By Rabbi Nosson Greenberg
In this week’s parsha we have one of the more famous statements of the Torah. “Ve’ahavta lerai’acha kamocha, ani Hashem” -”And you shall love your fellow Jew as you would yourself, I am Hashem” (Vayikra, 19:18). Of course the command to love Hashem has its own passuk, “Ve’ahavta ais Hashem..”- “And you shall love Hashem….” (Devarim, 6:5). But note the subtle difference in the structure of these two phrases. When it comes to ahavas Hashem the Torah inserts an “ais”, but by ahavas adam it does not. Instead it says “lerai’acha” using a somewhat awkward lamed (see Ibn Ezra). Why is there no ais/es in the structure of the command to love another jew?
Perhaps we can say as follows: We know that every es/ais in the Torah demands a derasha that will include into that phrase a relevance to something that is not immediately apparent. [As the gemara tells us (Pesachim 22b) Shimon haAmsuni interpreted the hidden meaning of every ais/es in the Torah until he got stuck with the the es of “Es Hashem Elokecha tira” – You shall fear your G-d”.] With the above-mantioned phrase that contains the mitzva of loving Hashem the mefarshim question what is included by the ais (See Maharsha to Pesachim 22b), and many suggestions are offered. With regard to ahavas adam however, there is no room for an ais. Because the Torah quantifies the command to love every jew with the word “kamocha”-”as you would yourself”. This, now, precludes the possibility of having an ais in the phrase. Because every ais teaches us to include something that is not obvious and not apparent. And that is an antithesis to kamocha. For whereas kamocha is an obvious love, any person or object that needs an ais to be considered for inclusion is by design not obvious. To love only because of a derasha– an ais, is like the kid who is last picked at the schoolyard ball game. He gets onto a team for one reason only and that is because he happened to be standing there and he had to be included. Otherwise he would have been nary a thought in the minds of others, and no-one would have paid him any heed. Such a person, as the expression goes, is chopped liver.
Definitely not kamocha.
Have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Nosson Greenberg is rov of Khal Machzikei Torah of Far Rockaway, N.Y., and maggid shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.