Respect, the Catalyst to Love

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By Rabbi Naftoly Bier, Rosh Kollel

In ויקרא י“ט:י“ח , Leviticus 19:18 it states: “Do not take revenge nor bear a grudge, and you should show love to your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem.” The גמרא יומא כג.  explains that the Torah is admonishing a person that if one’s neighbor wouldn’t lend them their car on a given day and asked to borrow the other’s car on another occasion; one should without hesitation lend it and either don’t say no (”revenge”) or bear a grudge. Is there an obligation to lend someone your belongings? The Torah does obligate one to lend money to another (Exodus 22:24). Apparently not, for otherwise why does the Torah only refer to a specific case as above! Another question is what is the flow of the verse; what does the Torah state, love someone…?

The חזקוני , Chizkuni teaches us a profound lesson. There are those by nature who define themselves by their possessions ( צרות עין ) and can’t “let go” and lend to others. Says the Torah, you that define yourself by your internal makeup (your Torah), judge the other person favorably. Take the time and effort to understand their “inability” to forego of their “car”; if you don’t respect them, you are a שונא! On the contrary, all people are endowed with the dignity and nobility of a אלוקים צלם, a being endowed with the gift to emulate G-d no matter their lack of self-development! And you will engender שלום, harmony in society. Continues the Torah, “If you do this you will be expressing your love/ respect for the other!”

In פרקי אבות, Ethics of our Fathers, it lists (Chapter 3,11) five sins that cause a person to forfeit their portion in the World to Come (עולם הבא) that every Jew is guaranteed. One of them is one who shames, embarrasses a person in public. Though a murderer doesn’t receive this punishment, one who is ברבים מלבין פני חבירו does. Why?

HaRav Yeruchim Levovitz זצ“ל explains that the overriding obligation that is incumbent on one is to develop the clarity that every human person is created in the דמות , likeness of Hashem. Subsequently, if one shames another, one is in effect disparaging the honor of Hashem; this being the epitome of disrespect to our Creator.

In fact, the fundamental that connects all mitzvos with one dynamic is the idea of כבוד, honor and respect. Honoring and revering Hashem obligates us to fulfill His dictates and respecting a person, one who is created in the image of Hashem is the catalyst for all the “rules” that we follow concerning another. How does one inculcate the idea that every person is important? That we must revere and embrace everyone with undiluted consideration and respect?

Rav Akiva in משנה י“ד states different degrees of love that the Almighty conveyed to His world. Firstly, He created the human in His image, in effect endowing every human with the infinite gift of emulating Him. Moreso, He announced to Noach His endearing love and nobility of His creation, the human.

Klal Yisrael, though, are gifted with a more personal relationship; we are called the “children” of Hashem. While one can convey respect and caring to all, the adulation, adoration, and intense love of children can’t be duplicated. The ultimate expression of this relationship is that Hashem endowed Klal Yisroel with the “vessel”, blueprint of His creation, the Torah. An analogy would be a renowned, brilliant scientist who would share an amazing, world-changing discovery with a dear friend. Our נשמה, soul is part of Hashem; He gifted us with the ability to emulate Him and gave us not only the intuitive subconscious understanding of how to develop human greatness but gave us a manual of instruction – His blueprint, the Torah to pursue human greatness.

The first level is the intellectual capacity to philosophize and decipher true human capacity and greatness. Klal Yisrael were gifted to inherently feel and understand human nobility, for our soul is part and parcel of the Almighty, and the Torah is the means of effecting the greatest achievement.

“דבר ה’ בזה”, of one who disparages the honor of Hashem, one is involved with the severest, faulty and corrupted action possible. This applies to one who doesn’t treat another in a proper manner, for as the prophet  ישעי’, Isaiah said (42,7), “all that is called by My Name, it is for My Glory that I have created it…” This idea, the Maharal explains, is what encompasses the foundation of all of the teachings in the “Ethics of Our Fathers”. As it states in (בר”ר כ”ד,ח), “Know who you are disparaging, they were created in His Image.” Rav Yerucham Levovitz זצ”ל explains that the whole Torah can be defined as a collective manual of the laws, directives of כבוד, honor, nobility and dignity.

To what extent is one obligated to respect another? Many בעלי מוסר say that רבי עקיבה taught we should never act in a negative manner to another, while בן עזאי taught that one is obligated to respect another on a higher level that oneself! “זה ספר תןלדות האדם”, this is the purpose of all creation!

This exhilarating lesson, if inculcated properly, is the means to metamorphose into a being that genuinely and instinctively respects all due to their constant instinctive respect and regard of Hashem’s gift to the world! All of us!


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