Vahavta lreacha Comocha

Torah Message from Rabbi Moldovan

Hillel the great scholar was asked to repeat the entire Torah on one foot. His famous reply (while standing on one foot) was "Vahavta lreacha comocha - love your fellow as yourself. That is the essence of the Torah. The rest is commentary." This central idea has been repeated by parents, educators, and religious leaders over and over again in order to entrench this important principal in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people. But have you ever stopped to ask what it actually means? Love your fellow as yourself? So, if we are both going for the same job, I should defer to him to take the job? Or if I am busy taking care of my personal needs and am asked to do a favour for my "fellow" that I should drop everything and help him out? Surely this is not the case. We do as much as we can to help another Jew but the Talmudic dictum sets up a system of priorities with the statement of "Chayecha kodmin - your life comes first." If so, how are we to understand the commandment to love our fellow "as ourselves?" The Baal Shem Tov explains that the Torah is coming to teach us that just as we love ourselves in spite of our shortcomings, so too we should love another person in spite of their shortcomings. The message is to view another person favorably, the same way we view ourselves favorably. If we do this we will acquire a central precept of the Torah and go from strength to strength in our service of Hashem.


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