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“You shall love your fellow as yourself.” (19:18)

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This pasuk has become the global standard-bearer for defining human inter-relationships. Love your fellowman as yourself. What does it mean to care about someone else as well as we care about ourselves? Horav Yosef Zundel Salant, z.l., explains that the word kamocha, like yourself, applies to an individual who has the same vocation or position as you. It once happened that a Jew opened a grocery store on the same block as another Jew. One can imagine that the resulting competition brought about ill will. When the man who had been there first complained to Rav Yosef Zundel, the rav told him, “We are told to love our fellow as ourselves. This means that if he is a storekeeper like me, or a shoe-maker like me, or any profession similar to mine, I must love him, even though his chosen vocation infringes on mine.”

In another instance, the Gaon m’Vilna, while yet a young child, went out to play on a teeter-totter with other boys his age. After a few moments, he returned home. His father asked, “Did you play quickly? Why do you not continue playing with your friends?” “I cannot go against the Torah’s command to love a fellow Jew as we love ourselves. I cannot play on a plaything whereby in order to raise myself, my friend must be lowered!” If this is the sensitivity of a young child, we can only begin to imagine what levels of sensitivity he eventually reached. Obviously, he was a gaon in middos, character traits, as well as all aspects of Torah.

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