The Agadah Of The Talmud

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Rabbi Akiva taught that the verse, “Love your friend, like you love yourself,” is the primary axiomatic principle of the Torah. That is, love of others is the root of the Torah, from which all of its branches extend. Love of our fellow man is the core that powers every Mitzvah and its fulfillment.

The Alter of  Kelm, Rabbi Simcha Zissel, offers a beautiful explanation of this verse. The verse tells us to “Love your friend, like you love yourself.” Therefore, in order to love others, you must love them in the same way that “you love yourself.”

A person naturally loves himself. He doesn’t need the Torah to command him to love himself. Just as we naturally love ourselves, the Torah instructs us to love others “naturally.” That is, he should not love them only because the Torah commands us to love them. No one wants to be “loved” by order of the Torah, because forced love is not sincere love.

Therefore, loving others is the one Mitzvah that should not be performed as “a Mitzvah.” Meaning we shouldn’t say, I love him because the Torah commands me to love him.” Rather, just as we automatically love ourselves, we should see the good in our friends and love them automatically – and naturally.

Today: Fulfill the axiomatic principle of the Torah by loving others – naturally.

Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Zvi Miller and the Salant Foundation

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