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Rabbi Mel Glazer, D. Min., D.D.
Rabbi, Temple Shalom
Host, “From Mourning to Morning”
VoiceAmerica Radio Network
Thursday nights 5PM PST

In what most people call The Old Testament (we Jews call it the Hebrew Bible), there are 613 commandments that God gave us to observe. God says: if you will observe My commandments, I will protect you, and I will be your God.
613? That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Actually, there are less. We don’t have slavery like Biblical slavery, we don’t offer up animal sacrifices, there is no portable Tabernacle, and today we have a different agricultural economy than that in the Bible.
Still, let’s say there are approximately 300 commandments that we could observe, which commandment do you think is the most difficult? And why?
I have asked many people this question in the past week, and most of them suggest that the most difficult is  “Honor your Father and Mother.” And I will admit, observing that commandment can be extremely difficult at times. Parents, if you don’t believe me, ask your own kids about how difficult this commandment is for them…
But I have another suggestion. My choice for the most difficult commandment is found in Lev. 19:18. We all know it from Sunday School. Ready?
Here’s my personal choice:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Why is this my “most difficult” commandment to observe? Because in reality, there are two parts to the commandment. First, you need to love yourself. And then, you need to love your neighbor. And for lots of people you and I know, the first part is harder than the second part. And, I would add, unless you truly love yourself, there is no possibility that you can truly love your neighbor.
I know too many folks who do not love themselves. They are busy comparing themselves to others, and coming out not feeling good about the results. And, our society is based on fear and envy: Want to look sexier than every other woman you know? Buy this dress or these shoes or this teeny bikini. Want to become rich? Buy my can’t-fail marketing program, and you’ll become rich in a week. Just like your neighbor. Want to lose weight? Try this miracle diet, you can eat anything you want and not have to exercise or take pills.
Life isn’t like that, and we all know it. Our “outsides” are not nearly as important as our “insides.”
So if people cannot love themselves the way they are, how can they love anyone else?
Here’s an answer: We all have faults, don’t we? And to love ourselves, we must love all of ourselves, with our faults and imperfections included.
Well guess what? If we are going to try to love our neighbor, we must love him/her with all of the faults that are included in the package. Just as we cannot love only the good side of ourselves, so we cannot just love the good side of our neighbor or friend or family member. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Love your imperfect neighbor just as you love your imperfect self.
Here’s my prayer: let the nations of the world grapple with this commandment. Let them remember that just as they are imperfect, so too are the countries they oppose and oppress. And maybe there will come a time when this holy commandment can be observed by all of us, and by the nations of the world.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we were all filled with loving our neighbor, just as we love ourselves. Never stop hoping for that day to come. God never gives up hope, neither should we.