Love and Politics | Kedoshim 5784

Thanks to famed Jewish children’s singer, Uncle Moishy, the importance of loving Jews was seared into my mind from a very young age. In one of his most well-known songs, he sings:

"Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow.

Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead.

Just walk beside me and be my friend.

And together we will walk in the way of Hashem.

V’ahavta l’reiacha ka’mocha, zeh klal gadol ba’Torah!"

I was pretty heartbroken when I discovered that the opening lyrics are actually attributed to Albert Camus, the famed existentialist philosopher. But I have since made peace with Uncle Moishy’s light plagiarism—good thing he was never Professor Moishy.

However, the song's concluding lines are also not Uncle Moishy’s. They belong to Rebbe Akiva, who cites the words of the verse, “Love your fellow as yourself,” and then adds, “This is an important principle in the Torah.” Rashi, as well, cites Rebbe Akiva’s statement from the Midrash Sifra on this verse.

I don’t know why, but I suppose I always gave Uncle Moishy a harder time than Rebbe Akiva. When I discovered Uncle Moishy’s opening verses were from Albert Camus, I shared my outrage in my high school yearbook.

But what of Rebbe Akiva? What exactly is he adding to this line of the Torah? I feel like we let him off easy. Why exactly is loving your fellow Jew a great principle of the Torah? Treating others nicely or kindly is hardly unique to the Torah or Jewish thought—so what exactly is Rebbe Akiva adding? And why is this principle so central to Torah?

To understand this, let’s explore a darker chapter in Israel’s political history: the murder of Chaim Arlosoroff, and in particular, Rav Kook’s response.

Read the rest on Substack, and listen to the full shiur above!