This week, we read the joint Parsha of Acharei-Kedoshim. Parshas Acharei tells us about the laws of the Sanctuary and the offerings, along with detailing numerous prohibitions. Kedoshim continues along these lines, and speaks of the mitzvos which we are enjoined to keep in honour to make ourselves Holy, as well as the actions which are forbidden. But amidst all these detailed laws, there’s an extremely famous dictum which sticks out for its simplicity.
“Love your fellow as yourself.”
Rabbi Akita famously called it a cardinal principle of the Torah, but Hillel went a step further. When a mocking gentile asked Hillel to teach him the whole Torah, he repeated this phrase. “Love your fellow as yourself… the rest is all commentary”. Initially, this seems powerful, then a little degrading. We know that in the Torah, not one sentence, one word, or even one letter is wasted. It’s all there for a reason. So how can Hillel call it commentary?
We can understand this better through the means of an analogy. Take Rashi’s commentary as an example. We may just call it a commentary, but it is key to understanding the Torah. When we don’t understand a term or a sentence or why something is included in the Torah, we turn to Rashi’s commentary to gain a better knowledge of it. Though this we can get a better idea of what Hillel meant.
Loveing your fellow as yourself is the Torah. It’s the essence of it and the meaning of it. But we need the rest of it to understand that dictum. Without the stories of the Torah, without the laws, and without the word of G-d, we wouldn’t know how to fulfill it. In this way, the rest of the Torah is commentary. All that matters is loving your fellow man.