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    Which neighbour? – K’doshim

    The great human duty is to love our neighbour as ourselves (Lev. 19:18). Rabbi Akiva called it “the great principle of the Torah”.

    Commentators address themselves to all three phrases – “love”, “your neighbour”, and “as yourself”.

    Over the years we have looked in detail at the first and the third phrase, so this year let us examine the word “neighbour” and ask the question, “Who is my neighbour?”

    The Hebrew re’a is understood by some as “your Israelite neighbour”. If this were the sense of the term it would already be an important idea, especially in an age like ours when – tragically – one group of Jews is seen and heard insulting another and giving them the no-love treatment.

    But re’a is used in the Torah in a general sense and is not limited to our fellow Jews. In Ex. 11:2 it means an Egyptian. In Deut. 10:19 it means a stranger. In Lev. 19:34 the command to love a person as yourself applies to any fellow human being.

    Who then is my neighbour?

    Anyone. Everyone. All are made in the image of God. All are children of the same Father. All (even the unlikeable ones!) are entitled to our love and respect.

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