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Daily manna from the Torah by Dr Ketriel Blad

Kedoshim 30-2


Leviticus 19:15-22

You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbour, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the LORD.

Lev. 19:17,18 NKJV

Who is a neighbour?

One of the main principles of Judaism is found in this text, to love the neighbour as oneself. Four different terms defining other people appear in these two verses. These are:

  • Brother (v. 17) – ach, אח

  • Neighbour (v. 17) – amit,עמית   – companion, partner

  • Child of the people (v. 18) – ben am, בן עם – literally “people’s son”.

  • Neighbour (v. 18) – reah, רע

The four of them are used in these verses as synonyms, with the same meaning. The question rises if they only refer to the Israelites or all the people of the world.

We find the answer in other texts. In Genesis 9:5 it's written: “and surely the blood of your lives will I require. At the hand of every animal will I require it, and at the hand of man. At the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.” (MKJV) In Genesis 29:4 it's written: “Jacob said to them, "And Jacob said to them, My brothers, where are you from? And they said, We are from Haran.” (MKJV)

In these two texts the word ach – brother – is used when speaking of the relationship between any men. In the first case, it is said that all sons of Noach are brothers, therefore, according to the Torah all men on earth are brothers.

In the second text our father Yaakov calls some idolatrous shepherds with no kinship or citizenship attachment to him, "brothers".

From the four terms ach is the one that could express more exclusiveness, because a brother is the closest fellowman we can have. However, it's precisely that term that the the Torah uses to say that all sons of Noach are family and the one that Yaacov also used to speak with strangers. Then, using the first law of Scripture interpretation – kal va chomer – we may say that if the term ach – brother – is used universally for all men on earth, how much more the term reah has to include all men and women on earth!

It's about a kind of universal love, not limited to the group to which one belongs.

Love your neighbour as yourself!


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