By: Riley Spitz (9th)
This week’s Parsha is Parshat Kedoshim. It discusses the mitzvot that we must keep in order to sanctify ourselves. Most of them are basic moral codes like judging fairly, not insulting the deaf, and not committing robbery. Along with these three mitzvot, forty-eight others are mentioned as w.ell
One of the most famous mitzvot in this Parsha is the acclaimed precept of loving your neighbor as yourself. In Pasuk י״ח of Perek י״ט, it states “וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ”, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Although many believe that this claim comes from Rabbi Akiva, it is actually derived from this Parasha.
As Rashi points out, Rabbi Akiva was one of many that believed “זֶה כְּלָל גָּדוֹל בַּתּוֹרָה”, “This is a fundamental statement of the Torah.” It is so important that other scholars like Hillel acknowledge it. The reason this line is so significant is that it composes the entire essence of the Torah.
There is a famous story of a Roman approaching Hillel, requesting that Hillel teach him the whole Torah while standing on one foot. Having already asked Shammai and being told that his request was impossible, the Roman wanted to see if Hillel would have a similar response. Hillel surprised the Roman by confidently taking on the challenge. He looked him in the eye and said “‘וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ,’ the rest of the Torah is commentary. Go learn.”
Three words encompass the vast Torah, which is why these three words serve as a pillar of Judaism. We all must always do our best to “treat others how we would treat ourselves,” as that benefits both parties immensely.
By demonstrating acts of kindness and respecting others, people will follow and do the same. If we choose to follow this statement, we can grow spiritually closer to Hashem and improve our relationships with others. To improve on our religious devotion, we need to start here because וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ will guide us. Just as Rabbi Akiva, Hillel, and Rashi acknowledge, we should always exemplify this concept in order to be a good Jew.