From its name and opening words, it is clear that the theme of this week’s Sedra is holiness. The portion deals with the laws of sanctification and elevation – the tools that we as Jews use to fulfill the command of being, holy, like God Himself. God calls on us to be honest, upright, moral, and charitable and have an understanding of the sacredness of our lives.
In the middle of this week’s Sedra we find one of the most famous and often quoted verses in the Torah, “You shall love your fellow as yourself – I am Hashem.”
The appearance of this verse in the midst of laws pertaining to holiness requires explanation. It appears to be out of context; what has ‘loving your fellow’ got to do with being holy?
To answer this question we must understand that on a deeper level, the Torah is teaching people a powerful lesson: we all have the right to be loved. In obligating us to love others, we also acquire an expectation to be loved ourselves.
Furthermore, it helps us to be more conscious of the environments we choose and the friends and people we surround ourselves with. To love another person, is to accept them for who they are and to embrace any differences.
This is why it is important, but we still have not answered why loving everyone is connected to holiness.
In a world where we constantly look for meaning, the answer is staring at us in the face. By treating everyone this way, we emulate the character trait of God and in essence become Godly people. We may relate to the world in various different ways, but if we can learn to love, tolerate, respect and accept others, we are taking the right steps in achieving holiness.
If I act in a Godly way, then I become what I practice. This is one of the most powerful principles in our spiritual growth. God loves us all and treats us as his children, when we imitate this we raise our own standards, just like taking the mundane and making it holy.
Being holy is our goal, it is difficult to understand and often feels unattainable, but with the prescription of loving our fellow the Torah is giving us a formula – look at those around, embrace everyone, love them as brothers and sisters and together we raise ourselves before God.