Vol 17.26 - Kedoshim 2                       Spanish French Audio  Video

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(5740) Explanation of Rashi (Lev 19:18) "You shall love your neighbor as yourself: This is a fundamental (all-inclusive) principle of the Torah". Resolution of the question - How it it possible to command an emotion? - according to Rashi;

The difference between the two statements concerning Ahavat Yisroel:
1) The statement of R' Akiva: "This is a fundamental (all-inclusive) principle of the Torah"
2) The statement of Hillel: "This is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary"



Two Forms of Ahavas Yisrael
One of the commandments in the portion of Kedoshim is Ahavas Yisrael — loving one’s fellow as one loves oneself.1 There are two famous comments regarding this command. R. Akiva said: “This is an important principal of the Torah.”2 Hillel noted: “This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary.”3

Hillel lived many generations before R. Akiva. Since the statement had already been made that Ahavas Yisrael is the entire Torah, what did R. Akiva seek to accomplish by stating that Ahavas Yisrael is “(merely) an important principal of the Torah”?

There is a statement in the Midrash that “G‑d’s thoughts about the Jewish people preceded all else,”4 even coming before His thoughts about the Torah. I.e., the Jewish people are spiritually superior even to Torah.

On the other hand, the Zohar says5 “the Jewish people bind themselves to Torah, and Torah (cleaves) to G‑d.” This statement seems to imply that Torah is spiritually superior to the Jewish people.

How are we to reconcile these seemingly contradictory statements?

The explanation is as follows:6 The souls of the Jewish people as they exist at their source are indeed spiritually superior to Torah. However, when Jewish souls descend into this world, the Torah is spiritually superior to them; their reunification with G‑d can come about only through Torah.

This gives rise to two opposite extremes in the Jewish personality: On the one hand, no matter how much a Jew sins, his Jewishness remains unaltered,7 for his eternal relationship with G‑d transcends his service of Torah and mitzvos.

On the other hand, because a Jew’s relationship with G‑d is so profound, even the greatest sinner is assured of eventually returning to the path of righteousness.

The above also gives rise to opposite extremes with regard to Ahavas Yisrael :

The essence of a Jew’s love for his fellow Jew derives from the essential unity of all Jews at the eternal root and source of their souls8 — a bond that transcends the stipulations and strictures of Torah. Keeping in mind this essential unity, all Jews should be loved equally, even those who are distant from G‑d and spiritual service, for on the most fundamental level it is impossible to differentiate between a righteous Jew and any other.

However, since a Jew’s mortal in this world is bound up with and subservient to Torah, Ahavas Yisrael — even of the degree that emanates from the root and source of their souls — is bound up with Torah as well.

This being so, it is self-understood that this love is subject to the laws of the Torah, e.g., one may not compromise Torah for the sake of Ahavas Yisrael. Thus the Mishnah says:9 “Love your fellow creature and draw him closer to Torah;” loving one’s fellow is to be achieved by raising him to Torah, not by pulling Torah down to his level.

The different expressions of R. Akiva and Hillel regarding Ahavas Yisrael will be understood accordingly:

Rabbi Akiva speaks of the practical level of Ahavas Yisrael — the level bound by the dictates of Torah. He therefore cannot possibly say that Ahavas Yisrael is the “entire Torah,” for if this were so, Torah would be interchangeable with, and could be set aside for, Ahavas Yisrael. Rather, Ahavas Yisrael is an important principal of the Torah, subject to its rules and regulations.

Hillel, however, speaks of Ahavas Yisrael in relation to the Jews’ source — the level at which every Jew precedes Torah. On this level, all of Torah is for the sake of the Jewish people, for it is the observance of Torah that reveals the nation’s unique qualities.

Since the essential quality of the Jewish people is revealed in the command of Ahavas Yisrael , it thus follows that “This is the entire Torah — the rest is commentary.”

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XVII, pp. 219-224.

1.    Vayikra 19:18.
2.    Toras Kohanim , ibid.
3.    Shabbos 31a.
4.    Bereishis Rabbah 1:4; Tanna d’Vei Eliyahu Rabbah ch. 14.
5.    See Zohar III , 73a.

