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The Love for the Creator & Love for the Created Beings

“Love thy friend as thyself.” Rabbi Akiva says this is a great rule in the Torah


Collective and Individual

The above statement, although it is one of the most famous and cited sayings, it is still unexplained to everyone with all its vastness. That is because the word rule (or collective) indicates a sum of details that relates to the above rule, that each and every detail carries a part within it in a way that the gathering of all the details together creates that rule (or collective).

And if we say “a great rule in the Torah,” it means that all the texts and the 612 mitzvot are the sum-total of the details that relate to the verse of “Love thy friend as thyself.” It is difficult to understand how such a statement can contain the sum-total of all the Mitzvot in the Torah? At most it can be the rule (the collective) of the part of the Torah and texts that relate to the Mitzvot between man and man. But how can you include the greater part of the Torah, which concerns work between man and God in the verse, “Love thy friend as thyself”?

That Which You Hate, Do Not Do To Your Friend

If we can somehow reconcile the above text, here comes Hillel’s statement to the foreigner who came before him and asked to be converted, as it says in the Gmarah, “Convert me so that you will teach me the entire Torah while I am standing on one leg.” He told him “That which you hate, do not do to your friend.” This is the entire Torah, and the rest means just go and study. We see that he told him that the entire Torah is the interpretation of the verse, “Love thy friend as thyself.”

Now, according to the words of Hillel, the teacher of all the Kabbalists of his time, it is perfectly clear to us that the primary purpose of our holy Torah is to bring us to that sublime degree where we can observe this verse “Love thy friend as thyself”, because it specifically says: “the rest means go and study.” This means that they interpret for us how to come to that rule.

It is surprising that such a statement can be correct in most of the issues of the Torah, which concern man and God, when every beginner evidently knows that this is the heart of the Torah and not the interpretation of “Love thy friend as thyself.”

Love Thy Friend as Thyself

We should examine further and understand the meaning of the verse, “Love thy friend as thyself.” The literal meaning of it is to love your friend in the same amount that you love yourself. However, we see that the collective cannot keep up with it at all. If it had said love your friend as much as your friend loves you, there still would not be many people who could observe it completely, yet it would be acceptable.

But to love my friend as much as I love myself appears to be impossible. Even if there were but one person in the world except me, that would still be impossible, much less when the world is full of people. Moreover, if one loved everyone as much as one loves oneself, he would have no time for himself. But one must willingly satisfy one’s own needs without neglect, for one loves oneself.

It is not so concerning the needs of the collective; for one has no strong motivation to stimulate one’s desire to work for them. Even if one had a desire, could one still keep this statement literally? Would one’s strength endure? If not, how can the Torah obligate us to do something that is not in any way feasible?

We should not consider that this statement is spoken by way of exaggeration, because we are cautioned by the saying: “Though shall not add to it nor subtract from it.” All the interpreters agreed to interpret the text literally. Moreover they said that one must satisfy the needs of one’s friend even in a place where one is himself in need. Even then we must satisfy the needs of our friend and leave ourselves needing.

The Tosfot interpret that anyone who buys a Hebrew slave, it is as though he buys a master for himself. And the Tosfot interpret that should one happen to have but one pillow, if one lies on it oneself, he does not keep, “For he is happy with thee.” And if one does not lie on it and does not give it to one’s slave, this is sodomite rule. It turns out that against his will one must give it to one’s servant. It turns out that one has bought oneself a master.

One Mitzva (Commandment)

This raises several questions: According to the aforesaid, we all sin against the Torah. Furthermore we do not keep even the primary part of the Torah, the essence of it, because we keep the details but not the actual rule. It is written: “When you keep the will of the Creator, the poor are in others and not in you.” Yet how is it possible that there will be poor when everyone keeps the rule, the desire of the Lord, and love their neighbor as themselves?

