Each summer we focus on values that we can DO! At the J camps, all the children and the families get involved. There is a little learning, a little thinking and then a lot of doing! Get involved with us this summer. The value for this week is: v’ahavta l’reyacha, loving one’s neighbor.
Rabbi Akiva said that the most important mitzvah in the entire Torah is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) Rabbi Hillel said it a little differently: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the entire Torah — all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a) Look at Rabbi Akiva’s comment first. What does it mean to love your neighbor? What if we don’t really like our neighbor? Does this mean we need to love every person? How can we be commanded to love? What are we supposed to do?
On the other hand, Rabbi Hillel also told us how to treat others but he goes at it a little differently than Akiva does. Hillel doesn’t tell us to love but rather not to do anything hateful. Which is easier? Can we do both?
Hatred stirs up strife, but love draws a veil over all transgressions. — Proverbs 10:12
Whoever destroys a single life, it is as if that person had destroyed the entire world.
— Mishnah Sanhedrin 37
When love is strong, we can lie on the edge of a sword.
— Mishnah Sanhedrin 72
The sages told us a leader is one who turns an enemy into a friend. Is this something you can do? How can you make an enemy into a friend?
How can you show a neighbor that you “love” him/her?
What should you do if a friend is doing something that could hurt him? How do you tell him to stop? What if he doesn’t listen?
Do something ‘Jewish unplugged’
Jewish ethics speaks of a group of actions called gemilut chasadim — deeds of lovingkindness. This is similar to, but not the same as, “random acts of kindness.” The rabbis say that we must not be random in our kindness. Being kind is something we should think about and act on every day. So practice kindness and don’t make it random.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.