Sunday, September 21, 2014

Love Your Neighbor: A Deeper Meaning

Last night (September 20/Elul 26, it was my honor to join others to give d'var t'filah (short commentaries on prayers) related to the themes of Selichot. My theme was "forgiveness." As some of you know, forgiveness is important to me and the message is universal - I hope. 

הַרֵֽינִי מְקַבֵּל/ מְקַבֵּלֶת עָלַי אֶת מִצְוַת הַבּוֹרֵא: וְאָהַבְתָּֽ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ.
A few years ago, as I was working on my project of excellence for my master’s, I had several quotes that were my pillars and one of them  was “I take upon myself the commandment of my Creator: to love my neighbor as myself.” The quote appears in (Siddur Sim Shalom) and is based on the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19.18). Rabbi Akiva considered this the essence of Judaism, and The Divine One considered it so important that there are many variations of this phrase throughout the Torah.

Have you ever noticed that, sometimes, when you live with something a long time, you discover something new – unexpected about it? (That can happen with people, too.) So, it was in living with “Hareni m’kabeylet…” One day I was chanting it in the Hebrew and when I finished, I stopped. I was frozen in place because it suddenly hit me... I said out loud, “Oh my G!D! You expect us to love ourselves. My G!D, You assume that we love ourselves.” Then, there was another realization “Dear G!D, You want me to love me.”

There are many things that discovering the underlying meaning of “love your neighbor as yourself” opened for me, and I close with three:

Perfection belongs to the realm of the Divine. By giving up my quest for perfection, I've recaptured the joy of doing the things I like to do, allowing me to do my best and that, with the exception of paying bills, “good enough” often works for most of the things I don’t like to do.

Forgiving someone for doing whatever it is that I believe they have done to me is my gift to me. I may still need to grieve whatever it is that I have actually or think I have lost, and that is easier to do without the bile, the poison, the venom of anger or hurt or resentment. I've learned that holding that kind of emotional pain only hurts me and keeps me disconnected from the Divine.

Lastly, I need to forgive me for being fooled, for being vulnerable to someone I did not know was not worthy of my trust and still hold onto my willingness to be vulnerable. I need to forgive myself for making simple mistakes, for not making the bed, for not exercising, for not being (at Adas Israel) as often as I want, need, or ought to be. I discovered that when I forgive me, I have more compassion and love for me, which means I have more love and compassion for all of my neighbors: those sitting next to me, those living next to me, and all those I have yet to meet.

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