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Iyar 20

You shall love your neighbor as you do yourself (Leviticus 19:18).

The usual translation is printed above and indeed is the way the verse is generally interpreted. As a result, the question is often raised, "How can people have the same love for others as they have for themselves? Isn't this demand unrealistic?"

If, however, we look more carefully at the original Hebrew, the question disappears. The Torah is stating here a definition of "love": ve'ahavta, the sensation or the experience of love, is lerei'acha kamocha, when you wish for another that which you wish for yourself.

What some people consider love may be nothing more than a self-serving relationship. They may "love" something because it satisfies their needs, but when the object cannot satisfy the need, or the need itself disappears, the love evaporates.

True love is not self-serving, but self-giving. We love only when we have as intense a desire to please the other person as to be pleased ourselves. Such an attitude calls for sacrifice, because it may be that we will have to deprive ourselves in order to provide what will please the other person.

As children, we are selfish. As we mature, we should develop a spiritual love, which is quite different from our childish physical love. This spiritual, other-directed love can withstand all challenges. As the Song of Songs says, Even abundant waters cannot extinguish love (8:7).

Today I shall...

try to avoid the self-centered love of my childhood and replace it with a true love for the person I claim to love, even when it demands great personal sacrifice.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) mysteries, May 12, 2012 11:02 PM

Love is not reciprocal for love follows the ways of society. Love is a state of compromise.

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