Possibly the most popular phrase in the Torah is “Love your fellow as yourself.”
Idealistic words, for sure, but possible? Can we love someone— a stranger—as much as we love ourselves?
On the most basic level, this means that we need to wish good upon others. Practical examples would be treating others with respect (just like we wish to be treated) and wanting good for others (just like we want).
On a deeper level, however, the Baal Shem Tov explains that if we see another as a child of G‑d, it enables us to feel a deep love for them.
Studies show that when a mother watches her child suffer, the neurons in her brain light up to reflect the exact areas of her child’s suffering. The pain we feel when our children suffer, or conversely the love that we feel when our children are happy, is real. If we look at our fellow as a child of G‑d, our Father, we, too, can feel love and empathy.
By while that may be true for those closest to us, how can we apply this idea to even strangers?
The Alter Rebbe tells us to see beyond the physical constrictions of the body and view another person as a soul. Then there is no “I” and “you”. We are both one essence just as both hands are part of one body.
This is in fact why this commandment is the basis of the entire Torah. If we can see our existence as not just a physical reality, but an expression of G‑dliness, we can master all of Torah.
But does that mean I need to be blind to the faults of another?
No! Just as we love ourselves totally but we still expect more from ourselves, we can love and respect another person even while seeing his mistakes. Being blinded to his faults, says the Rebbe, is actually apathy not love. Loving him means just as we justify our own failings and still love and respect ourselves, so too, we can find the justifications for another’s faults while still loving and respecting him for who he is.
Wow, lots of lofty ideas to think about. What do you do to love another?
Wishing you a week full of love, respect and generosity.