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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Klal Gadol BaTorah

Rav Kook writes (Orot, p. 169):

The trait of openheartedness - to include the whole world, all of humanity - belongs to Avraham. When it comes from recognition of the special stand of Am Yisrael, and from that flows a love of all people, that is praiseworthy, like Avraham, the father of many nations.

This point is made in a different fashion in Ein Aya (Chap. 5, 74):
One cannot love the collective unless he first loves every individual; therefore "Love your neighbor as yourself" is the basis of the Torah and the rest is just commentary.

Actually, there is an argument in the Gemara regarding which teaching the whole Torah can concentrated into: (BR 24:7)
Ben Azai said "This is the book of the generations of man," (Bereishit 5:1) That is the major principle in the Torah. Rabbi Akiva said "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Vayikra 19:18) This is the major principle.

Ben Azai obviously stresses that the main mission of the Torah is to benefit all of humanity. Rabbi Akiva stresses that the main mission of the Torah is to create a perfect moral society internally, within our own nation.

It seems that Rav Kook makes peace between these two opinions. He sees love of all humanity as a positive force in the world, an essential part of our mission. However if such a love comes before love of our own nation, it becomes a corrupting force. True love of humanity must flow from love of the Jewish people. Perhaps Rabbi Akiva was not arguing with Ben Azai but rather modifying his statement.