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Hidden Structure of Ten Commandments
Video 5 of 5
You wouldn’t want to be violated. You wouldn’t want your essential self to be violated. You wouldn’t want your scared relationships to be violated. You wouldn’t want your money to be violated . You wouldn’t want your reputation to be violated. At all of these various different levels of self, we want our integrity. We don’t want to be invaded. “ Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you” is another way of saying “ don't violate people”. And if you think about that principle, you could really boil it down to one word. What is that word?
That word, I don’t believe is ‘love’. That’s a different principle, that was R’Akiva - “ love your neighbor as yourself”. R’Akiva is talking about something else. Non-violation, we’ll more easily identified, I think, not as love, but as respect. If I don't violate you, I haven’t yet loved you, but I have respected you. What does it mean to respect someone? Whether that someone is God, a vertical relationship; or whether that someone is a human being, a horizontal relationship. It means not treating them as a thing that I can use for my own purposes, as something that I can invade, that I can mould to my will.
Both God in vertical relationships and people in horizontal relationships are incredibly special. God is God. And human beings are tzelem Elokim, “Godlike”. You don’t take Godlike things and mould them into what you want them to be. They are what they are, and what they are needs to be respected.
What does it look like to relate to one of these beings without respect? What does it look like to relate to God without respect? It looks like idolatry. In idolatry, what are you worshipping? You’re worshiping a thing. And the relationship that you build with an idol is worthy of a thing - the rain god, the sun god, the moon god, the totem pole; I impute some power to this thing and then I bargain with it. I try to appease it. I try to get something out of it to make my life better and the sum total of my relationship with the thing is reduced to ‘what I can get out of it’.
We can relate to people that way as well - what can i get out of you? You’re my colleague - maybe I can get a reference for my next job interview. If you’re my date, maybe I can get a trophy wife. If you are my super popular friend, maybe I can get social status. I can manipulate you; because the only thing that really counts in this world is me. Everything else is just a tool to make me better. That is one way to view the world, but that is not the Jewish way to view the world - it’s treating God and people as things.
What does it looks like when you don’t treat them as things? What does it look like when you recognise the inherent godliness of God? When you recognize that every human being carries a little spark of godliness within them? When you relate to people this way, the way is cleared for a new kind of relationship and this brings us to R’ Akiva - a relationship we can actually rightfully call love.
Love comes in two variety; what we can call ‘true love’ and what we can also call ‘love’s imposter’. Let’ take minute to elaborate what that would mean. What is love? What is common to what I am going to call ‘true love’ and ‘love’s imposter’ is that love means “the creation of a “we” out of two ‘I’s”. Anytime you love, you’re coming together with someone in some sort of way. In romantic love, that union is most obviou,. two people are actually literally come together, physically, emotionally, spiritually; but really in any kind of love relationships, that’s true. We create relationships, we unify with others. We join them - when we join their team in a company ,we join them when we join a fraternity a sorority, a club, when we make friends with someone and create a kind of ‘we’ out of that relationship.
But anytime you join, you can join in two ways, you can join with respect or you can join without respect. When you join with respect, you honour the two “I’s” that are the cornerstones of the “we”. When you join without respect, the “we” crushes one or both of the two “I’s”. What does it look like when a “we” crushes an “I”? It can look like a lot of things. In romantic love, it can look like domestic violence. I look at you and I see any shred of independence that you manifest as betraying our relationship. How come you have your own friends? We have our friend. Why do you need your own money? We have our money. Why do you need your own time to yourself? What about us? Pretty soon you have no where left to breath. All there is is “us” and the “us” strangles the “you”.
Or in a regular friendship, “you need to be around me all the time”. “ I need to be around you all the time”. Or when you join my team. What is the Rights of Passage to join my team? Humiliates you, makes you into a nothing. What if to get in my fraternity, you need to be hazed, you need to be broken down. All of these things are love’s imposter -we create a bond, but the bond destroys you.
Ultimately,maybe R’Akiva and Hillel are not arguing, one is the foundation of the other. Yes, love is what’s it’s all about but love based on what? Love based on respect. Mah de seni lach lehavrach lo taavid, “that which is hateful to you, don’t do to your friend.” It's the soul of any true relationship, the foundation of love, it’s what Judaism is all about; and it is the attitudes and the action that we need to bring to all of our relationships all the time and you can tell that to Joe on the plane.
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