “children”, as it is written, ‘You are children to Hashem your G-d.’” Meaning, even if a Jew is deserving of divine retribution, he is still G-d’s child!

Considering that all of Israel, without exception, are the children of G-d, it follows that the Jewish people are all “brothers”— in the full sense of the word (see Tanya, chapter 32)! Accordingly, we can understand how it is within reach to sincerely love each of our fellow Jews. When we reflect on the teachings of Rabbi Akiva and recognize that we are all truly children of G-d, to love our fellow Jew as we love our own brothers and sisters is only natural.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 17, pp. 216-219

 

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