Synopsis 2:  

 Rashi in His Own Words
Vayikroh 19:18: … you shall love your fellow as yourself. I am Hashem. 
Rashi Heading – You shall love your neighbor as yourself: Rabbi Akiva says, “This is a great principle of the Torah.” 


In this week's Torah portion, Acharei-Kedoshim, we find the famous commandment to “love our fellow as ourselves.” Rashi cites these words and writes that “Rabbi Akiva says, ‘this is a great principle of the Torah.’” The fact is that Rashi’s commentary is not an ethical treatise. Its reason for being is to explain the simple meaning of the verse. “Loving your fellow as yourself” does not present any difficulty in Peshat; hence Rashi should have no need to explain it. 
 When we learn that one is obligated to love his fellow as himself an obvious question comes to mind. The Torah has numerous Mitzvos which govern the interaction between one person and another. What need is there for individual inter-personal commandments? Why does the Torah need to tell me not to steal, not to rob, not to take revenge or bear a grudge etc. etc. I am commanded to love my fellow. The commandment is not merely to love him, but to love him as I love myself. Obviously I’m not going to take something which is his! I will certainly not cause him any harm!
 That is the reason that Rashi tells us that this is a principle of the Torah. In other words, it is a general rule, or a set. This set includes many members. The members of this set are not causing another individual bodily or financial harm. We find many such examples in the Torah.

 However one could ask that this principle is different than others. Usually the details will be written in proximity to the general rule. However the inter-personal laws are scattered from one end of the Torah to the other! In order to explain this Rashi tells us that this is different than other general principles. This is a “great principle.”

 Rashi’s Explanation

 This week's Torah portion, Acharei-Kedoshim, tells us quite a few fundamental laws of the Torah. Among them is to1 “love your fellow as yourself.” Rashi cites these words and comments that “Rabbi Akiva says that this is a great principle of the Torah.” Rashi is teaching us the special significance of this particular Mitzvah. This law from among all of the many laws included in the Torah is considered to be an all encompassing principle. 
Rabbi Akiva’s teaching basically contains the same idea as that which was taught by Hillel several generations earlier2 . “Do not do to your fellow that which is hateful to you. That is the entire Torah; the rest is (simply) commentary.” 
Difficulties in Understanding Rashi

 Rashi’s commentary to the Torah is not a work of ethics. Rather, it primarily serves the function of explaining Peshat, meaning the simple meaning of the words of the Torah. He himself says as much numerous times throughout his commentary3 . There are also astounding teachings alluded to throughout Rashi’s comments which go far beyond Peshat4 . These include teachings in every approach to Torah study. This includes the mystical, Kabbalistic path to understanding the Torah as well5 . There are also practical lessons included in Rashi’s comments, which teach us how to serve Hashem on a daily basis. We must strive to learn every lesson from Rashi’s commentary which we can. Nonetheless the main point of his commentary is to explain the simple meaning of the words. He is primarily there in order to hold a beginners hand and explain to him step by step what the Torah is saying. He limits himself to pointing out things which could present a potential question to the novice. 

Based on this there appears to be a difficulty. Why do the words to “love your fellow as yourself” present a difficulty? They seem to be self-explanatory! Let us assume that these words do present a difficulty to the beginning student. How and why could the words “these are a great principle in the Torah” possibly explain that difficulty?
 We also need to understand why Rashi quotes this teaching in the name of Rabbi Akiva. Generally speaking, Rashi does not cite his sources. He only names the Sage whom he is quoting when doing so dispels some difficulty. What additional understanding do we gain from the fact that this statement was taught by Rabbi Akiva?

 The Explanation

 There is an obvious question with which the teaching to love ones fellow as oneself presents us. The Torah is divided into two different types of commandments. There are those Mitzvos which are between man and G-d. These are called “למקום אדם בין מצוות – Mitzvos Bain Odom L’Mokom.“ There is another type of commandment which is between man and his fellow man; i.e. inter-personal commandments6 . These are called “לחברו אדם בין מצוות – Mitzvos Bain Odom L’Chaveiro.“ One example of the first type of Mitzvah would be Hashem’s commandment to all Jewish men to put on Tefillin every weekday. An example of the second type would be not to deceive ones fellow in business.

