Questions and Suggested Answers

Based on the writings of Nehama Leibowitz

Question 1

When editing the Biur, Moses Mendelssohn added this comment to that of N.H. Weisel's:

Though his (Weisel's) commentary is incisive and plausible, it does not reflect the plain sense of the text. In my view, this passage is to be understood as follows: The commandment not to hate applies not only to cursing or perpetrating hostile acts but also hatred in one's heart.
Indeed, several commandments of the Torah are addressed to our dispositions, for they too can be controlled by the mind. Thus we are commanded not to covet (see Ibn Ezra ad.loc.) and to love, e.g., to love him (the stranger) as thyself, not to take vengeance, not to bear a grudge, neither verbally nor in thought. We are enjoined to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This does not refer to quantity but to quality. Let us explain these terms in the realm of emotions. Let us take the example of love which can extend even to inanimate objects. in sum, the Torah here does not refer to the scope but to the quality of love. Provided there is no conflict of interests, you must love your neighbor as yourself in every way, i.e., not for selfish motives as you love your property, but for the sake of the loved one - as you love yourself.
Explain the difference between Mendelsson's and Weisel's explanation.


According to Wiesel the motivating cause for expressing love to another human being is the fact that all people are created in the image of God and therefore worthy of your love and should not be the object of any harm caused by you. This in keeping with the opinion of Ben Azai.

According to Mendelsohn, we are commanded to love other human beings with the same intensity that we naturally love ourselves, provided there is no conflict of interest. The starting point is the equality of human beings. This is in keeping with the opinion of R. Akiva.


Question 2

Whose interpretation is borne out by the reading accents (t'amim)?


The reading accents would bear out the interpretation of N.H. Weisel. The Tipcha accent under "Le Reacha" indicates a pause. Thus the word Ka'mo'cha is a separate phrase. The verse would read "Love your neighbor; he is like thyself."


Question 3

What is the difference between the dative (v'ahavta l-) and the accusative form (v'ahavta et) in the very phrase according to Mendelssohn's interpretation?


The accusative form (direct object) would mean complete, unconditional love for the object, i.e. one's neighbor. Compare the first verse of the shma - "And you shall love the Lord thy God... " The dative form (indirect object) can be read "... and you shall love your neighbor in a manner that you would want him to love you." Here the love is conditional as would be the situation where a conflict of interests is involved.


Prepared by: Rabbi Mordechai Spiegelman veteran yeshiva educator (USA) now residing in Jerusalem




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08 Sep 2005 / 4 Elul 5765 0