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Loving others starts with self-love

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We have all grown up learning the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you want done to you,” as found in the New Testament Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31, which was based on Hebrew Scripture Leviticus 19:17.

What is interesting, is reading the literal translation of the verse. V’Ahavta L’Rayacha Kamocha – And you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Rabbi Akivah taught that these three words were the fundamental principle in the Torah.

There is a story about this verse, where a Roman soldier wanted to annoy Hillel, (a rabbi living in Israel during the first century BCE).

He went to him, telling him that if Hillel taught him the entire Torah (Genesis – Deuteronomy) while standing on one foot, he would convert.

Hillel looked at him, stood on one foot, recited the three words and then put his foot down. “The rest is commentary,” he said. “Come, let us learn.”

In these three words, we are being commanded to love someone else, to feel deep emotions that should guide our actions with every interaction we have with every person in the world. And though we know these words, we are fearful of them.

We are scared to feel the depth of emotion that adherence to this commandment requires.

To love the other as if they are us means that we must open our hearts to strangers, people who do not know us.

We must be vulnerable, showing those parts of ourselves we keep hidden from the world. We do not think we are strong enough to withstand the encounter.

Even worse, what if we were raised in a home without love and so we do not love ourselves?

We abuse our bodies with drugs and alcohol. We seek love from anywhere we can find it, even if it is unhealthy. All because we were told we were worthless and believed that about ourselves.

How can someone like that fulfill a commandment that requires self-love to be able to show love to another?

The answer, my friends, is that it is possible. Each of us was born with a spark of the divine within us.

That alone makes us worthy of love and gives us the strength to share it with others.

By fulfilling the commandment of loving others as ourselves, we are not just simply exposing our own vulnerabilities.We are making the world a better place – one act of love at a time.