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ואהבת לרעך כמוך אני ד'

You shall love your fellow as yourself – I am Hashem. (19:18)

Rabbi Akiva teaches (Yerushalmi Nedarim 30b), V’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha – Zeh klal gadol baTorah; “Love your fellow as yourself. This is the all-encompassing principle of Torah.” In other words, an unbreakable bond exists between ahavas Yisrael, love of Jews, and ahavas Hashem, love of the Almighty. A general principle is one which contains all the detailed principles within it. Thus, ahavas Yisrael is the rubric under which all mitzvos fall. Loving a fellow Jew is an integral component of every mitzvah. Thus, when I shake the lulav; observe Shabbos, put on Tefillin, I am/should be enhancing my ahavas Yisrael. If…

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וכי תזבחו זבח שלמים לרצונכם תזבחהו

When you slaughter a feast peace-offering to Hashem, you shall slaughter it to find favor for yourselves. (19:5)

Ramban explains that when one offers a korban, sacrifice, to Hashem, the intention behind and accompanying it “shall be to find favor for oneself… like a servant ingratiating himself to his master… without any service for the purpose of receiving reward, but only to carry out the ratzon, will, of Hashem, for it is His simple will that constitutes what is appropriate and obligatory.” In other words, the kavanah, intention, of the individual who is slaughtering the animal is not for the shechitah, ritual, but simply to serve Hashem by carrying out His will. This is how a Jew should…

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איש אמו ואביו תיראו ואת שבתותי תשמרו אני ד'

Every man shall fear his mother and father, and you shall keep My Shabbosos; I am Hashem. (19:3)

Shemiras Shabbos, Kibbud Av V’eim: Shabbos observance is juxtaposed upon the mitzvah to honor one’s parents, concluding with Hashem reminding the people that He is G-d and everyone – he and his father and mother – must obey Hashem. We are to honor and even fear our parents, but they do not supplant the Almighty. Thus, if a parent’s command is contrary to a mitzvah in the Torah, the son/daughter should respectfully refuse, because Hashem’s command supersedes everything else. Three imperatives of such import in one pasuk (Shemiras Shabbos, Kibbud Av V’eim, and fear of Hashem and adherence to His…

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ואהבת לרעך כמוך

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

To love a fellow Jew as one loves himself is the fundamental rule of the Torah. According to Ramban, this mitzvah enjoins us to want others to have the same measure of success and prosperity that we want for ourselves. Obviously, this is not in consonance with human nature, whereby one’s ego always wants a little more or a little better for himself. He does not begrudge his fellow’s success – as long as he has more. How do we define love? How do we understand loving our fellow on the same level as we love ourselves? We find the…

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לא תשנא את אחיך בלבבך

You shall not hate your brother in your heart. (19:17)

The Torah alludes to one reason why one should not hate a fellow Jew: he is your brother; brothers do not hate. Clearly, this is a prohibitive mitzvah which, for “some reason,” people have difficulty observing. Chazal (Talmud Yoma 9:B) teach that Hashem destroyed the Bais HaMikdash Rishon, First Temple, because people transgressed the three cardinal sins of murder, adultery and idol worship. During the period of the Second Temple, the generation studied Torah diligently, observed mitzvos, and performed gemilus chasadim, acts of loving kindness; yet, because they fell short in their interpersonal relationships, due to sinaas chinam, baseless hatred,…

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איש איש מבני ישראל אשר יתן מזרעו למלך מות ימות עם הארץ ירגמהו באבן ואם העלם יעלימו עם הארץ את עיניהם מן האיש ההוא בתתו מזכעו למלך לבלתי המית אתו... ושמתי את פני באיש ההוא

Any man from Bnei Yisrael… who shall give of his seed to Molech (Idol) shall be put to death; the people of the land shall pelt him with stones. But if the people of the land avert their eyes from that man when he gives from his offspring to molech, not put him to death – then I shall concentrate My attention upon that man. (20:2,4,5)

Chazal identify a number of ambiguities concerning the pshat, explanation, of this pasuk. We will focus on two of them. The second pasuk states: “But if the people of the land avert their eyes… not to put him to death.” Why are the Jewish people referred to as am ha’aretz, “people of the land”? This vernacular suggests that their primary focus is to settle the land. Second; what is the meaning of the phrase “not to put him to death”? Why not simply say:  “they will not kill him”? The pesukim concerning the Molech debacle are unusually redundant. The Tevuos…

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ואהבת לרעך כמוך

Love your fellow as yourself. (19:18)

Rashi quotes the well-known dictum of Rabbi Akiva, “Zeh klal gadol baTorah:  “This is a great principle of the Torah.” Why is the word “baTorah” added? It would be sufficient to have said simply, “This is a great principle.” The Chasam Sofer explains that the principle of loving one’s fellow kamocha, like yourself, is specifically baTorah, concerning Torah study and other spiritual pursuits. Regarding physical pursuits, one’s personal needs precedes those of his fellow. There is a case in Chazal in which Rabbi Akiva seems to underscore the difference between spiritual pursuits and physical pursuits with regard to helping one’s…

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הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך ולא תשא עליו חטא

You shall reprove your fellow and you shall not bear a sin because of him. (19:17)

The Bialystoker Maggid, zl (cited by Horav Gedalya Schorr, zl), posits that we have two forms of tochachah, rebuke. In one instance, the rebuker chastises his fellow, saying, “How could you commit such a sin?” Another scenario has the rebuker challenging his fellow, alleging, “Who are you (who do you think you are) to have the audacity to commit such a grave sin?” In both instances, the rebuker is magnifying the sin and making it greater/larger than the sinner. He is either too small or the sin is too large, but, in any event, the offense is greater than the…

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כמעשה ארץ מצרים אשר ישבתם בה לא תעשו וכמעשה ארץ כנען אשר אני מביא אתכם שמה לא תעשו

Like the practice of the Land of Egypt in which you dwelled do not do; and do not perform the practice of the Land of Canaan to which I will bring you. (18:3)

The Toras Kohanim derives from the words, yishavtem bah, “in which you dwelled,” that Egypt was the most morally bankrupt nation (followed by the Canaan), specifically because the Jews lived there. Likewise, the moral turpitude of the Canaanim plunged even lower as a result of its Jewish conquerors/inhabitants. This statement begs elucidation. One would think that the moral standard which the Jews set should have served as an example for these pagans to emulate. Instead, Chazal indicate that they became worse. Why? In his commentary to Toras Kohanim, the Raavad writes: “This means: as a result of the sin of…

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ונתן אהרן על שני השעירים גורלות - גורל אחד לד' וגורל אחד לעזאזל

And Aharon shall place lots on the two goats – one lot “for Hashem” and one “for Azazel.” (16:8)

We all find excuses to justify our chosen way of life. We blame it on an accident of fate – anything to absolve ourselves of our erroneous decisions. Horav S. R. Hirsch, zl, applies this idea to the diverse fate experienced by the two Seirei Yom Kippurim, goats used to atone for Klal Yisrael on Yom Kippur: one being used l’Hashem as a sacrifice; and one for Azazel. They were two completely identical goats. Why does one end up as a sacrifice for Hashem, while the other goes to Azazel? Likewise, two people are identical in spiritual background, family lineage,…

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