Divrei Torah on the weekly portions
Love: The Positive, The Negative and The Extreme
"… love your neighbour as yourself …" (VaYikra 19:18).
We must love our neighbour as ourselves. Thus, in exactly the same way that we love ourselves just as much after we have sinned as before, if we see our neighbour sin we should love him just as much after his sin! We should find the same justifications for his sin as we would for ourselves! It is so natural, and so wrong, for us to think not so well of our neighbour in such circumstances. This is a challenging task for us, but one that we are obligated to try to achieve.
The Chatam Sofer considers whether this statement contradicts another ruling of Rabbi Akiva (Bava Metzia 62a) regarding what a person should do if he is travelling through a desert with a friend and he only has enough water for one of them to survive. Rabbi Akiva interpretted the verse "… and your brother shall live with you" (VaYikra 25:36) as meaning ‘along with you’ or ‘secondary to you’. He taught that one’s own life comes before one’s fellow man!
The Chatam Sofer elucidates that the word "BaTorah" in Rabbi Akiva’s credo refers to the study of Torah. Your own life only comes first with regards to physical survival in this world. However, concerning eternal life in Olam HaBa (The Next World), i.e. the learning of Torah, a person is obliged to give from his time which he would have spent learning himself to teach others. This is what Rabbi Akiva meant when he said: "This is a very important rule in Torah", i.e. in the learning of Torah, one must love one’s neighbour as oneself.
He then inquires that giving of one’s time to another surely means that you love him more than yourself? He explains that since the teacher when he teaches is also studying the Torah and is fulfilling the Mitzvah of learning, they are both equal at that time.
In one of his famous responsa, HRabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote that just as one is obliged to donate 10% of one’s net earnings to fulfil the Mitzvah of charity, similarly one must give 10% of one’s available time to teach and share one’s Torah knowledge with those who wish to learn.