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Rabbi Reuven Semah
"You shall love your fellow as yourself" (Vayikra 19:18)
This week's perashah contains one of the most often quoted statements of the Torah. What does it really mean? Is it possible for someone to love someone else as much as he loves himself? I feel that if we can understand this commandment more clearly, it will help us understand ourselves and how we relate to one another.
The Sefat Emet, as explained by Rabbi M. Kimelman, asks a question that momentarily throws us for a loop. Where do we find that a person must love himself, and that the Torah then commands him to loves others to the same degree? Obviously, human nature, something as basic as self-love, has a Divine source. It is not a command to love oneself, but something that Hashem puts into us. Obviously, without this instinct, man couldn't physically survive. He wouldn't eat or protect himself. However, the Sefat Emet explains that this love has a spiritual purpose as well. It is based on the fundamental concept of the reason we were created by Hashem. In the first place, our Sages tell us that it was Hashem's will to create a world in which His glory would be manifest. Although it is difficult for the human mind to fully comprehend this, the Jews are responsible for fulfilling this will. We know that Hashem only created us for our pleasure. As religious Jews we know there is no greater pleasure than living a life of Torah and misvot. We know both intellectually and emotionally, that this is most gratifying and fulfilling. A racing car driver loves his car because it brings him fame and fortune. An artist loves his canvas and paint because through them he can really express himself. Similarly, a person loves himself deep down because he knows that he can reveal a unique aspect of Hashem's glory in this world. Once we realize why we love ourselves we can begin loving others. If we love ourselves in order to have a good time than it is impossible to love others for they might get in our way of attaining pleasure. If we love to serve Hashem and that is the source of our self-love, then we love anyone who also glorifies Hashem. If someone has a business partner who puts in extra hours in order to make the business more profitable, he is not upset or jealous. On the contrary, he likes him even more. Similarly, we will always love anyone who serves Hashem more fully than we.
My friends, keeping this in mind will go a long way in loving others and improving relationships in our families, and with our fellow man. Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
When we think of the term "holiness" we tend to associate it with ascetic behavior, such as fasting and abstaining from the regular activities of this world. This perashah teaches us otherwise. The Torah commands us to be holy and then immediately exhorts us to honor our parents, to pay our bills on time, not to embarrass others and a host of laws which contribute to peace and harmony amongst our people. Our concept of holiness is living a life which is very active in the society in which we live, but living it in a way which will make our stay in this world a meaningful one. If we think about others when we do our thing, not only by not hurting them but by helping and assisting them, this leads to holiness. All of the misvot, whether between man and Hashem or man to man, lead a person to "kedushah" - holiness. That's why all the blessings prior to the misvot have the words "asher kideshanu bemisvotav - Who has sanctified us with His misvot." Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Yaacov Ben-Haim
"Rebuke your friend again and again and do not take sin upon yourself because of it" (Vayikra 19:17)
The commandment "hocheah tochiah" ("rebuke...again and again") implies that every member of the Jewish community has the duty not to remain silent when he sees a fellow Jew commit a sin, be it great or small, but must do his part, by remonstrating with him, again and again,...so that the sinner may, if possible, gain insight into his conduct and mend his ways (Baba Mesia 31a). According to the Gemara this obligation is applicable to any human relationship; according to Arachin 16b one remains duty bound to rebuke his erring neighbor until the latter rejects the rebuke by abusing him or even striking him. The Gemara states (Shabbat 54b) that anyone who could have prevented members of his own household, his fellow citizens, or the entire world from doing wrong, but has failed to do so, is considered an accomplice in their guilt. Even if his own conduct is exemplary and blameless he is the first to be condemned if he has not done his share to help his contemporaries mend their ways. If this commandment, which is based on the principle that all Jews bear collective responsibility for the fulfillment of G-d's Law by every individual Jew, were actually observed in everyday life, it would transform the moral aspect of the entire world. Shabbat Shalom.
"You shall have correct scales, correct weights...I am G-d, your G-d, who brought you forth from the land of Egypt" (Vayikra 19:36)
What does Hashem's taking the Jews out of Egypt have to do with correct scales and weights? At the Berit ben Habetarim, Hashem told Abraham, "Know with certainty that your offspring shall be aliens in a land not their own. They will serve them and be oppressed 400 years. But also, the nation that they shall serve I shall judge, and afterwards they shall leave with great wealth" (Beresheet 15:13-14). Many question that since the Egyptians brought Hashem's wish to fruition, why were they punished for enslaving the Jews?
The Ra'abad answers that though the Jews were destined to be slaves, the Egyptians overworked them with exceptionally strenuous labor and for this they had no permission. For taking from the Jews more than they were allowed (similar to tipping the scales), they were punished, and the Jews left Egypt with great wealth.
A Jew who has incorrect scales and weights is showing that he believes that the Egyptians did nothing wrong and that they did not deserve punishment for the additional hard labor that they took from the Jews. By associating the release from Egyptian bondage with incorrect scales and weights, the Torah is cautioning us to remember what happened to the Egyptians for taking more than they were entitled to. (Vedibarta Bam)
[It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.]
"Fulfill His will as you would your own will" (Abot 2:4)
The word "kiresonecha - as your will" is superfluous; why doesn't he simply say, "Do His will?"
The message in this Mishnah is indeed much more profound than just calling on man to do the will of Hashem. The money we spend during our lifetime can be divided into two portions: Some goes to spiritual matters such as sedakah, misvot, and tuition, and the other goes for physical necessities and personal pleasures. In retrospect, we usually see that money spent on pleasures has been wasted. However, the return for money spent on the spiritual is everlasting.
Unfortunately, many people who are blessed with affluence spend freely on personal amenities, yet plead poverty when it comes to spending money on spiritual matters. The Mishnah is advising that a person should fulfill His will as he would his own will, i.e., an equal amount of money should be spent on spiritual matters as on physical ones. If one has money to "throw over the cliff," one should not plead poverty when it comes to spending for Hashem. (Vedibarta Bam)
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