In last week’s Torah portion, we were given several commandments prohibiting certain behaviors. In this week’s reading, we move to positive commandments.
The section opens with these words:
The Lord also said to Moses, ‘Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy…….’Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.’
By connecting these two commandments within the section, we understand that from God’s point of view, there is no true holiness without loving others. As has been said, ‘If you cannot love your brother whom you do see, how can you love God whom you do not see?’
Holiness is defined as the state or quality of being holy. Becoming holy is a process comprised of daily choices that in reality boil down to one fundamental choice: will I live by God’s instructions or not?
In this week’s portion, for instance, there are also the commands: ‘Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people’ and ‘Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives.’ Both of these relate directly to the commandment: ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’
Every time we choose to bite our tongue rather than lash out in anger at someone else, we take a step towards holiness. Every time I pass up the opportunity to gossip about someone, I take another step towards holiness.
Now here’s the rub. We all get hurt – it’s part of life. But…what we sometimes forget is this: we all hurt others as well. It’s a two way street. We may not intend it but it happens. If we want understanding and forgiveness from someone we may have offended, then it is incumbent upon us to be ready and willing to forgive those who offend or hurt us.
Centuries ago, Rabbi Akiva said: ‘That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellowman; this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.” In other words, treat other people the way you want to be treated yourself…and do it first! Can you imagine what this world would be like if as a society we all lived by this principle?
Why don’t we?
Consider: Moses had ample opportunities to be offended. Remember when his sister and brother spoke against him in Numbers 12? Yet in that very passage, God called him ‘the most humble man in all the earth.’
Humility is not weakness; it is the fundamental character of a person who understands that we are all fallible; everyone of us makes mistakes. Therefore, when someone behaves or speaks in a way that irks me or annoys me, rather than react in anger and lash out, humility causes me to take a step back and recognize my own fallibility. As I do, an attitude of understanding and compassion can arise in me towards the offender.
That does not mean we just let people get away with anything and everything. Absolutely not. But it does mean that if I am in the position to address the offense and offer some correction or means of reconciliation, I do so maintaining respect for the offender, not belittling or demeaning him or her but communicating in a clear and appropriate manner, designed to minimize any damage to the relationship.
To walk in love towards others requires willingness on our part to exercise patience, kindness and humility. To walk in love towards others is no small matter. But it IS a commandment. Therefore, if we have dedicated our lives to following God and His Word, the choice has already been made.
May God help each of us to live up to our commitment.
In Tune with Torah this week = honestly assess how you are doing in this matter? Do you love your spouse, your children, your neighbors, your co-workers, as you love yourself? What does that mean to you?
Shabbat shalom and a blessed weekend to you.