into the heart of Torah
I am grateful to Rabbi Gerry Serotta for telling the story about a question that Rabbi A.J. Heschel asked his students. Here's another account of that story:
Loving in God's Image / Kedoshim / by Andrew Shugerman / April 30, 2011 / JTS
"In Jane Isay’s collection, You are My Witness: The Living Words of Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer, an excerpted interview with Rabbi Meyer includes an anecdote about his beloved teacher, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Meyer recounts Professor Heschel provocatively asking a group of his students at JTS if they wished they could remove any commandments from the Torah. Following a pause, Heschel then shared that he himself would uproot Leviticus 19:18: "You shall love your fellow as yourself." After a few moments of his students’ stunned silence, Heschel explained that this commandment is “simply impossible to fulfill, and it’s so important, it’s the basis of all civilization.” This statement presents the paradox of a commandment that undergirds our entire system of ethics, yet whose performance, in essence, eludes completion."
An amazing perspective on Jesus as a rabbi. Something I will need to chew on considering my "triggers," but I will not let such things keep me from learning important stuff.
I genuinely, truly appreciate your thorough scholarship, Ravah. You are frankly a wonder. Okay, I'll stop heaping on praise now. 😆💜
Rabbi, You taught me something today about the heartofthe Torah. D
Thank you, Rabbi. This drash touched me deeply and left me with many, many thoughts, particularly chiasm and Leviticus 19:18. Reading this was an a-ha moment for me. It was totally new. And, in the Jewish sense that everything in the Torah has meaning, it raised so many questions. As we now are approaching Mt. Sinai, I anticipate the questions and thoughts you raised will be a source for my meditation kavanah for many days.
Written with such heart. Thank you for offering such a beautiful, important commentary to begin the week.
I think it's safe to say many Christians don't know that "love your neighbor" goes back to Leviticus. I just learned in the last year or two. This is one of the reasons I'm here. I started to feel my Catholic tradition wasn't giving me the full story, and I was correct.
I knew I liked Leviticus 19 for a reason! Whenever I heard people quoting Lev 18:22 against queer folk, I always thought, "Sure, but read to the next chapter, and you're also called to love your neighbor and not mistreat foreigners, which you clearly don't do!" The chiastic structure really puts this into a new perspective for me, too. And I agree that a lot of what Jesus of Nazareth says later on fits in very well with the School of Hillel.
I've been inundated and haven't been able to keep up with your posts as much as I'd like lately. Glad that was able to read this post about how Lev. 19:18 is at the center of the Torah. At least I didn't miss the most important part.
From the perspective of Jesus as a rabbi, I’m curious if you are familiar with the book, “A Rabbi Talks to Jesus” by Jacob Neusner. It’s been a long time since I read it, by my recollection is that Neusner goes along with Jesus and his teaching most of the way. But there’s a point where they part ways. Jesus goes too far beyond the limits of rabbinic Judaism for Neusner to follow and goes on to his own separate destiny.
In the parasha shavuot today, Naso, the description of the nazirite involves a pledge, and abstaining, and being holy to G-d for the duration -- and I feel a strong parallel to a womb-bearing person who knows they are about to get pregnant and deliberately refrains from alcohol, watches their nutrition and exercise, feels in many ways the presence of the about-to-be life within them, then at last releases the fetus into the world, where it becomes a breathing active person. Hasn't this person made their self holy to G-d for the duration?