Abi Taylor-Abt

Love Yourselves First

One of the most quoted lines from the Torah “love your neighbour as yourself” originates in this weeks portion of Kedoshim. We are taught that this mitzvah is the basis of our very Torah. Along with only believing in one G-d, loving others is paramount in our laws.

Love is also about acceptance, recognising someone for who they are and for who their potential would allow them to be. So if we are able to show love for others in spite of their faults or weaknesses, then that that is the purest type of love. Our love is acknowledging and encouraging the best that they can become and possibly giving them the strength to become the person that we see.

It is easy to love people that are like us, but harder if they are different as we find it easier to like other people whose personify traits we would like to see in ourselves. Famous athletes, popular singers and artists have skills that we respect and look up to. We can see true goodness and bravery in other people, but all too often we struggle to recognise our own strengths.

We berate ourselves with our failings. Arrogance enables us to ignore our faults and refuse to see or take responsibility for our mistakes. However too many of us are habitually hard on ourselves, for every error or perceived failure within our own psyche. Our lack of confidence and love draws us into a cycle of self-loathing. Why can’t we do enough? Be enough?

I have long believed that it is the everyday heroes that should get our recognition. The busy dad who missed bath time three times this week because he is working to provide for his family. The mom who hasn’t slept through the night in 3 years yet is still up on time, making breakfast and sending the kids off to school with clean clothes and a packed lunch. The bus driver who waits to make sure the elderly person is seated safely before driving off. The ordinary people. The people like you and me.

We all have the spark within us to grow both spiritually and emotionally. We hold the power within ourselves to choose what kind of a life we want, regardless of the circumstances of our birth. Where we begin is chosen by chance, where we end up and what we achieve on our journey is a matter of choice. Learning to accept ourselves and appreciate our individual gifts is a map to self-love leading us in our ability to love others.

The Torah portion this week, Kedoshim begins with the line “You shall be holy, for I, the L‑rd your G‑d, am holy.” We have long understood that we are created in the image of G-d. We don’t have all the answers but as Rabbi Hillel taught us, this is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary – “Love your fellow as yourself.”

We have to start by loving ourselves.

About the Author
Abi Taylor-Abt is an outstanding Jewish Educator and Curriculum Developer who has worked in the field of Jewish Primary and Secondary Educational Curriculum Development for over twenty years. She is the author of Lessons in Jewish Learning - a grab and go curriculum for communities and Jewish schools. Originally from London, Abi spent time living in Israel, South Africa, England and the United States. After working in Boise, Idaho, Abi spent 5 years in Israel for the second time whilst her children served in the army. She is currently Director of Education for Yachad a combined educational endeavour between the conservative congregation of Beth Shalom and the reform community of Temple Emanu-El in Michigan, USA. A 2018 recipient of the Klein/Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education, Abi is also awaiting the video version of her recent ELI Talk Detroit Speaker Fellowship.
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