Kedoshim – Looking Out for #1… and #2… and #3…

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Ultimate concern for oneself is ingrained in our essences. There is a striking Midrash on the pasuk “For my father and mother have abandoned me, and Hashem has gathered me in” (Tehillim 27:10).   Dovid Hamelech, says the Midrash, was stating that his parents’ focus at his conception was on their personal relationship; it was about themselves, not him. In that sense, explains the Midrash, they “abandoned” him.

But consider: Dovid’s father was Yishai – one of the four people who Chazal tell us (Shabbos 55b) “died by the counsel of the nachash,” the serpent in Gan Eden.  In other words, he was personally without sin.  And yet he is being described as, in some way, selfish?

It seems clear that ultimate self-concern is part and parcel of being human. So no one can actually love another quite the same way he loves himself.

Nor can loving one’s fellow like himself mean that one must give each person he meets half of his possessions. That would render him penniless in short shrift.

R’ Meshullam Gross, in his sefer Nachalas Tzvi, notes that the wording of the imperative to love others like oneself uses the word lirei’acha (literally, “to one’s fellow”) rather than the simpler es rei’acha, echoing the wording of the commandment to “not covet… all that is to your fellow” in the Aseres Hadibros (Shemos 20:14).

Thus, he suggests, the imperative here is to consider the possessions – and honor, and concerns… – of one’s fellow as dear to you as if they were yours. In other words, love the fact that your fellow has what he has and deserves what he deserves – as much as you love what you have and feel you deserve.

© 2024 Rabbi Avi Shafran

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