The issue of the Hebrew slave needs further study: The meaning of the text is that one must love one’s slave as oneself even when referring to a stranger or an alien, who is not a Hebrew. And one should not excuse oneself because the rule for the stranger is as the rule for the Hebrew because “One law and one ordinance should be both for you and for the stranger that so journeth with you.” The word “stranger” also means a “partial proselyte,” meaning one who does not accept the Torah, but only retires oneself from idolatry. It is written about such a person: “thou mayest give it onto the stranger that is within thy gates.”

And this is the meaning of One Mitzva that the Tana speaks of when he says: "Performing one Mitzva sentences oneself and the entire world to a scale of merit." It is very difficult to understand what the entire world has to do with this? And we should not excuse ourselves that it is about when one is half righteous, half sinner.

One can see about oneself that one is half righteous, half sinner, but not that the entire world is such. Furthermore, the text should have stated “The whole of Israel”; but why does it say “the entire world”? Are we guarantors for the entire world? Do we add them into our account of good deeds?

We must understand that our sages spoke only of the practical part of the Torah, which brings the world and the Torah to the desired goal. Therefore, when they say One Mitzva, they certainly refer to a practical Mitzva. And this is certainly as Hillel says, meaning “Love thy friend as thyself.” It is by this Mitzva alone one attains the real goal, which is adhesion with the Creator. Thus you find that with this one Mitzva one keeps the entire goal and the purpose.

And now there is no question about the Mitzvot between man and God because the practical ones about them have the same purpose of cleansing the body, the last point of which is to love your friend as yourself. The immediate phase after that is adhesion.

And in that there is a general and a particular. We come from the particular to the general, because the general leads to the ultimate goal. Thus, it certainly makes no difference on which side to begin, in the particular or in the general, as long as we begin and do not stay neutral, until we reach our goal.

And to Cleave Onto Him

There still remains room to ask: “If the purpose of the Torah and the entire creation is but to raise the base humanity to become worthy of that wonderful sublimity, and to cleave onto Him, He should have created us with that sublimity to begin with, instead of troubling us with the labor that there is in creation and Torah and Mitzvot.

We could explain that by the words of our sages: “One who eats that which is not his, is afraid to look at one’s face.” This means that anyone who feeds on the labor of others is afraid (ashamed) to look at his own form, for his form is inhuman.

Because no deficiency comes out of His wholeness, He has prepared for us this work, that we may enjoy the labor of our own hands. That is why He created creation in this base form. The work in Torah and Mitzvot lifts us from the baseness of creation, and through it we reach our sublimity by ourselves. Then we do not feel the delight and pleasure that comes to us from his generous hand, as a gift, but as owners of that pleasure.

However, we must still understand the source of the baseness that we feel upon receiving a present. Nature scientists know that the nature of every branch is to be close to its root. The branch also loves every conduct in the root. By the same principle, every thing that is not in the root, the branch too stays away from, cannot tolerate it and is harmed by it.

And because our root is the Creator, and He does not receive but gives, we feel sorrow and degradation upon every reception from another.

Now we understand the purpose of cleaving to Him. The sublimity of adhesion is only the equivalence of the branch with its root, and the whole matter of lowness is only the remoteness from the root. In other words, each creature whose way is corrected to bestow becomes sublime and capable of cleaving to Him. However, each creature whose way is reception and self-love, is degraded and removed far from the Creator.

As a remedy, we have been prepared with the Torah and Mitzvot. In the beginning we are to keep it Lo Lishma, meaning in order to be rewarded. This is the case during the period of Katnut (smallness), an educational phase. When one grows, one is taught to observe Torah and Mitzvot Lishma, meaning to bring contentment to one’s Maker, and not for self-love.

Now we can understand the words of our sages: “Why should the Creator mind if one slaughters at the throat or at the back of the neck? After all, the Mitzvot were only given to cleanse people.”

