This week we read the great Torah portion of Kedoshim, which includes the Holiness Code, a description of the ethical injunctions that lie at the heart of Jewish practice. The code includes mitzvot that require us to assist the poor, treat strangers, widows, and orphans with generosity and kindness, obligate sensitivity to those with physical and other impairments, and insists on fair business practices. It obligates us to live moral lives, tells us how to do so, and builds thematically to its most powerful message.
That message is ve'ahavta lerei'acha kamocha, love your neighbor as you love yourself. It is one of the most powerful of all moral instructions, and it lies at the heart of the religious spirit in life. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
It's important that this remarkable section comes in the precise center of the middle book of the Torah, Vayikra, Leviticus. Kedoshim, the Holiness Code, is in the middle of the middle of the Torah. It forms the heart of the heart of our most sacred text. And in the very middle of Kedoshim, at the heart of the heart of the heart, if you will, is the ethical injunction to love your neighbor as you love yourself.