Dear Beit Sefer Families,
This week’s Torah portion is named Kedoshim, which is a plural version of the word holy. God speaks to Moses and tells him to tell the Israelites, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Embedded in this chapter about holiness is the well known phrase, “Va’ahvta L’re’echa Kamocha.” You shall love your neighbor as yourself. According, to Rabbi Akiva, a Rabbi from early Talmudic times, this is the fundamental principle in Torah. I have been thinking about this phrase this week. I always thought that I understood its meaning: You should treat others as you yourself would want to be treated. I thought it stood as an all encompassing rule reminding us to be kind to our fellow humans. But this year the phrase, “as yourself,” is striking me differently. In order to love our neighbors as ourselves, we have to consider how we love ourselves. How many of us actually are good at treating ourselves the way we would want others to treat us? How many of us speak kindly to ourselves, speak compassionately to ourselves, forgive ourselves? Perhaps this phrase isn’t just teaching us to first think of how we want to be treated and then treat others accordingly, but is also teaching us that as we follow the other holy rules of kindness and consideration, to remember to care about ourselves as well.
Maybe by treating others with respect, we find dignity for ourselves. Maybe when we view others with compassion and forgiveness, we find compassion and forgiveness for ourselves.
These days, I am thinking that core phrase from the Torah is a circular statement. If you love your neighbors, you find love for yourself. As you treat yourself with loving kindness, you find love to share with your neighbors.
Perhaps it is when we behave this way towards ourselves and each other that we become Kedoshim, a holy people.