Love on Demand?

Question

How can God command us to “love your neighbor”? It is not realistic to expect us to feel love on demand.

4 weeks

Answers

  1. Good question! There are two main approaches to answer your question.

    The first approach is that of Nachmanides. According to him, we are obligated to act with love toward one another, even when the corresponding emotion is absent. We must not do anything to another person we would not like to be done to us.

    The second approach is that of Rabbi Aharon of Barcelona. He maintains that we are obligated to develop a feeling of love toward other Jews. How can we be asked to do this? Because a person’s inner being is affected by his external reality. To the extent that we consistently behave with sensitivity and perform acts of kindness toward others, a feeling of love will inevitably begin to grow.

    Although there is a divergence of opinions regarding the legal implications of the mitzvah, the practical directive is the same: Act kindly and with respect toward others at all times. The Sages reinforced this idea over and over again in the Mishna and Talmud:

    • Receive every person with a cheerful face. (Ethics of our Fathers 1:16)
    • Who is honored? He who honors others. (Ethics of our Fathers 4:1)
    • One’s dealings with people should always be in a pleasant manner. (Tractate Yoma 86a)

    Be among the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them closer to the Torah. (Ethics of our Fathers 1:12)

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team