But we still do not know what that cleansing is. With regards to the afore mentioned, we know that, “a wild ass’s colt is born a man.” And we are completely immersed in the filth [C.R.1] and lowness of self-reception and self-love, without any spark of love for one’s fellow person and bestowal. In that state one is in the farthest point from the root.

When one grows and is educated through Torah and Mitzvot, defined only by the aim to bring contentment to one’s Maker and not at all for self-love, one comes to the degree of bestowal to one’s fellow person. One comes to that degree by the natural remedy in the study of Torah and Mitzvot Lishma that the giver of the Torah knows, as our sages said, “I have created the evil inclination, I have created for it the Torah as a spice.”

By that the creature develops in the degrees of the above sublimity until one loses any form of self-love and self-reception. In that state, one’s every attribute is either to bestow, or to receive in order to bestow. Our sages said about that, “The Mitzvot were only given in order to cleanse people with,” and then one cleaves to one’s root, as it says, “and to cleave onto Him.”

Two Parts to the Torah: Between Man and God and Between Man and Man

Even if we see that there are two parts to the Torah: The first – Mitzvot between man and God, and the second - Mitzvot between man and man, they are both one and the same thing. This means that the actual purpose of them and the desired goal are one, namely Lishma.

It makes no difference if one works for one’s friend or for the Creator. That is because it is carved in us by the nature of creation that anything that comes from the outside appears empty and unreal.

Because of that we are compelled to begin with Lo Lishma. Rambam says, “our sages said: ‘One should always study the Torah, and even Lo Lishma, because from Lo Lishma one comes to Lishma.’ Therefore when teaching the young, the women and the illiterate, they are taught to work out of fear and in order to be rewarded, until they accumulate knowledge and gain wisdom. Then they are told that secret little by little and they are accustomed to that matter with ease until they attain and know Him and serve Him with love.”

Thus, when one completes one’s work in love and bestowal for one’s fellow person and comes to the highest point, one also completes one’s love and bestowal for the Creator. In that state there is no difference between the two, for anything that is outside one’s body, meaning one’s self-interest is judged equally - either to bestow upon one’s friend or bestow contentment upon one’s Maker.

This is what Hillel Hanasi assumed, that “Love thy friend as thyself” is the ultimate goal in the practice. That is because it is the clearest form to mankind.

We should not be mistaken with deeds, for they are set before ones eyes. We know that if we precede the needs of our own, it is bestowal. For that reason Hillel does not define the goal as “And though shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy might,” because they are indeed one and the same thing. It is so because one should also love one’s friend with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, because that is the meaning of the words “as thyself.” After all one certainly loves oneself with all one’s heart and soul and might, but with regards to the Creator, one may deceive oneself; and with one’s friend it is always spread out before his eyes.

Why Was the Torah Not Given to the Patriarchs?

That answers the first three questions. But there still remains the question how is it possible to keep it, for it is seemingly impossible. You should know that that is why the Torah was not given to the Patriarchs, but to their children’s children, who were a complete nation, consisting of 600,000 men from 20 years of age and on. They received it after having been asked if each and every one of them were willing to take upon himself this work and this sublime goal.

After each and every one said, “We shall hear and we shall do” it became possible. That is because undoubtedly, if 600,000 men have no other interest in life but to stand guard and see that no need is left unsatisfied in their friends, and they even do it lovingly, with all their soul and all their might, there is absolutely no doubt that there will not be a need in any person in the nation to care for his own sustenance. That is because he will have 600,000 loving and loyal people making sure not a single need is left unsatisfied.

Thus we answer the question why was the Torah not given to our holy patriarchs. That is because in a small group of people the Torah cannot be observed. It is impossible to begin the work of Lishma, as it is described above. Because of that the Torah was not given to them.

All of Israel Are Responsible for One Another

In light of the above we can understand a perplexing saying by our sages who said, “All of Israel are responsible for one another.” Furthermore, Rabbi Elazar, the son of Rabbi Shimon adds that, “The world is judged by the majority.”

