LOVE YOURSELF



I have not studied other religions, but I have the feeling that our religion -- Judaism -- has more commandments  (Mitzvot) than any other.  Although the "official" number of Mitzvot is 613, the truth is that there are many more, becuase many enumerated Mitzvot are comprised of several Mitzvot.  The real number is likely in the thousands.

There is no wonder, then, that King Solomon observed: "For there is no man on earth so wholly righteous that he does good and never sins" (Ecclesiastes 7:20).  Indeed, some of our great Biblical leaders were involved in prohibited activities. King Solomon could testify truthfully for himself, because this wise ruler and author of Song of Songs, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, turned to idol-worship in his old age (I Kings 11:1-10).  Aaron participated in the making of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:1-6).  King David, the author of Psalms, had an adulterous affair with Bat-Sheva.  He then arranged for her husband Uriya to be killed in a war so that the King could marry her (II Samuel 11:2-27). He thus sinned to man and God.

Our sages suggested that our good deeds should outweigh our sins.  If we keep the balance in our favor, we help the cause of humanity.  Of course, it is not up to us to evaluate the balance, so we have to do our best to do good and avoid the sin.

One of the most all-encompassing Mitzvot is in Leviticus 19:18 -- "you shall love your fellow as yourself".  Why "as yourself"?  The same verse could have said just "you shall love your fellow".  What if somebody is not happy with himself and does not treat himself well?  Is he then permitted to treat others badly too?

It is obvious that the intention of the Torah in this Mitzva is to command us to love and care for the needs of our fellow human beings.  The addition of "as yourself" is actually a commandment to love oneself.  We are commanded to take care of our needs, to treat ourselves -- body and soul -- as best as we can, with love.  Even if the circumstances of
our lives are upsetting, the Mitzva is to persevere and love ourselves as we should love others.  We must act on this Mitzva as another step toward tipping the scale of our deeds in our favor.

Judah Ari-Gur

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