Saturday, July 09, 2011

How to Achieve Love

Hillel had declared, "Whatever you wouldn't want done to you, don't do onto others," and he added, "This motto constitutes the core of all Torah".

Twelve generations later Rabbi Akiva said, "Love your friend as you would yourself." After Hillel's declaration, and given that the Torah itseld commands us to do so explicitly (Lev. 19:18), what was so grand or so novel about Rabbi Akiva's pronouncement; And wasn't it just another way of saying the same thing Hillel said?

In fact, Rabbi Akiva's ancillary statement carries for us the main lesson. Regarding the Torah's exhortation, he added, "This is a great generality of Torah!" (זה כלל גדול בתורה)

But first, let's understand: How can Torah command us to love our fellow man, expecting us to evoke an emotion? The emotion is either there, or it's not; Since when can we be masters over emotion?

In fact, we can sway the mind to exert control over the heart. Our very anatomy suggests it, for man's brain is perched at a higher altitude than his heart. It may involve a learning process to master this feat, but it's feasible. An animal, in contrast, whose brain and heart are at the same level, cannot exert control over its emotions. (Don't ask me about the giraffe!?)

This is what Rabbi Akiva comes to add, after telling us to love our fellow Jew. He provides a formula how to achieve this love.

By saying, "This is a great generality of Torah", Rabbi Akiva tells us we can accomplish this emotional feat in two steps. First, know it's a generality (כלל); And second, know it's a great generality (כלל גדול).

If you remember, we defined love earlier; Its meaning is "to give‫"‬ or "to want to give". In terms of love, "generality", which mean a grouping of specifics, implies having to give many things. And a "great generality" implies having to give ‫-‬ very many things. We did speak before of paying attention to small details to make for a good relationship (either to God or to a wife).

To achieve love in marriage, for example, it is important to respect the wishes of the mate, whether or not they seem trivial. Add up these little niceties and you begin to create love. Add up very many of these - and, presto, you achieve love!

In contrast, imagine how deficient would be the marriage if either mate were simply self-consumed, self-oriented all the time?
This כלל גדול explanation I think I heard attributed to the Previous Rebbe.


  1. What about people like George Soros, Rahm Emanuel, Noam Chomsky, Gilad Atzmon? How can we love such vile and hateful people?

  2. Thank you for the post.
    12 generations from Hillel to Rabbi Akiva is wrong -- its more like 4-5 generations.

  3. Thanks Eliyahu; Do you have a good link for the dates involved?

  4. Juniper, your guess is as good as mine. I suppose instead of love, we have to have mercy on those rotten souls.

  5. great reminder Buddy! God bless~!