“And you shall love your neighbour as you love yourself, I am HaShem”
There are so many questions we can ask on this line in Parshas Kedoshim but I’d like to focus on one.
Why does the verse end with “I am HaShem” – It seems a bit out of place?!
In order to answer this I’d like to loosely quote an analogy I heard in the name of chazal:
The year is 471 AD. Two Jewish businessmen are best friends and trade goods to each other. One lives in Rome and the other in Syria. One day the man from Syria was stopped at the Roman port and accused of spying. There was no trial and although he was innocent he was sentence to be hanged. The man asked that he be set free in order to travel back to Syria to say goodbye to his wife and to tell her who owed him money and where, so that she could continue to support the family. Of course the Roman judge said no for fear that he would not return. However the man insisted that he had a very good friend that would stay in jail in his place and even be killed if he didn’t return…because this was such a strange request, it was put before the Emperor who was so intrigued by what would happen. And so he allowed the man exactly 40 days to go back to Syria sort out his affairs and return to Rome with a warning that if he didn’t, his friend would be hanged in his stead. So he left Rome and his friend who was more than willing to stand in his place.
Now boat travel in those days relied on there being decent winds, and at that time of year there was barely any wind. It was very touch and go as to whether he would make it back to Rome or not and it turned out that he landed on the day of the public hanging. He knew he had to be there before noon and he raced to get there. He arrived a few minutes after, and got there just in time to witness his friend being led to the gallows. He ran to the front and shouted “Wait! I’m here! Let’s swap!” but as the guards were untying the Roman Jew, he said “What are you doing? We had a deal! If you weren’t here by noon, i’m taking your place?!!” In front of everyone present the two friends with tears in their eyes were trying to persuade the other one to let him take his place. The guards didn’t know what to do and so they brought the matter back before the Emperor. The Emperor listened to each friend speak…
“We had a deal”…
“But I was only a bit late…The winds were bad”…
“This is what was agreed…”
Until the Emperor cut them both off and said:
“I’ll tell you what, I’ll let you both go free on the condition that you make me the third friend !”
So we see in this analogy that if we have a true positive connection with someone else, then HaShem also wants to be apart of that relationship…and who better to have as a best friend!