 The commandment to love our fellow as ourselves would seem to include the majority of Mitzvos between a man and his fellow. If one loves his fellow, he obviously will not deceive him. This is certainly true if he loves him “as he loves himself!” Quite to the contrary; if one loves his fellow as himself he will constantly be looking out for his welfare.
 That is the reason that Rashi explains that this is “a principle of the Torah.” It is a general rule or a set which includes many details. Among the details included in this is not to steal, rob, or damage another’s property. This is quite common. The Torah often gives us one general commandment and then lists all of its details. We find this clearly stated regarding the laws of “Shemittah – the Sabbatical Year.” Rashi says that7 “just as with the laws of Shemittah, its general principles and its finer details were all stated from Sinai, so too is the case with all Mitzvos, both their general principles and their finer details were said at Sinai.” 

However there is still a difficulty remaining. When the Torah writes a general principle and its finer details, it writes them all together; at least it writes them in close proximity to each other. Here, the commandment to love your fellow as yourself is written in our Torah portion. However, all of the details, the inter-personal commandments are scattered throughout the Torah. That is uncommon to say the least! Rashi explains this by saying that this principle is unlike any other principle of the Torah. It is a great principle of the Torah. This is so to the extent that a number of its details are principles in their own right. This principle spans the entire Torah. Accordingly all of its details do not and cannot be written in proximity to each other. 

How it is possible for Hashem to command us to feel an emotion8? One can be commended to perform an action. But how can I be commanded to love each and every Jew? Not just that, but to love each one as I love myself!

  By telling us that this is a general principle (which consists of details), Rashi answers this question. The way to fulfill the principle is by fulfilling its details. By lending money to my fellow without charging him interest, helping him by giving him Tzedokoh, not deceiving him, etc. etc., I am fulfilling the general rule of loving him.
 However that still does not explain how I can possibly love him with the same intensity that I love myself! Rashi alludes to the answer to this question by stating that his source is Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva teaches the following law9 . “If two are travelling (far from civilization) and one has a pitcher of water. (There is insufficient water to sustain both of them.) If they both drink, they will both die. However if only one drinks he can reach civilization. Ben Petura taught that it is better that they both drink and die, rather than one of them witness his companion's death. This was until Rabbi Akiva came and taught that10 ‘your brother may live with you.’ Your life takes precedence over his life.” 

Rabbi Akiva is of the opinion that your own life takes precedence. Hence loving him as you love yourself is not meant to be taken literally. Rather what it means (according to Peshat) is that the love which I have for my fellow must be as, comparable to the love which I have for myself. 

A Deeper Lesson from Rashi

 As mentioned above, there are two Talmudic statements regarding the Mitzvah of loving ones fellow. There is the dictum cited here by Rashi; “Rabbi Akiva says that this is a great principle of the Torah.” There is also the saying of Hillel2 ; “Do not do to your fellow that which is hateful to you. That is the entire Torah; the rest is (simply) commentary.”
 The difference between the two is clear. According to Rabbi Akiva, love of a fellow is one principle of many in the Torah. It is indeed a great principle. However according to Rabbi Akiva it is one of the many principles which the Torah teaches. In contrast to this Hillel says that this concept is the entire Torah. Everything else which is written in the Torah is included in this one Mitzvah. 

