All the Commandments of the Blessed Holy One: You Shall Love Your Fellow as Yourself

by tillerofthesoil

“Our rabbis taught: A man should always be lenient like Hillel, not strict like Shammai. It once happened that two men made a bet with each other, saying, He who goes and provokes Hillel will receive four hundred zuz. One said, ‘I will go and provoke him.’ That day was the Sabbath eve, and Hillel was washing his head. He went, passed by the door of his house, and called out, ‘Who here is Hillel, who here is Hillel?’ He robed and went out to him, saying, ‘My son, what do you need?’ ‘I have a question to ask.’ He said. ‘Ask, my son.’ ‘Why are the skulls of the Babylonians oval? ‘My son, you have asked a great question [Hillel was himself a Babylonian], because they have no skillful midwives.’ He departed, waited an hour, returned, and called out, ‘Who here is Hillel, who here is Hillel?’ He robed and went out to him, saying, ‘My son, what do you need?’ ‘I have a question to ask,’ he said. ‘Ask, my son.’ He asked: ‘Why are the eyes of the residents of Tadmor bleary?’ ‘My son, you have asked a great question: because they live among the sands.’ He departed,waited an hour, returned, and called out, ‘Who here is Hillel, who here is Hillel?’ He robed and went out to him, saying, ‘My son, what do you need?’ ‘I have a question to ask,’ he said. ‘Ask, my son.’ ‘Why are the feet of the Africans wide?’ ‘My son, you have asked a great question: because they live in watery marshes.’ ‘I have many questions to ask but fear that you may become angry.’ He then robed, sat before him and said, ‘Ask all the questions you have to ask.’ ‘Are you the Hillel who is called Prince of Israel?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘If that is you may there not be many like you in Israel.’ ‘Why, my son?’ he asked. ‘Since I have lost four hundred zuz because of you.’ ‘Be careful of your spirit, Hillel is worth it that you should lose four hundred zuz and yet another four hundred zuz on his account, yet Hillel shall not be strict.’

Our rabbis taught: A certain stranger once came before Shammai and asked him, ‘How many teachings do you have?’ He said, ‘Two, the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.’ ‘I trust you with respect to the Written Torah, but with respect to the Oral Torah I do not trust you; make me a convert on condition that you teach me the Written Torah [only]. He scolded and drove him out in rebuke. When he went before Hillel, [who accepted him as] a convert. On the first day, he taught him, Alef, bet, gimmel, dalet; the following day he reversed [them] for him. ‘But yesterday you did not tell me that.’ ‘Did you not rely on me? Then trust me with respect to the Oral [Torah] too [since there must be a certain reliance on authority before anything can be learnt at all].’

On another occasion it happened that a certain stranger came before Shammai and said to him, ‘Make me a convert, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.’ He shoved him with the builder’s cubit in his hand [בֶּאֱמֶת (be’emet), builder’s cubit, plays on אֶמֶת (emet), truth, i.e., Shammai’s appraoch was built on the basis of absolute truth]. When he went before Hillel, he said to him, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: that is the whole Torah and the rest is its commentary. Go and learn” (BT Shabbat 30b-31a).

“Son of Azzai said: This is the book of the descendants of Adam: [On the day God created the human, in the image of God] (Genesis 5:1) is a great principle of Torah. Rabbi Akiva said: and love your fellow as yourself (Leviticus 19:18) is a great principle, so that you must not say, ‘Since I have been put to shame, let my fellow be put to shame, since I have been cursed, let my fellow be cursed.’ Rabbi Tanḥuma said: If you do so, know whom you put to shame, for God created the human in His image (Genesis 1:27)” (Bereshit Rabbah 24:7, cf. Sifra Qedoshim 4:12).

“All Companions who do not love each other divert themselves from the straight path” (Zohar 2:190b).

They helped everyone his fellow; and everyone said to his brother, ‘Be strong’ (Isaiah 41:6).

A song of ascents for David. Look, how good and pleasant is the dwelling of brothers together (Psalms 133:1, cf. Zohar 3:59b).

“Rabbi Ḥiyya opened, ‘When your enemy falls, do not be glad; when he stumbles, let not your heart rejoice‘ (Proverbs 24:17)… Come and see: Why did Joseph—who was granted dominion by the blessed Holy One—spin schemes around his brothers when they fell into his hands? After all, he knew the Torah that his father taught him! But perish the thought that Joseph spun those schemes to take revenge upon them! Rather, he did all this only to bring his brother Benjamin for whom he yearned. He did not let his brothers fall, for look what is written: Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain… (Genesis 42:25)—all this so they would not fall” (Zohar 1:199a).

Hatred foments strife, but אַהֲבָה (ahava), love, covers up all misdeeds (Proverbs 10:12).

“It is written, You shall not take vengeance, and you shall not harbor a grudge against any of the children of your people (Leviticus 19:18). How does this apply? If someone is chopping meat, and the clever cuts his hand, will he in return cut the [other] hand? But love your fellow as yourself (ibid.)” (JT Nedarim 9:4, 41c).

“It has been taught in the Concealment of the Book: In every manner חֶסֶד (ḥesed), love [or: kindness], must be increased and fashioned, not cut or eliminated from the world” (Zohar 3:133b, Idra Rabba).

“Don’t the inhabitants of the world realise that I based the world solely on love? As is written, כִּי-אָמַרְתִּי עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה (ki-amarti olam ḥesed yibaneh), I said, ‘The world shall be built on love’ (Psalms 89:3). By this the world endures” (Zohar 1:10b).

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