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This week’s Food for Thought is dedicate in memory of a 4 year old boy, Chizkiyahu Nachshon Meir ben Tzvi Ariel, who completed his mission in life an succumbed to cancer on his birthday, Monday. He was buried in Tzfas by his parents, Reb Tzvi and Temima Eckhardt. Reb Tzvi used to be part of the CITE Chofetz Chaim Alumni Mussar Chabura, may we only share in simchas in the future!
Now for some food for thought:
The duty of our heart is one of the main themes of this week’s Torah portion of Kedoshim. The portion begins: “Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, your G-D” (Vayikra 19:2). A number of pesukim later, while discussing the fundamentals of interpersonal relationships, the Torah writes: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your fellow and do not bear a sin because of him. You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your fellow as yourself, I am Hashem” (Vayikra 19:17, 18).
The Ibn Ezra makes a fundamental observation into two of these pesukim. He says that the pasuk of “You shall not hate your brother” is the opposite of “you shall love your fellow as yourself.” He further says that behold, these mitzvos are implanted in one’s heart. By observing them we can stay settled in The Land of Israel, for as we know, it was because of baseless hatred the Second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed. The pasuk continues: “you shall reprove your fellow,” which the Ibn Ezra explains the reason for reproof, is because maybe you suspect him of some wrongdoing, which didn’t happen. The Ibn Ezra concludes that this is the reason why the pasuk ends by saying: “and do not bear a sin because of him;” because there will be punishment on you for what you thought about him. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
In the next pasuk the Ibn Ezra first points out that the explanations of “don’t take revenge” or “bear a grudge” can be found in Chaza”l (see Rashi on this pasuk.) Then he brings two definitions of “you shall love your fellow as yourself.” Many people say that the letter lamed in the pasuk is extra, like the “lamed” in “L’Avner” (Shmuel Beis 3:30), meaning, ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ However the Ibn Ezra personally says: “I believe it is as it sounds as it is that one should love the good that comes to his friend just as if it happened to him.” And the reason the pasuk concludes “I am Hashem” is because “I am the one G-D, I created all of you.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
The Ibn Ezra is explaining to us a major rule in the Torah! The punishment for this sin, as we experienced, is destruction and exile. The positive and negative mitzvos he says are total opposites. If you read the Ibn Ezra’s commentary closely, he seems to be explaining that these two pesukim are explaining each mitzvah from beginning to end. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart,” refers to baseless hatred, which happens if one is quick to judgement and dislikes a person for doing things, whether to that individual or in general, that are not good. One might feel he wants to take revenge for that wrongdoing or at least bear a grudge against him or her; but what he has a mitzvah to do,and is supposed to do is confront the person and question what happened, because perhaps the suspicion was inaccurate. On the other hand, many people say that the positive mitzvah is to love your fellow as yourself. You wouldn’t want people to suspect you of doing something you didn’t, and you certainly don’t want others to bear a grudge or, worse, take revenge upon you.
These opposite mitzvos make sense, but the Ibn Ezra says he has a different understanding of “Loving your fellow as yourself,” which is to love the good things that come to your fellow as if they were yours, the same way you would appreciate the good that happens to you. Meaning, the Ibn Ezra’s focus of loving your fellow is not on how to treat the person, but how to treat his possessions or good tidings. How does that fit with being the opposite of not hating your brother in your heart, which seems to be clearly talking about how not to treat the individual himself, rather than his possessions or good tidings? Why does the Ibn Ezra call them opposite mitzvos?
The Ibn Ezra seems to be tying the last part of the pasuk with the middle saying, that the means to appreciate the good that others have received is through introspection and the realization that you and him or her both come from the same source. The One Hashem created both of you. It would seem natural that if a person truly realizes and feels this bond and relationship with his fellow Jew, a commonality of sorts that we all come from the same source, then inherently we will care about our fellow Jew and his possessions or good tidings as if they are our very own.
On the other hand, the opposite could also happen. If we don’t imbibe the deep faith that we are all created from the same source, then we can come to view our fellow Jew as someone different, a stranger, and people inherently have a disconnect that leads to hatred for one’s fellow man. Ideally viewing ourselves from the same source will save us from this inner hatred but if the hatred seeps in the Torah gives us a solution to get rid of it by telling us to confront the individual and rebuke him or her. In this way it will resolve any issues or friction against him or her.
In fact we can now appreciate the severity of each mitzvah and why transgressing them can lead to destruction and exile; for observing the mitzvah of loving one’s fellow is living by the belief that we are all created from one G-D, and we have a mitzvah to feel and live that way amongst our fellow Jew. However, G-D forbid we don’t live our lives in that manner, then our feeling is a disconnect which is like we came from more than one source, chas vishalom, the polar opposite.
The Ibn Ezra sums it up nicely in the next pasuk which discusses the prohibition of crossbreeding animals: “And the reason to mention ‘You shall not crossbreed your livestock with different species,’ (Vayikra 19:19) is to warn us that after we are Holy, that we don’t do any corruption toward our fellow man, so to one should not change the way Hashem intended for animals to be made, and this is why that pasuk starts off with, ‘You shall observe My statutes,’ (verse 19).” Everything goes back to the source of Hashem is One with a plan and actions of how He created and expects the world to exist.