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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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