| Parshah |

Next Generation Rivalry

We optimally love Hashem for Who He is, not for how He helps us


“…You should love your neighbor as yourself. I am Hashem.” (Vayikra 19:18)

hat’s the connection between loving your neighbor and accepting that Hashem is our G-d?
Much of what we call love stems from inequality. The recipient loves the giver for providing him with something he needs. But this kind of love is reflexive. The recipient really loves himself; he attaches himself to the other only because that other offers him something.
When the other person does not offer him anything, the opposite occurs. The difference between them becomes grounds for hatred, rather than love. As Chazal say, a craftsman hates another member of the same craft. Since he’s not receiving anything from the other craftsman, the difference between them becomes a perceived threat to his well-being. (Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, based on Meshech Chochmah)

I was sitting on the floor, playing with toys with my son and grandson when I realized that my daughter sitting across from me was no longer my little girl, but my peer.

For a moment, images of her sweet face at two, ten, and even twenty flashed across my mind. Instead of the Playmobil that we were presently building, I imagined the dollhouses and carriages I’d given her when she was young.

But then Shloime pulled on my sleeve and handed me a Playmobil horse. “The leg won’t go on,” he fretted. The images vanished and I was back in the moment.

Some relate to Hashem the same way. They love Him because He provides them with what they want. This is not really what Hashem asks of us — because the true object of the love here is the person himself, not Hashem.
There’s a different kind of love that flows from commonality, not difference. A person accomplished in some intellectual field may come to love a great luminary in the same field. The love comes from what the two of them share, not from their differences, nor from anything that one gets from the other. The loved one is beloved for what he is, not for what he provides.

The moment itself was pretty unusual. Despite having raised a houseful of high-energy kids, the last couple of years I’ve been faced with a dynamic that has me stumped. I’m blessed with a son and grandson who are very close in age. Both are very delicious and adorable — and very jealous of each other. It also doesn’t help that they share the same name.

I rode the waves of regular sibling rivalry for decades, but I wasn’t sure how to stem this rising tide of tension between the two of them. My daughter and I discussed it and we came up with a plan. A get-along-with-your-uncle/nephew play program. We decided we’d incorporate weekly supervised play dates with the two, focusing on forging foe into friend.

We can — and should — relate to Hashem in the same way. We ought to love Him not because He enhances our lives, but because of what we share with Him. We are told to emulate His middos. When we incorporate those middos within ourselves, what we share allows us to love Hashem for Who He is.
This pasuk hints at this as well. We optimally love Hashem for Who He is, not for how He helps us. Similarly, we ought not love our fellow man because that person will reciprocate the love, or because he will honor us for our help. We ought to love our fellow man for what we appreciate about him — the admirable qualities that we share with him.

Which brings us to the moment when I was sprawled across the dining room floor separating Playmobil pieces and separating two Shlomos, both determined to hoard as many pieces as possible. But while the kids may be headstrong, my daughter and I have stronger heads. And slowly, slowly, the atmosphere began to evolve into a unified one. And that’s when I realized, looking across the room at my daughter, that I’ve been blessed with a peer who shares my goals and my dreams.

My Shloime fixed the horse. Her Shlomo found the rider. My daughter and I laid out the road. And together, we all went riding off into the sunset.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 791)

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