All we need is Love — Sweet Love
Kedoshim contains the great love command of the Torah. “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18). Rabbi Akiva called this “the great principle of the Torah.
Many civilizations contain variants of this command and call it the Golden Rule: “Do unto others, as you would have them do to you,” or in the negative form attributed to Hillel (sometimes called the Silver Rule), “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary; go and learn.
Oppose this with what the rest of the world calls the “Golden Rule”. He who has the gold makes the rule!!
But this is a rule of reciprocity, not love. We observe it because bad things will happen to us if we don’t. Judaism was the first civilization to put love at the heart of morality.
Nowhere else in all of the bible are we commanded to love our neighbor. And only in one other place (Deut.10:19) are we commanded to love the stranger. (The Sages famously said that the Torah commands us thirty-six times to love the stranger, but that is not quite accurate. Thirty-four of those commands have to do with not oppressing or afflicting the stranger and making sure that he or she has the same legal rights as the native-born. These are commands of justice rather than love.
Almost every ethical system ever devised has sought to reduce the moral life to a single principle or perspective. Some connect it to reason, others to emotion, yet others to consequences: do whatever creates the greatest happiness for the greatest number.
A moral society will succeed; an immoral or amoral one will fail. That is the key prophetic insight. G-d did not make the demand that people love one another. That was beyond their remit. Society requires justice, not love.
Good people love God, family, friends and virtue. “Beloved is man,” said Rabbi Akiva, “because he was created in [God’s] image. Every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. God made each of us in love. Therefore, if we seek to imitate God – “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” – we too must love humanity, and not in the abstract but in the concrete form of the neighbor and the stranger. The ethic of holiness is based on the The vision of creation-as-God’s-work-of-love. This vision sees all human beings – ourselves, our neighbor and the stranger – as in the image of God, and that is why we are to love our neighbor and the stranger as ourselves.
Speaking of neighbors, here is a short story:
A Lawn Mower Lesson
Rabbi Adler was out for a leisurely Sunday afternoon ride on his bicycle, when he came upon Little Moishie Goldberg from his shul trying to sell a lawn mower. “How much do you want for the mower, Moishie?” asked the Rabbi.
“I just want enough money so I can buy a bicycle,” said Moishie. After a moment of consideration, the Rabbi asked, “Will you take my bike in trade for it?”
Moishie asked if he could try it out first, and after adjusting the seat and riding the bike around a little he said, “Rabbi, you’ve got yourself a deal.”
The Rabbi took the mower and began to try to crank it. He pulled on the string a few times with no response from the mower. The Rabbi called Moishie over and said, “I can’t get this mower to start.”
The boy said, “That’s because you have to swear at it to get it started. That’s what my Dad does.”
Rabbi Adler said, “I am a Rabbi, I don’t even know how to swear.”
Moishie looked at him happily and said, “Just keep pulling on that string. It’ll come to you!”