Shabbat Aharei Mot & Kedoshim

Candles - April 27th @ 7:28 pm
Havdalah - April 28th @ 8:24pm
LaG BaOmer - Thursday, April 3rd
Next Shabbat, May 5th - Family lunch and entertainment

Perhaps the most famous and most quoted phrase in the Torah,VeAhavta LeReyaha Ka comes this week when we read “moha,” “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But the question is what does it actually mean? Can you command someone to love another person? Are we expected to love our neighbors in the same way that we love our wives, husbands, children? Is it meant just to be a cliché, a slogan like “make love and not war”? And to take it a stage further, how do we understand Reyaha, your neighbor, your friend, your co-citizen, all Jews, all non-Jews?

These questions were raised more than two thousand years ago. The great leader Hillel responded with his interpretation of what the Torah meant. He said, in Aramaic, which was the common language amongst most Jews and indeed most Persians at that time. “Mai DeSani Lah, Lehaverha Lo Taavid.” What is hateful to you, do not do to your friend.”

Hundreds of years later Christianity took Hillel’s words and slightly twisted them into their slogan “Do to others, as you would have them do to you.” Instead of the negative, do not, they suggested the positive, do. Is there a significant difference? The Christian version is actually closer to the Torah’s positive statement. But it is too vague. Hillel’s, is indeed, negative. But it is more practical.

Most of us cannot agree on what we want. But we can certainly agree on what we don't want. We want to avoid pain and discomfort and alienation. We want to avoid bad things. But we cannot always agree on who or what is right and good. After all, most religions set out to do good. But they are more likely to do harm when they try to impose on others.

Communism set out to create a perfect, good society where everyone was equal. Where everyone was free. But it ended up creating horrible, corrupt societies. Even medicine was adopted the negative “Do no harm.” While we cannot agree on how we define a good person, we can all agree that anyone who harms or hurts others is bad. And how do we define harm? By something that you would not want done to you. That is common to everyone no matter what religion or no religion.

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