It follows, that we are also responsible for all the nations of the world. I wonder; this seems to be something that the mind cannot tolerate. How can one be responsible for the sins of another whom he does not know? It is said specifically that, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin.”

Now we can understand the meaning of the words in utter simplicity. It is clearly impossible to keep the Torah and Mitzvot if the entire nation does not participate.

It turns out that each and every person has become responsible for his friend. This means that those who are reckless make those who keep the Torah remain in their filth. They cannot be corrected and come to love bestowal upon one’s fellow person without the participation of the reckless. Thus, if some among the nation are sinners, they make the rest of the nation suffer.

It is written in the Midrash, “Israel, one of them sins and all of them feel.” Rabbi Shimon said about that: “It is like people who were seated in a boat. One of them took a drill and began to drill under his seat. His friends told him, ‘What are you doing?’ He replied, “Why should you care? Am I not drilling under me?’ They replied, ‘The water is flooding the boat.’” As we’ve explained above, because the reckless are immersed in self-love, their acts create a wall of steel that detains those who keep the Torah from even beginning to keep the Torah and Mitzvot, as they should be kept.

Now we will clarify the words of Rabbi Eliezar, son of Rabbi Shimon, who says, “Since the world is judged by the majority, and the individual is judged by the majority, if one performs one Mitzva, blessed be he, for he sentences himself and the entire world to a scale of merit. If he commits one sin, woe unto him for he sentences himself and the entire world to a scale of demerit. It is said, ‘But one sinner destroyeth much good.’”

We see that Rabbi Abba, son of Rabbi Shimon takes the issue of the Arvut (mutual responsibility) even further, for he says, “The world is judged by its majority.” This is because he thinks it is not enough for one nation to receive the Torah and Mitzvot. Either he came to this opinion by observing reality, for we see that the end has not yet come, or he received it from his teachers.

The text also supports him, as it promises us that at the time of redemption, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,” and also, “all nations shall flow onto him,” and many more verses. That is the reason he conditioned the Arvut in the participation of the entire world. It shows that an individual cannot come to the desired goal by observing Torah and Mitzvot, if not through the aid of all the people of the world.

Thus, each and every Mitzva that one performs affects the whole world. It is like a person who weighs beans on a scale. Just like each and every bean one puts on the scale induces the final desired decision, so each Mitzva that the individual performs before the whole earth is full of the knowledge develops the world in that direction.

It is said, “But one sinner destroyeth much good.” It means that one’s sinning reduces the weight on the scale, as though that person took back the beans he had put on the scale. By that one turns the world backwards.

Why Was the Torah Given to Israel?

Now we can answer the question, “why the Torah was given to the Israeli nation without the participation of all the nations of the world?” The truth is that the purpose of creation applies to the entire human race, none absent. However, because of the lowness of the nature of creation and its power over people, it was impossible for people to be able to understand, determine and agree to rise above it. They did not demonstrate the desire to relinquish self-love and come to equivalence of form, which is adhesion with His attributes, as our sages said, “As he is merciful, so you be merciful.”

Thus, because of their ancestral merit Israel succeeded, and over 400 years they developed and became qualified and sentenced themselves to a scale of merit. Each and every member of the nation agreed to love his fellow man.

Being a small and single nation among seventy great nations, when there are a hundred gentiles or more for every one of Israel, when they had taken upon themselves to love their fellow person, the Torah was then given specifically to qualify the Israeli nation.

However, the Israeli nation was to be a “transition.” This means that to the extent that Israel cleanse themselves by keeping the Torah, so they pass their power on to the rest of the nations. And when the rest of the nations also sentence themselves to a scale of merit, then the Messiah will be revealed. That is because the role of the Messiah, is not only to qualify Israel to the ultimate goal of adhesion with Him, but to teach the ways of God to all the nations, as the verse says, “And all nations will flow onto Him.”

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