Kedoshim: Love Your Neighbor

What Does It Mean?

Torah portion Kedoshim contains the famous line “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18.) The great sage Rabbi Akiva characterized this commandment as the central principle of Judaism.

But what exactly does this seemingly simple sentence actually mean? There are multiple interpretations, including:

– Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein says loving your neighbor as yourself means taking genuine joy in your neighbor’s success as if it were your own success.

– The Baal Shem Tov says that loving your neighbor as yourself means that just as you might justify your own sinful behavior (“I couldn’t help myself!”) you must justify that of your neighbor as well. Excuse him as you would excuse yourself. 

– Ramban said that loving your neighbor as yourself means loving him completely and wanting the best for him. As it says of Jonathan’s love for David: “for he loved him as he loved his own soul.” (I Sam. 18:1) Even though Jonathan, son of King Saul, by rights should have inherited the kingship, he was joyful instead of jealous when David became king.

May we all see the best in others and enjoy their success without jealousy!

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Image: “A Discussion of the Talmud” by Carl Schleicher, c. 1880

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