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You shall love your neighbor as yourself (19:18).
Rabbi Akiva says: "This is the fundamental rule of the Torah" (Midrash Torat Cohanim 4:12). The whole of Torah observance rests on the foundation that people relate to each other with due consideration, concern, and respect. As Hillel puts it: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your friend" (Shabbat 31a).
Both the Ramban and the Sforno take into account that the Torah does not phrase "your neighbor as yourself" with "et rei-acha ca-mocha", but "le-rei-acha camo-cha". The Torah recognizes that it is extremely difficult for a person to feel as close to someone else as to oneself, which would be the meaning of "et rei-acha". Rather, a person should frame the way he relates to the needs of others - "le-rei-acha" - in a positive way. Thus the Ramban's interpretation is that just as the individual seeks maximum self-success, so should that individual want the same maximum success for the other person, on whatever path he or she may be.
The Sforno explains in a similar way: "You should desire for your neighbor what you would want for yourself, were you in the same position". You should want the other to have the success that he or she is striving for, because that is what you would want for yourself if you were in that person's place. With this idea, we can revisit R. Akiva's declaration: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself - this is the fundamental rule of the Torah".
It implies a basic worldview, which is that a person should cultivate the abundance mentality. That is necessary to make "ve-ahavta le-rei-acha camo-cha" happen. The world's suitably-managed resources do exist in great quantities. Our own success is not at risk because of the success of others; that is the serious thinking-error behind jealousy. On the contrary. The world is big enough for you and I to realize our great potential, and many, many, others at the same time.
For example, a person had an unexpected huge success in business, or made an outstanding shidduch. The Torah requires you to feel pleased for the other person and to want them to make the most of their success. Sincerely conveying that message - "ve-ahavta le-rei-acha camo-cha" and giving them assistance where feasible gives the other the essential friendship element that enhances the achievement, and gives it meaning.
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Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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