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Kedoshim: What is the hallmark of a Torah scholar?

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What is the hallmark of a Torah scholar? 

Parshat Kedoshim presents us with the well known verse, 

 “Veahavta lereacha kemocha,” – “Love your fellow as yourself.”  

Rabbi Akiva famously added, 

“Zeh klal gadol baTorah,” – “This is the most important principle of the Torah.”  

Rabbi Akiva wants to highlight for us the centrality of our compassion and our kindness towards others as being an integral part of our relationship with our Creator.

The sefer Dvash HaSadeh gives a beautiful peirush on the words of Rabbi Akiva. ‘Zeh klal gadol baTorah,’ he says, means, ‘this is an important principle in the study of Torah.’ When you are studying Torah, always keep in mind the commandment to love your fellow as yourself. Show consideration to those who are studying in your vicinity. Show your appreciation to those who are enabling you to study. And in addition, share what you have studied with others. Since you have developed and grown in your character as a result of your Torah study, enable others to have their characters similarly developed, thanks to the Torah that you will teach them. But most significantly of all, ultimately being a Torah scholar means that you must be a considerate person. 

This is of enormous significance to us at this time of the year. During the period of the Omer we recall how the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva perished because, even though their Torah learning was at a very high level, they didn’t show adequate consideration towards their fellows. 

So therefore let us always remember the golden rule of the Torah: To love our fellows like ourselves, recognising the centrality of compassion and consideration which comes right at the heart of what it means to be a Torah Jew. And at the same time let’s never forget the hallmark of a Torah scholar is being a mensch.

Shabbat shalom.


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