Parashas Kedoshim

In this week’s parashah it is written (Vayikra 19:18): “You shall love your fellow man as yourself – I am Hashem.” In Shabbos 31a, the Gemara relates a famous story about a gentile who says he would covert to the Jewish faith if the entire Torah were explained to him while he stood on one foot. Shammai rebuffed him, viewing his request as disrepectful to the Torah, but Hillel accepted him, saying: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the entire Torah – the rest is commentary. Go and learn.” The Maggid sets out to analyze what Hillel meant when he said that the entire Torah is encapsulated in the mitzvah to love your fellow man as yourself.
The Maggid begins with a Gemara in Makkos 23b-24a that also discusses encapsulation of the mitzvos. Moshe gave us 613 mitzvos, Dovid HaMelech encapsulated them in eleven directives, Yeshayah HaNavi in six, Michah HaNavi in three, Yeshayah (a second time) in two, and Chabakkuk in one. The Maggid focuses on Michah’s encapsulation. Michah teaches (verse 6:8): “He has told you – man – what is good, and what Hashem requires of you: only to do justice, love kindness, and walk modestly with your God.” The Maggid analyzes the significance of the word “man,” which, on the surface, seems superfluous. He explains as follows. We cannot fully appreciate the rationale behind the Torah’s laws, for Hashem’s wisdom is far beyond our grasp. But we can understand at a basic level the mitzvos concerning the relationship between a person and his fellow man, and we can see that they are just and right. When someone is in a situation where one of these mitzvos comes into play, the best way for him to see the beauty of the mitzvah is to put himself in the other man’s shoes. For example, a poor man who finds a lost item of great value may feel aversion toward the duty to return the item to its owner, but if he puts himself in the owner’s shoes, he will see that what the Torah is telling him to do is right. The same applies to someone who is approached by a stranger who needs a place to stay. If we want to know what is good, Michah says, we should “ask” the man we are dealing with, and he will tell us. In this way, we can gain a good appreciation of the mitzvos between man and his fellow.
Now, the Torah includes two mitzvos calling upon us to show love: The Torah tells us to love Hashem, and it tells us to love our fellow man. These two mitzvos form the foundation of the entire Torah. The mitzvah to love Hashem is the foundation of the mitzvos between man and Hashem, while the mitzvah to love our fellow man is the foundation of the mitzvos between man and his fellow. In regard to loving Hashem, the Torah tells us to love Hashem with all our heart, all our soul, and all our might (Devarim 6:5, first paragraph of the Shema). It is hard for a mortal man to reach this goal, but it is our duty to work toward it. How? The Gemara points the way (Berachos 17a):
A pearl of wisdom regularly heard from R. Meir’s mouth: “Study with all your heart and all your soul, to know My ways and keep watch at My Torah’s doors. Safeguard My Torah in your heart, and let the fear of Me be before your eyes. Guard your mouth from all sin, and purify and sanctify yourself from all wrongdoing and iniquity, and I shall be with you everywhere.”
R. Meir is telling us that if we strive to attain all that is within our ability, Hashem will enable us to gain hold as well on what is beyond our ability (“I will be with you everywhere”). In particular, while it is hard for most people to develop an intense love of Hashem through a direct approach, we can merit Hashem’s help in reaching this goal by doing our utmost to fulfill the mitzvos between man and his fellow – which are within our ability to grasp. Thus, in presenting the mitzvah of loving your fellow man as yourself, the Torah aptly concludes with the postscript “I am Hashem.” The Torah is hinting that if a person loves his fellow man as himself, he will ultimately gain a vibrant awareness of Hashem and develop intense love for Him. [By observing the mitzvah to love your fellow as yourself, a person sheds the self-interest that clouds his thinking, and thereby becomes better able to perceive Hashem’s presence.] Conversely, if a person is oblivious to his fellow man, he ultimately becomes oblivious to Hashem. In this vein, Shemos Rabbah 1:8 states that because Pharaoh “did not know Yosef” (Shemos 1:8), he ultimately came to say, “I do not know Hashem” (Shemos 5:2). Love of others and love and Hashem are linked.
We can now see what Hillel meant when he said that the entire Torah is encapsulated in the mitzvah to love your fellow man as yourself. If a person puts his whole heart into this mitzvah, and deeply attaches himself to the mitzvos between man and his fellow, he will come to love Hashem with all his heart, and will then also become deeply attached to the mitzvos between man and Hashem. Thus, diligently observing the mitzvah to love your fellow as yourself leads a person to diligently observe the entire Torah.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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