Due to the eighth day of Pesach falling out on Shabbos, Eretz Yisrael and CHU"L will be one parsha off for the next several weeks. I will be following the schedule in Eretz Yisrael. Click here for a Dvar Torah for this week's parsha in CHU"L.
Parshas Kedoshim opens with Hashem telling us to be holy like He is holy. It would be difficult to determine exactly what activities make someone holy, so it’s important to look to the Torah to teach us. Even if it doesn’t state it explicitly by every instance, since the parsha opens with this requirement, it makes sense that the laws written in the remainder of the parsha are important factors in becoming holy.
One of the most famous pesukim in the Torah is found in this week’s parsha. “וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵֽעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֹֽה” “You shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem.” (Vayikra 19:18). Chazal teach us that this is an important principle in the Torah. There is a famous story told about a convert who came to Hillel and asked him to teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot. In response, Hillel taught him this pasuk and said the rest of the Torah is commentary.
The obvious question with this story is that it doesn’t make good sense. If this person was a serious convert then he obviously was concerned about doing what he was supposed to do. Why would he ask for something completely ridiculous as trying to learn the entire Torah on one foot, i.e. in a reduced manner? Shouldn’t he want to expand his knowledge of Torah instead of limiting it?
The Kli Yakar explains that he wasn’t looking to water down the Torah. As a convert, he was nervous about having to cram so much information in at once and possibly forgetting different mitzvos at different times. Therefore, he was looking for a system where he could remember a few principles which would help remind him of more laws. So Hillel only gave him one principle, to love everyone as you love yourself. How does this idea represent the entire Torah? Furthermore, this is not the only instance where someone based every mitzvah on one idea. The gemarah (Makkos 24a) says that Chavakuk HaNavi based the entire Torah on the pasuk, “וְצַדִּיק בֶּאֱמוּנָתוֹ יִחְיֶה” “A righteous man will live by his faith” (Chavakuk 2:4). How does this make sense with what Hillel taught?
There are two types of mitzvos: the first is mitzvos between man and God, they are all dependent on belief in Hashem. The second type is mitzvos between man and man, and they are all based on the principle of וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ. And by examining the pasuk, we see it actually includes foundations for both of these types of mitzvos! וְאָֽהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ covers the mitzvos between man, while the end, “אֲנִי יְהוָֹה”, covers the mitzvos between man and God; telling you to recognize Hashem and have faith in Him.
Based on this explanation, something which we usually look at as a cute story, and perhaps even something which we wonder how it makes sense or how come we can’t learn Torah that easily ourselves (!), instead becomes a clear way of remembering the most important parts of the Torah. And another lesson we learn from here, look at Hillel’s concern for a fellow Jew; he came up with the perfect system to help someone consistently and constantly keep the mitzvos on his mind.
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