Insight on the Weekly Torah Reading: Kiddoshim

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Towards Genuine Love

By Michael Chessen

     A popular song writer once wrote that "All you need is love". This is certainly an admirable sentiment. However, something is lacking. What constitutes true love, as opposed to the desire to fulfill self-centered needs, and how do people genuinely achieve it?

     In this week's Torah reading, Kiddushim, we read the very famous verse, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself". The accompanying Rashi commentary is nearly as famous: "Rabbi Akiva says that this is a very major principle in the Torah". The Torah does not merely command us to sincerely love all those with whom we live and interact, it provides us with guidelines towards the fulfillment of this lofty goal.

     Before speaking of love, the Torah first tells us not to hate. This is similar to King David's imploring us to "Desist from evil and pursue good". In human relations, the key to this process is communication. For the Torah clearly demonstrates that we turn hatred into love by way of our properly and tactfully reprimanding those who we feel have done or are yet doing some kind of misdeed.

     Whereas it is perhaps usually easiest to simply turn our heads and "mind our own business" when we happen to see someone committing some form of transgression, a timely reprimand can perhaps save someone unnecessary pain or punishment. In matters that are of exclusive relevance between two individuals, a reprimand, or simply a pertinent question, can serve to "clear the air" of possible misunderstandings.

     King Solomon demonstrated an important principle of clear communication in his famous judgment involving two mothers who each claimed that a baby belonged to her (Kings I, Chapter 3). Whereas Solomon's clever judgment is well known, the verse which preceded it is probably actually more important to us on a day to day basis. In this verse, which follows Solomon's listening to the two plaintiffs, he repeats his understanding of their claims in his own words in order to give each woman the opportunity to verify that this is what she indeed intended to convey. If apparently unambiguous claims actually need clarification, we certainly need to be very cautious in assuming others' intentions by way of inference.

     Genuine love may sometimes appear to be a lofty ideal, but if we are prepared to make an effort to achieve it, love need not be but a dream.

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom!

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