Zeh Klal Gadol Ba-Torah

Chaim poses a question which intrigued me. What is Rashi getting at with his well-known comment on ‘Ve-ahavta le-Rei’acha kamocha’? That it’s a ‘klal gadol ba-Torah’? What motivated him to make that comment? Does it help explain the verses in any way?

Here’s my answer: yes. Look in the verses. Starting from 19:9 and ending with the verse in question, 19:18, the Torah gives a rapid-fire list of mitzvot which pertain to the social sphere (what we call ‘bein Adam le-chaveiro’). Each mitzvah on this list requires a specific type of action – leaving a corner of your field, not exacting revenge, not bearing false testimony, etc. In that sense, the last mitzvah on the list might seem a bit incongruous. Perhaps the reader would become confused and think there is a specific type of action mandated in order to ‘love your neighbor’ (and perhaps this explains Hillel’s famous inversion of this mitzvah, mentioned by the Sefer Ha-Chinuch on this mitzvah, that it is prohibited to do to another that which is hateful to yourself; in other words, the mitzvah remains, like the other mitzvot in this list, action oriented).

Rashi, citing Rabbi Akiva, does not interpret the verse in this vein. He understands the mitzvah to be a general principle upon which many of the other social mitzvot are based. That’s the meaning of ‘zeh klal gadol ba-Torah’. Rashi, ke-darko, opted to explain that by use of a Midrash rather than in his own words.

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