Parhsas Eikev - Love Thy Neighbour

By Reb Eliezer Bulka
Posted on 07/30/21

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my father, Reuven Pinchas ben Chaim Yaakov, a"h.

The Weekly Shtikle is dedicated le'iluy nishmas my Oma, Chaya Sara bas Zecharia Chaim, a"h.

In parshas Kedoshim, we are taught for the first time that we must go out of our way to show love towards a convert. The pasuk says (19:34) regarding the convert, "ve'ahavta lo kamocha," you shall love him as yourself. The authorities on the specification of each of the 613 mitzvos, such as Sefer HaChinuch and Rambam, do count this as a mitzvah unto itself. However, their source is not from Kedoshim. Rather, this mitzvah is not discussed until this week's parsha where it is said (10:18) "ve'ahavtem es hageir," and you shall love the convert. Asks R' Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky, zt"l, why is the source for this mitzvah not its first mention in the Torah?

In Kedoshim, we also find the famous commandment to "love thy neighbour as thyself." The Torah's wording (Vayikra 19:18) is "ve'ahavta lerei'acha kamocha." As Ramban explains, the prefix "le" usually means toward. With regard to the love of HaShem, it is written (Devarim 6:5) "ve'ahavta es HaShem Elokecha." Accordingly, one would have expected the Torah to write "ve'ahavta es rei'acha kamocha." However, this pasuk uses a deliberately alternative wording. Our love of HaShem is expected to be absolute. Indeed, we are commanded to devote all our heart, soul and possessions toward that cause. But the Torah realizes that we cannot be expected to show such unequivocal love toward each and every one of our fellow Jews. Thus, the commandment to love your neighbour is not worded to imply that you must love him as yourself. Rather, we are simply commanded to act towards him in a manner that we would expect from others. As Hillel explained it simply to a convert, ironically, in the gemara (Shabbos 31a), that which you would not want done to yourself, do not do to others.

This, suggests R' Kulefsky, is the key to our original quandary. The pasuk in Kedoshim merely commands us "ve'ahavta lo." The command is in the same form as our requirement to love every Jew and thus, does not single the convert out for a higher level of love. However, the pasuk in Eikev  says "veahavtem es hageir." The use of the word es teaches us that we are required to show a special love towards converts, over and above that which we show towards every other Jew. This is what compelled the Sefer HaChinuch to derive this mitzvah from parshas Eikev, rather than parshas Kedoshim.

This past week, we commemorated the sheloshim for my father, a"h, with a siyum of shas mishnayos, a siyum on Talmud Bavli by my brother and a worldwide memorial event (which you can view here, if you missed it.) Although, as mentioned above, the general expectation for loving our neighbours is not too lofty so as to remain attainable to all, one of my father's recognizable traits was his ability to show love and respect to every single person he met. He certainly excelled at "ve'ahavta lerei'acha kamocha" beyond the letter of the law but not just for himself. He inspired and charged others to raise their level of observance of this special mitzvah as well. Yehi zichro baruch.

Have a good Shabbos.