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This article was previously published in 2017.
The Golden Rule may not be a rule at all, but a concealed secret for joy.
This week’s portion of Acharei Mot-Kedoshim is so potent, we read it twice a year – once on Yom Kippur, and once during Shabbat in the month of Iyar (Taurus). There are countless lessons we can learn from the story and innumerable benefits from listening to its reading. One of the most important among them is the spiritual teaching that is the purpose for which all the precepts exist. For in this portion we find the Golden Rule: Love thy neighbor as thyself.
"We are meant to be ever evolving, changing and growing."
For many, this precept is complicated. How can I love my neighbor as myself if I don’t love myself? For that matter, how can I love myself if I don’t know myself?
Let’s use spiritual understanding to help us reveal the deepest and most concealed essence of this phrase and its complexities:
With regard to knowing ourselves, some people spend a lifetime trying to get to know themselves. The truth is, we are meant to be ever evolving, changing and growing. Who we were ten years ago is certainly not who we are today, and as such to know ourselves is more journey than destination.
Furthermore, to truly love ourselves is to understand that we are divine beings. The strongest self-love is a total awe and regard for the fact that at our core we carry a spark of the Creator, which can never be belittled, tarnished, or torn asunder. It is with a deep respect for the Light within ourselves and others that we can begin to love.
Most importantly, for me, the times I have learned the most about who I am were not in moments of self-contemplation, or even meditation. I discover more and more when I stop focusing so much on myself, and I start fixing my intention on how I can share my Light with others. The mind can become so heavy with worries, doubts, and anxieties, that at times it can feel impossible to defeat negative thoughts. Yet, the moment I busy myself with loving my neighbor – finding genuine ways to share more, care deeper, go further in the extra mile – I step out of my head space altogether. The headaches dissipate. Worries are washed away. The darkness in our own lives is banished by the Light that we turn on for another. By sharing with, thus loving, our fellow beings, we are in the most profound of ways sharing with and loving ourselves.
"To love thy neighbor as thyself is the key that unlocks the greatest of treasures."
In this way, we can see the Creator was not giving us a rule at all, but a circuitry for how to derive the most joy in life. Note the structure of the sentence, the first part of the phrase asks us to love others, while the second suggests that we do so as we love ourselves.
Loving our neighbor is how we discover our own divinity and in turn our connection to the Light. To love thy neighbor as thyself is the key that unlocks the greatest of treasures: The bounty of fulfillment which the Creator seeks only to impart upon us.
There is an energy that exists in the cosmos this week that can assist us in making this holiest of precepts our priority. To fulfill the precept of love thy neighbor as thyself and benefit from a deeper connection to the Light, consider just two things each day:
You see, it really is so much less complicated than we make it. That’s because the Light is always simple.