(Torah Portion Acharai Mos/Kedoshim) Clock on the Wall
Love within a relationship can at times be complex. Yet the Torah instructs us, “Love your neighbor like yourself,” placing an extraordinary demand on us. How can we possibly reach such a lofty ideal?
The Talmud records a conversation between a potential convert to Judaism and Hillel the Elder. “Rebbi, please teach me the entire Torah while I am standing on one leg!”
Hillel responded, “What is hateful to you do not do unto others; the rest of the Torah is an explanation …. go and study.”
Hillel’s response was an elucidation of the verse, ‘Love your neighbor like yourself.’ Hillel rather than explaining the verse literally, that one must love his neighbor by doing for him like one would do for himself, explained it to mean that one must refrain from doing to others what he would not want done to him.”
With a bit of work and self control, this is an attainable goal. The next words in the verse are “I am G-d,’ which means, when we exhibit our love to our fellow by not doing what is hateful to others, G-d says, “I will act with the same type of love towards you!”
The Gematria – numerical value – of the word Ahava – love – equals 13. When love is exhibited and exercised between two people, the word love is compounded twice, equaling 26, which is the Gematria of the special name of G-d that we do not enunciate or pronounce. Thus when we display unified love towards our fellow, we actually incorporate G-dliness and holiness into our lives.
Rabbi Shimon Schwab o.b.m. explains that there is one relationship where we must ‘love our neighbor like ourselves,’ literally, and that is to one’s spouse. He cites a Zohar – our Kabalah – which teaches us that one who is not married is considered half a person, because he cannot fulfill the Mitzvah of “Love your neighbor like yourself,’ in its fullest degree. Only once he marries do they become one complete and harmonious unit.
In the two Parshas we read this week there are 79 Mitzvos! They deal with forbidden marriages and relationships, the observance of Shabbat, Kashruth, and the demands of our interpersonal conduct. i.e. not to take revenge or harbor hatred; reverence to parents, honesty, integrity etc.
Often, I am asked by individuals, in a genuine way, why there is a necessity to observe the Mitzvos of the Torah in a traditional manner and not through modifications or adaptation to modern day life. I share the following precious explanation:
At a banquet marking the conclusion of a two week summer retreat that was attended by a group of bright graduate students who were searching their Jewish roots and seeking meaning through intellectual stimulation, they were privileged to have Rabbi Shimon Schwab eloquently and heartwarmingly address them.
A student, who was there, shared with me the following thought that made a lasting impression on him. “As Rabbi Schwab concluded his remarks, he pointed to a clock that hung in the dining area. ‘Take a look at that clock. You may or may have not noticed that throughout the retreat it was broken. But you should know, if you look at this clock at the right point of the day or night, it in fact, tells the correct time. You can only tell that the clock is broken and not functioning correctly if you wait around a bit and notice that there is no movement.’”
Rabbi Schwab then went on to explain: “When you go out to seek and evaluate all that Judaism has to offer, the way to appreciate what is working and what is not, is to notice what has withstood the test of time.
When modifications are made to Torah and Mitzvos, even when done with noble intentions, and even if at the time it may seem that it is functioning, in reality its lack of success becomes clear and most evident through the test of time.
However, the vibrancy, excitement, and energy of Torah objectives and study, and the steady continuation of traditional Judaism, serves as a testament, that Torah in it pristine form is alive and well, and that it endures because it is based on the true formula of Jewish continuity!”
Let us keep it going!
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks