To Strive Through Love
A friend recently introduced me to the book "Horeb" by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch and I have been absolutely blown away by the teachings I have been reading. It's philosophy is something that I am not sure I can even strive for, but I have no doubt that I should. In the Section on Mitzvos, the first chapter is entitled "To Strive Through Love to Draw Near to God." It says, "It was love which God desires to be your highest mission, your mark of perfection, and as an example which should constantly spur you on to further progress...He set Himself before you an a model and said 'Follow after Me in love.'" The chapter delineates examples of the attributes of love which Hashem showers upon us and that we should attempt to emulate - mercy, graciousness, being long-suffering, faithfulness, being true, remembering kindness, forgiveness, acceptance of repentance and remembering good deeds. When I think of all of these attributes and look at my life, I can see that Hashem does bestow them upon us and that following His examples of such would bring a beautiful life, and enhance others' as well. Not always easy to maintain, but very beautiful. But when I think about the fact that Hashem has shown me such love, it seems to make sense only to pass it on to others, rather than hold onto it for myself, and in doing so, I believe that we receive so much also. The chapter finished by saying, "The way again to the benefaction of mankind is through the benefaction of oneself. You must become a blessing to yourself before you can become a blessing to others. You must first cultivate the talents bestowed on you, you must raise yourself, before you can become a blessing to others. This is how God guides you along the path of life, this is how we must understand his injunctions of love." When I was in high school, I attended a camp for students of all different backgrounds, cultures, races, religions, etc. I learned a lot there about others, but even more about myself. At one point during the week I made the statement that you have to love yourself before you can love, or be loved by, others. I didn't think that much about it at the time, but someone else did. At the end of the week, a guy in my group who couldn't be more different than me - he was black, gay, Christian and from the "wrong" side of the city" - approached me and thanked me. He said that my statement had stuck with him all week. That he realized he had to love himself, because he desperately wanted to love, and be loved by, others. Love does truly transcend all barriers, and as Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch points out, Hashem lays down the example of that love for us to follow. May my days, and yours, be filled with love from Hashem, for yourself and for everyone you come in contact with.