Based on this we can understand why Rashi cites Rabbi Akiva’s teaching rather than Hillel’s. According to Peshat, we cannot say that loving ones fellow as oneself is the entire Torah. What we can say is that it is a general principle which includes all of the inter-personal laws. But we cannot say that it includes all of the laws between man and G-d.
 That is the reason that in the Talmud2 Rashi explains “do not do to your fellow that which is hateful to you” in an unusual manner11. He offers two explanations for “your fellow.” The first (and primary) explanation is that it refers to Hashem. The word fellow should therefore be written “Fellow” (with an uppercase “F”). Based on this it does indeed include the entire Torah; Hillel is saying not to do that which is hateful to G-d. In his second explanation Rashi does indeed explain that the word fellow does refer to an ordinary flesh and blood fellow. However, according to that he must explain the words “This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary” as only referring to the part of Torah which is between man and his fellow man.
 Indeed we must understand how the Mitzvah of loving ones fellow can possibly include the entire Torah. The Alter Rebbe explains12 that there is one way to achieve love of every Jew. If one focuses on the physical, then we are all different. There is not necessarily a reason for me to love someone else. However if I focus on the spiritual, the essential part of each one of us is the Divine soul. In terms of the soul there is no actual difference between one of us and the other. We are all a veritable part of the one G-d. The only thing which divides us is our bodies. From this we see that the way to truly love a fellow as ourselves is by elevating the spiritual above the physical. Focusing on the G-dly is indeed the entire Torah. (Adapted from a talk given on Shabbos Parshas Kedoshim 5727)

   Based on Likkutei Sichos Volume 17, Pages 215 – 224
1. Vayikra 19:18.
2. See Talmud Shabbos 31, a.
3. See for example Bereishis 3:8 and 3:24.
4. See Tractate Shavuos of the Sheloh, 181, a.
5. This is known as “the Wine of Torah.” See Hayom Yom, Page 24.
6. Despite the fact that these are called Mitzvos between man and his fellow, the reason for observing them is
because G-d said to.
7. See Rashi’s comments to Vayikroh 25:1.
8. A similar question is asked regarding the commandment (Devorim 6:5) to “love the Lord your G-d.” There
one answer which is given is that the commandment is to meditate on things which awaken the natural love which the soul feels for G-d
9. See Talmud Bava Metzi’a 62, a.
10. Vayikroh 25:36.
11. Rashi’s commentary to the Talmud is also based on Peshat. However Peshat in the Talmud is on a totally
different level. That is because a beginning student of Talmud is far more advanced than one who is beginning Torah.
12. See Tanya Chapter 32.


Synopsis 3:  


With regard to the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael,we find two different statements from our Sages:1

a) “Rabbi Akiva states: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ This is a great general principle in the Torah;”2

b) the statement from Hillel ((who lived) several generations earlier): “What is hateful to you do not do to your friend. This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary.”3

The difference between the wording of these two statements is obvious. “This is a great general principle in the Torah” means that ahavas Yisrael is one of the Torah’s general principles. It is even a “great” general principle, but it is still only one general principle.4 (It is not the generalprinciple of the Torah.) Hillel, by contrast, sees (ahavas Yisrael) as “the entire Torah.”5 The remainder is merely commentary.

For this reason, we can understand why Rashi, in his commentary to (this verse in) the Torah, quotes Rabbi Akiva’s statement (but not Hillel’s). For according to a simple perspective,6 ahavas Yisrael is not the entire Torah.7 It is merely the general principle that (motivates) the mitzvos between man and man.8

{For this reason, we see that Rashi,in his commentary to the Talmud,9 (which also reflects the simple meaning of the text, albeit of the Talmud,)10 (first) explains the statement that not doing what is hateful to a friend is “the entire Torah” as referring not to ahavas Yisrael, but (to our relationship with G‑d). “(The term) ‘your friend’ refers to the Holy One, blessed be He.... Do not violate His words.”11 (This is indeed “the entire Torah.”)

According to his second explanation(and the fact that it is stated second is significant), Rashi interprets “your friend” as referring to a friend on this material plane, but he explains that according to this interpretation, (ahavas Yisrael does not encompass) the entire Torah,12 but rather “(the prohibitions against) robbery, theft, adultery; and the majority of the mitzvos.}13

Explanation is necessary: (Both Rabbi Akiva’s and Hillel’s statements) are “the words of the living G‑d.”14 We must therefore say that both statements and concepts are true and can be explained according to the inner dimension of the Torah. Nevertheless, a question arises: Since Hillel(considers) ahavas Yisrael as “the entire Torah,” why does R. Akiva consider it (only): “a great general principle in the Torah”? (After all, 200 includes 100.)15 Moreover, as mentioned previously, Hillel’s statement was authored many generations (before R. Akiva’s,) as stated above.


The above can be understood based on the (explanation of another) statement by Hillel:16 “Be of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace... loving the created beings and drawing them close to the Torah.” What is the connection between “Loving peace... loving the created beings” and “drawing them close to the Torah”? Ahavas Yisrael motivates a Jew to seek out another person’s welfare (not only with regard to spiritual matters, but) with regard to all things, the material as well as the spiritual.17

As is well known,18 with that expression, the mishnah is clarifying that one should not compromise the Torah for the sake of ahavas Yisrael. “Loving the created beings” should be expressed in bringing them close to the Torah and not, Heaven forbid, (bringing the Torah close to them, i.e., one should not) adapt the Torah to the disposition of people at large and make compromises within it.

According to this interpretation, “drawing them close to the Torah” is a (secondary) point, clarifying how one should “love the created beings.” The simple meaning of the verse, (however, leads to a different interpretation): “Drawing them close to the Torah” is an extension and a consequence of “loving the created beings.” “Loving the created beings” leads to — and is expressed by — “bringing them close to the Torah.”

This concept is also reflected in ch. 32 of Tanya where the Alter Rebbe quotes (Hillel’s statement) and explains: “This implies that even those who are distant from the Torah of G‑d and His service... must be drawn close with thick cords of love. For perhaps it will be possible to draw them close to the Torah and Divine service.” The (ultimate)intent of “draw(ing) them close with thick cords of love” should be to “draw them close to the Torah and Divine service.” ((The Alter Rebbe, nevertheless, includes a proviso.) Even if one is not successful (in achieving that goal), “he does not forfeit the reward for the mitzvah of loving one’s fellow Jew.”)19

(Thus it seems that a Jew’s love for his fellow man has an ulterior motive; it must lead to the recipient’s spiritual advancement.) Now (previously in that chapter) the Alter Rebbe explains20 that ahavas Yisrael stems from the fact that he is a Jew and he possesses a soul. (And “all souls are complementary and we share one Father. Therefore all Jews are actually called brothers.”)21 For this reason, one must love “every Jewish soul, great or small.”21 (As the Maggid (of Mezritch) says:22 “One must love an absolutely wicked man in the same way as one loves an absolutely righteous man.”)

Since the love for the other person is (not dependent on the person’s level of Divine service, but is rather) an essential love that stems from the soul, why is this love associated with “drawing them close to the Torah”?


To explain the above: As is well known, our Sages state:23 “(G‑d’s) conception of the Jewish people precedes all matters,” even the Torah. For the Jews have precedence over — i.e., are higher — than the Torah. On the other hand, the Zohar states:24 “The Jews connect themselves to the Torah and the Torah connects to the Holy One, blessed be He.” That seems to imply that the Torah is higher than the Jewish people.25

Among the explanations given for (this paradox)26 is that the statement that the Jews transcend the Torah applies as they exist in their source. As the souls descend and (exist on) the physical plane, by contrast, the Torah transcends the Jewish people and a soul must connect to G‑d through the Torah.

Thus there are two (seemingly) opposite (dimensions) of a Jew’s makeup: Because of the dimension of the Jewish soul that transcends the Torah, “a Jew, even if he sins, remains a Jew.”27 No matter how many transgressions he will perform (G‑d forbid), he does not forfeit his Jewishness. For the bond between (the essence of) the soul of a Jew and G‑d is not dependent on his efforts in the Torah and its mitzvos.28

(The result of that connection) is, however, that every Jew will ultimately turn (to G‑d) in teshuvah;29 he will return to the Torah and its mitzvos. (The rationale is that) since the connection of a Jew (on the physical plane) to G‑d is through the Torah, it is impossible for the essential quality possessed by a Jew to remain an isolated entity (without expression in the Torah and its mitzvos). Instead, it must lead him to the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos (and through this,30 the essential quality of his soul that transcends the Torah will also be revealed.)31


