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    Making an i-doll – K’doshim

    The sidra K’doshim introduces the great principle, “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). How simple the words are. How clear they sound. And how greatly they puzzled the commentators.

    They represent a sort of equation. Love of neighbour = love of self. Love of self = love of neighbour. I have a duty to love others; I have a duty to love myself. If I only love others without loving myself, I have become too small. But if I only love myself without loving others I have become too big.

    Erich Fromm says that if you cannot love yourself you are actually selfish: “Selfishness is rooted in this very lack of fondness for oneself. The person who is not fond of himself, is in constant anxiety concerning his own self.”

    But if you place yourself on a pedestal, says a Chassidic teacher, you are idolatrous (you have made an I-doll!).

    He notices that the words l’cha pesel in the verse, “Do not make for yourself a graven image” (Ex. 20:4) and p’sol l’cha, “Hew for yourself two tablets of stone” (Ex. 34:1) use the same letters but say different things. When you put l’cha – yourself – first, you make yourself into an idol; you need to know when to put yourself second, and to listen to others and hear what they say and where they are hurting.

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