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Instinctive Love for Ourselves–And Others

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A familiar but mysterious Biblical verse, which was read aloud in Jewish services around the world in late April, may aid Americans in overcoming the bitter divisions currently afflicting our country.

In Leviticus 18:15, God commands: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself – I am God!”

A nineteenth century sage, the Alter of Slabodka, understood the verse this way: just as we instinctively feel some love for ourselves, and need no special urging to look out for our own best interests, so too we should automatically, instinctively, love our neighbors and look out for them.

This understanding makes the conclusion of the verse more comprehensible. The Lord says “I am God” to emphasize that we should feel the same unthinking, unwavering love for people that God himself feels for all creation.

The only remedy for the bitter, causeless hatred that rends our world is sweet, causeless love.

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