These (concepts) lead to the two perspectives that apply to the endeavor of “lov(ing) your neighbor as yourself.” The essence of that love stems from the (utter) unity that exists in the source of the Jewish souls,32 as the Jews exist above the Torah, transcending the Torah’s limitations. Accordingly, this love is expressed equally to all Jews, even to those who are “distant from G‑d’s Torah and His service.”33 For on this level, a distinction cannot be made between a righteous man and a Jew who is distant from the Torah.34 Moreover, this love is not limited to the spiritual dimensions of the other Jew, but instead, encompasses all of his affairs, even his physical concerns,14 for these are the physical concerns of a Jew.

Nevertheless, since a Jew’s existence is bound up with the Torah, as stated above, ahavas Yisrael (even the love which stems from the essence of the soul which is above the Torah) becomes a mitzvah of the Torah. We must love a Jew because the Torah commands us to. As a consequence, (this love is channeled through) the limits and specifi­cations that the Torah establishes. (For example, no compromises in the Torah may be made because of ahavas Yisrael.) And indeed, there are some Jews whom the Torah commands us to relate to in a manner of: “With the utmost hatred, I hate them.”35


This reflects the concept that Hillel emphasizes (which is also under­scored by the Alter Rebbe’s statements in Tanya)that “lov(ing) the created beings” (those distant from G‑d and His service) must lead to draw(ing) them close to the Torah. The love (that one has for his fellow Jew) stems from (the recognition of) their essential quality, the fact that they are Jews.

{(It is true that) we must love a Jew (and help him in all his concerns) even when we are not successful in drawing him close to the Torah.} (Nevertheless, we must operate according to the same rationale that we employ) with regard to our own Divine service. The essential positive quality that we are Jewish (i.e., the bond with G‑d that transcends the Torah) cannot remain separate from the Torah, but instead, must motivate us to the observance of the Torah and its mitzvos (as stated in sec. III).

Similar concepts apply with regard to the love for those who are “distant from the Torah of G‑d and His service.” The fact that one feels their essential quality, (i.e.,) the fact that they are Jews, motivates him not to remain complacent because of this alone. Instead, it propels him toward efforts to transform them into Torah Jews.

Since the essential quality of a Jew comes into expression through the Torah, when a person remains distant from the Torah, it is impossible for him to have an authentic appreciation of the true peace and oneness that exists between him and all other Jews36 (that they are “actually brothers because of the source of their souls”)32 “Drawing them close to the Torah” — connecting them with the Torah and in this way, with G‑d — enables the perception (in a revealed manner)37 of the essential quality possessed by the Jews that transcends the Torah.


On this basis, we can understand the explanation of the two expres­sions used by our Sages with regard to ahavas Yisrael. Rabbi Akiva is speaking about ahavas Yisrael as we must — and as we actually — prac­tice, (loving) a fellow Jew (by showing concern) for him as he exists (on this material plane), a soul enclothed within a body, according to the limitations of the Torah. Accordingly, it is not appropriate to say that it is “the entire Torah,” because that would necessitate compro­mising the standards of the Torah for the sake of ahavas Yisrael (as the threat to Jewish life supersedes the entire Torah38 ). Instead, (ahavas Yisrael) is merely “a general principle in the Torah,” (i.e., one like others,) and must be expressed through the guidelines of the Torah.39

Hillel, by contrast, also speaks about ahavas Yisrael, as it is expressed on the material plane (to a soul as it exists in a body), but (he speaks about it) as it relates to the source of the Jewish souls, the level at which “the Jews precede the Torah.” At this level, the entire Torah exists for the sake of the Jewish people, for the purpose of expressing and revealing their (true) qualities. Since the (true) quality of the Jewish people (that they are “actually brothers because of the source of their souls”) is expressed in a revealed manner through ahavas Yisrael, it is “the entire Torah and the rest is commentary.”40

(Adapted from Sichos Shabbos Parshas Kedoshim, 5727)






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