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Family Feud
Tue, 05/06/2014 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week
Rabbi David Wolpe
Rabbi David Wolpe

Famously, we are told to “love your neighbor as yourself.” But in the preceding verse we are advised, “Do not hate your brother in your heart” (Lev. 19:17-18). Why are we commanded to love our neighbor and only commanded not to hate our brother?

Rabbi Yosef Dov ha-Levi Soloveitchik explained that the Torah does not command things that are natural to us. It is natural to love one’s brothers, or one’s parents, and so it is not the subject of a command. To love one’s neighbor takes more work. However, when that natural love is disturbed, as we see in many families, hatred sometimes takes its place. The Torah warns against this terrible twist of emotion.

Every rabbi has seen families torn apart from a failure to heed this admonition. Businesses created by a parent are destroyed through children’s rivalries. Inheritance or unequal affection from parents becomes the wedge driving otherwise loving family members apart. Many of the most pitiless battles in society are fought not between strangers, but between members of the same family.

At times I think God gave us families to teach us how to live with people we might not otherwise befriend. For the lucky among us, affection flows naturally and easily. For others, the Torah is there to remind us not to hate those whom we are intended to love.

David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe.

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"Torah does not command things that are natural to us. It is natural to love one’s brothers, or one’s parents, and so it is not the subject of a command."
Rabbi Wolpe, have you any awareness of the Fifth Commandment? "Honor your Father and your Mother." It is truly natural for one having love for one's parents and sibling. Furthermore, the commandment "Honor your father and your mother" is likened to honoring God Himself!
Truly, Rabbi Wolpe, study and review your Torah!

I'm reminded of your debates with Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, for some reason, even though there was no animosity between you and them. But I got the impression that they didn't like your heavenly father.

Your words are so true, sad, but true. No quarrel is more personal than a family feud. No one knows how to hurt you better than your own family. I do hope many people take this to heart.

Thank you for this wonder article on Love. This is the love of God that's not the natural stage of love but the spiritual understanding of who God really is. God is Love. "So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also" 1John 4:16-21 NRSV New Testament Holy Bible. Shalom