Love Your Neighbor As Your Self - ואהבת לרעך כמוך

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Resource Type: Peula in: English
Age: 7-12
Group Size: 10-50
Estimated Time: 45 minutes

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Resource Goal
To discuss the mitzvah of V’Ahavta L’Reicha Kamocha (love your neighbor as you love yourself.)

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Resource Contents


This mitzva is one of the most popularly quoted and least understood mitzvot. How can you command someone to love? What is the definition of your neighbor? How can you love someone like yourself? Ramban asks theses questions and bases his interpretation of the mitzva on the explanation of Hillel who restates the pasuk in the following way (as per the story of teaching the whole Torah standing on one foot):

"What is hateful to you do not do unto your neighbor. This is the entire Torah, all the rest is commentary" (Shabbat 31a)

Hillel also agreed that it is impossible to love someone as you love yourself. The purpose of the mitzva is really to emphasize the opposite; what is hateful to you do not do to somebody else. This, in itself, is a tremendous level to attain. Think of how many wrong things we do to others that would have been prevented if we paid attention to V'ahavta L'eicha Kamocha.

Moreover, when one feels a responsibility to others, respects them and refuses to do those things they would find offensive, one also builds his love for Hashem who commanded this respect. The following parable illustrates this idea beautifully:

A Jew once came to his Rabbi and said, "Rabbi, please help me. I observe all the mitzvot in the Torah but there is one I cannot fulfill - ‘And you shall love your L-rd, your G-d.' What shall I do? I simply don't love Him".

The Rabbi replied, "If that is true, then I am convinced that there is yet another mitzva you don't observe. ‘And you shall love  your neighbor as yourself.' If you keep this mitzva, you will automatically carry out the mitzva of loving Hashem."

Game 1: Send one kid out of the room. Have the chanichim pick something bad that someone has done to them (remind them not to mention names) They must pretend that the person outside of the room has done that thing to them. This person is then brought back into the room, and must go around asking questions to the chanichim, perhaps asking them to do favors for him/her. They must respond based on the offense the person has supposedly committed. The person must guess what he has done.

When someone does something wrong to you, how do you respond? Have you ever done these things to anyone?

The following games are intended to embarrass one of the chanichim from the group. After the games discuss with the chanichim how it feels to be embarrassed, what caused the embarrassment in each case, why did the rest of the group enjoy the games so much? (Don’t tell them beforehand that you’re setting them up.)

Game 2: Moo!

 Send two people out of the room. Tell those that are left that you are going to call the first one back and his job will be to decide which chanich left in the room was chosen to moo like a cow the loudest. (Everyone in the room will moo). He will have three chances. On the third try, who ever he picks should say it's true: It was s/he who was mooing the loudest. The "it" will take his seat and be told that he should moo the loudest. The second person will be called back and s/he will attempt to hear who is mooing the loudest. However on his/her third try, no one in the room should moo. Only the first "it" will moo and the situation created is quite humorous.

Game 3: Cup Game

Two players are chosen from a group. Player A is seated in the middle of the circle and blindfolded, and given a scarf to hold. 10 cups are then placed all around him. Player B must then try to collect all of the cups without being hit by player A with the scarf. Player A has only three tries to hit player B. The second time around, the cups should be placed and then player A should be blindfolded. Secretly, the madrich should remove the cups and then player A should be told that B is collecting cups when he really isn't!!!

Story: The pride of the beggars

This happened many years ago when the great Rabbi, arriving in the Holy Land, embarked on his first pilgrimage to the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem. Along the edge of the pavement he saw a score of beggars lined up, holding their cups out before them, pleading for a coin. By their expressions, and the wail in their voices the Rabbi felt they were all ashamed of their calling.

It was then that a thought came to the Rabbi. He stopped before the first beggar and held out his hand in greeting. "Shalom  Aleichem", he said.

The beggar was startled to be greeted so cordially, especially by a man who was obviously a great scholar. "Aleichem Shalom", he replied and firmly grasped the hand held out to him in greeting.

Humbly, the Rabbi asked: "Will you do me the honor and favor of allowing me to drop a coin in your cup?"

The Persian beggar was thunderstruck. No one had ever approached him in this manner. The great and honored Rabbi was asking him for permission to give him charity! He could not understand it. With a careful grace he courteously motioned towards his beggar's cup and murmured, "With pleasure, the honor is mine." The Rabbi dropped a large coin into the cup and again shook the beggar's hand, thanking him for his courtesy and his kindness, and taking ceremonious leave of him.

Slowly the Rabbi continued on his way, stopping before each beggar and exchanging a few words with each, then extending his alms with an air of gratitude for a favor received rather than conferred. Nothing of this kind had happened of this kind had ever happened before, and the beggars could not understand it.

The Rabbi finally reached the kotel, thanked G-d for allowing him to pray at the holy remains of the holy temple in the holy city of Jerusalem.

At the moment, one of the bolder beggars, gathering together enough courage, approached the Rabbi. "Please forgive me for asking, Rabbi," he said. "For many years we have sat here and no one has ever behaved in this way. I am sure there must be some significance to your words and actions. Please explain this to us."

The Rabbi stood silent for a long moment, lost in thought. Then he asked the beggar a question.

"Why do you sit here at the kotel, and not somewhere else?"

"Because people who are on the way to the Wall feel more inclined to give," replied the beggar.

"Exactly - now I will answer your question. All my life in the Galut I have prayed for Jerusalem, thought about Jerusalem, longed for Jerusalem. In the center of all my thoughts about Jerusalem was the Kotel, the one visible relic of the ancient Temple that was the crowning glory of the people of Israel thousands of years ago. All my life I have waited for the moment that I could pray directly to G-d at the site of His house. Only last night I reached the Holy Land, and I immediately made my way to Jerusalem. This morning when I set out for the Wall, I knew I would pray to G-d when I reached it, but I had no way of knowing how acceptable my prayers would be. Now when I saw you, the beggars, I knew that G-d had sent me a way of insuring that me prayers would be accepted. It was not I who did you a favor by giving you alms. It was you who did me a favor by accepting alms from me, making it possible for me to perform an act of charity. By doing this you opened the Gates of Heaven for my prayers at the Kotel. For this I was grateful, as should everyone who enjoys the privilege of giving before he prays at the House of G-d. You are the men who hold in your hands the keys to the Gates of Heaven. You should be the proudest men in


From that day on, beggars at the Wall in Jerusalem became unlike beggars everywhere else in the world. They are not downcast like beggars usually are. There is nothing sheepish or shamefaced about them. They practiced their art with a flourish, proud to accept alms from worshipping pilgrims, and cheerfully bestowing a blessing upon us. If not for them, perhaps we would not be ready to approach G-d at the Kotel.


Have you ever thought of a beggar in this way? Have you ever considered thanking someone else for letting you do a mitzvah for him? Have you ever realized that sometimes it is even a zchut, a privilege, to give of yourself to someone else?

The emphasis of doing - ma'asim - through all of Torah. The idea of putting into total practice that which we learn, that which we speak about, and that which we tell stories about.

The most important concept represented here is the idea of loving others as yourself - helping those in need and taking care of your brother - and never embarrassing him in the process.




Related Resources can be found under:

» All > Bein Adam l'Chavero > General

» All > Between Man and Himself > Middot

» All > Jewish Holidays > 9th of Av

» All > Jewish Holidays > Lag BaOmer

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