Dvar for Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27)
Buried deep in Parshat Kedoshim is the Jewish dictum that one should “love your fellow as yourself” (19:18). R’ Akiva said in the Gemara (Tractate) that this is the fundamental rule of the Torah. Many commentators explain what’s so significant about this commandment, ranging from its focus on selflessness, love, consideration, respect, and even of loving yourself. Hillel, however, changed the wording a bit, saying that “what is hateful to you, do not do onto others” (Shabbat 31a). By Hillel’s rephrasing and focusing on hate, all the wonderful lessons our commentators derived seem to be negated. Why would Hillel do this?
The truth is that if we thought about the real essence of this Mitzvah (commandment), we’d realize that Hillel didn’t change anything, and in fact helped us focus on the most important aspect of it. The commandment of loving another as you love yourself is one of the rare instances of commandments that no one can do alone. The point isn’t merely to treat others with love, respect and consideration, but to have others around you so that you may love, respect and consider them. Hillel was saying that Judaism lives, thrives and depends on having a community of others around us, so that we can hone our relationship with each other (thereby improving our relationship with G-d himself). The message couldn’t be more pertinent to us today: Treat others around us with the love, respect and consideration they deserve, but make sure you have a community around us that deserves that very consideration.