Abarbanel on the Parsha

For the week ending 26 April 2014 / 26 Nisan 5774

Parshat Kedoshim

by Rabbi Pinchas Kasnett
Become a Supporter Library Library

In this Parsha (Vayikra 19:16-18) there are three apparently unconnected verses describing our obligations to our fellow Jews. Abarbanel ties these verses together and provides interesting insights into the nature of these obligations:

“You shall not be a gossipmonger among your people; you shall not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed — I am G-d. You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your fellow and do not bear a sin because of him. You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your fellow as yourself — I am G-d.”

One who spreads gossip will almost certainly create contention between his fellows. In some cases this contention may even turn violent and may result in the spilling of blood. The command to not stand idly by while blood is being shed adjures us to do our utmost to prevent such an occurrence. The Torah places the two mitzvot together to remind us of the possible dire consequences of malicious gossip. The addition of the words ‘I am G-d’ reminds us that even though the connection between slander and bloodshed is not always readily apparent, it is certainly known to G-d.

The next verse is a continuation of the subject of slander. Abarbanel explains that the Torah now tells us that when one hears that he has been slandered by another individual he should not let it fester, but should rather approach that individual in order to ascertain the truth. Reproof here means first finding out if reproof is even required. Unlike other commentators, Abarbanel explains that the expression “do not bear a sin because of him” does not refer to a transgression for not reproving someone’s behavior. Rather it refers to the individual who supposedly slandered. Perhaps there was no slander at all and he should not bear any sin due to the false reports of the spreader of gossip.

Another dimension of the commandment not to hate is based on our obligation to imitate G-d’s ways. Just as the ‘heart of G-d’ is one and has no place for hatred, only love, our hearts should be the same. The commandments not to take revenge or bear a grudge are exemplified by the following scenario: If your fellow refuses to you a favor you cannot retaliate in kind. Likewise, if you do decide to do him a favor you cannot do so in a begrudging manner by telling him that you are doing so even though he refused to come to your assistance previously. The verse ends with the words, “You shall love your fellow as yourself — I am G-d” to point out to us that avoiding the negative behavior of taking revenge and bearing a grudge is not sufficient. We cannot say, “I will avoid taking revenge and bearing a grudge against my fellow, but I don’t have to love him as myself.” Rather, we must make every effort to create a positive connection with our fellow Jews, just as G-d has created the ultimate positive connection with his creations.

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