Achrei Mot-Kedoshim 5780 – Love they Neighbor…From a Distance

By: Michael Carr

There are so many many interesting aspects to this week’s parsha such as the meaning and interpretation of the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, Aarons sons who got too close to the inner chamber of the sanctuary or why we are not to eat the blood of animals or who we are not to sleep with out of respect for our personal relationships. Of course core Torah topics are covered such as Shabbat, idolatry as well as providing honor and respect to one’s parents as well as the sacredness of life. Far too many topics for a 3 minute D’var though I bet Bill Sutker could figure out how to apply all of these to a famous tune!

There is one area of this parsha that everyone is familiar with – yep it’s the often quoted “love thy neighbor..”.

Love thy neighbor as thy self, as a few early sages like Maimonides, Rabbi Akiva and Rashi  have weighed in on, is an appropriate way for all of us to live our lives. Hillel is said to have stated that (para-phrasing) Love they neighbor as thy-self is “the Torah and the rest is commentary”.

Some have written that first-before considering ‘loving your neighbor’ (or anyone else for that matter-) that we look at ourselves.  For the sake and sanctity of safety and public health these days perhaps now is a great time to explore how we can all do this better. It seems like most of us have ample time to practice.

How do we love ourselves before we go out and attempt to do so with others?  Why is this so important?

Well without loving ourselves first – it’s tough to love someone else (unless of course you’re a ‘professional narcissist’).

It can be frustrating, anxiety provoking and certainly less than ideal for a loving relationship when one is not familiar with the personal development of ‘self-love’ for improving relationships with others.  Authentic love of and with any important relationships — child, significant other, family – really anyone is difficult to achieve and sustain.  On the other hand, some may consider that those of us quarantined with family, room-mates or others are fortunate while perhaps by end of May those of us still with housemates who have opted for sticking out the ‘rush and excitement of quarantine’ may wish we were captive in solitude.

Since our format is abbreviated for Friday night let’s jump right into this first idea which is our personal health because (as my mother has often reminded me) “without it you’ve got nothing”.  So upon self reflection consider how regularly/often you sleep, eat, exercise or perhaps (CORRECTLY) wear a face mask and gloves when you go to the store. Other ideas may include how you work to naturally reduce anxiety and stress throughout your daily routine.  These may be good places to start.

What about showing gratitude in our lives?  Self-love and gratitude are closely tied together.  When we are grateful for the things we have such as the people and relationships in our lives we can appreciate and find the good in others as well as ourselves.  Sometimes it’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.

What about forgiving ourselves – yep another aspect on the road to loving ourselves.  Sometimes we have to give ourselves a break and realize that believe it or not – we are not ‘perfect’.  How we love ourselves is tied to how we forgive ourselves (and sometimes others) and move on.  As Seth Godin has written in his blog:

“Forgive yourself for not being the richest, the thinnest, the tallest, the one with the best hair. Forgive yourself for not being the most successful, the cutest or the one with the fastest time. Forgive yourself for not winning every round. Forgive yourself for being afraid. But don’t let yourself off the hook, never forgive yourself, for not caring or not trying.”

When writing this D’var I found an interesting article from Kathy Paterson: 55 Teaching Dilemmas: Ten Powerful Solutions to Almost Any Classroom Challenge.  I would propose that if some of these solutions can work for teachers they certainly could benefit all of us during these times of shelter in place.

For other ideas on developing self-love check out Sharon Martin’s blog: Live Well with Sharon Martin and How to Love Yourself- she has 22 great ideas to help one become better at “Loving Thy Neighbor as Thy Self”.  Good Shabbos!