Drash Cards for Kedoshim (5779)
by Marc Mangel
• According to Sefer HaMitzvot there are 51 mitzvot in this parsha; 13 positive and 38 negative
• I am going to focus on the positive mitzvah in Ch 19, v 18 [READ IN HEBREW]: “You must love your fellow as yourself; I am God”. In Hirsch it ends “I God”.
• Sefer HaMitzvot also says “This mitzvah is in force everywhere t every time”.
• We know it best because Hillel turned it into a negative mitzvah “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow person. This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary”.
• Susan reminded me that this was behind the driver of Eged buses when we lived in Israel in the early 1970s.
• The Arizal (Isaac Luria) instituted the tradition of saying this verse three times a day, before davening. In the Breslov siddur, it is there in its entirety. In the Chabad siddur, the decision was made to say it just with Sachrit, without the “I am God” at the end, since the verse flows through the entire day.
• Two of my sources [Nachsoni’s compilation Studies in the Weekly Parsha and Ludmir’s Torah Gems] had the same commentary from Rambam, which roughly goes like this (different translations):
It is a mitzvah to visit the sick, to comfort the mourners, to bury the dead, to facilitate the marriage of a bride, to escort guests, to deal with all aspects of burial, etc. All these are gemilat chasidim — deeds of lovingkindness – performed by personal action, for which there is no set measure…[T[hey are included in the general commandment “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”. All those things which you want others to do for you, you must do for your fellow in Torah and mitzvot. These are charitable acts that are done with the body, and there is no limit as to what can be accomplished.
• This is how we create a dwelling place for God in this world. You cannot love your fellow as yourself in an abstract way – thus must be actual, physical deeds.
• Now, it is easy to understand how these kinds of social mitzvot can reduced to the love of one’s fellow. But how about the mitzvot that do not relate to one’s fellow?
• The Baal Shem Tov said “Just as a person loves himself in spite of the faults that he knows he has, so he must love his neighbor in spite of the neighbor having faults.”
• R. David Zvi Hoffman explains that “I am God” is added at the end because God is saying “I am God, who created all of you, and it is I who demand the unity of the human species”.
• We achieve this unity by thinking at a Divine level about others – we need to elevate our perspective to that of the Divine soul. In the Tayna, the Alter Rebbe says that such elevation is the goal of all of the Torah’s commandments.
• And this is how Hillel could say “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary”.
• If we operationalize this commandment with physical acts that show our commitment and love to others and raise our spirit to see others as part of the unity of God’s creation, then everything else is indeed commentary. Not easy, but a goal for all of us.