Free Love


Is it possible to be too comfortable with yourself?

The Torah tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). On the surface, it’s a pretty simple thing. Who doesn’t think that they should love their neighbors (except for their occasional loud party or dog poop)?

But, says the mystic Moses Cordovero (1522-1570) in his book The Palm Tree of Deborah, loving your neighbor is only half of the game. The final word is important here. You actually have to love yourself, too. And loving yourself is harder than it sounds. As easy as it is to be super-critical of oneself, always thinking “Why did I say that?” or re-combing your hair, it’s also easy to ignore all that and think you’re the greatest person who ever lived. Hardest of all is being honest and truthful–that is, facing your hubris, facing your faults, and learning to love yourself despite (or even because of) them.

According to Cordovero, by requiring us to love other people the same way we love ourselves, the Torah is actually encouraging us to look at ourselves as if we were somebody else. Try and treat yourself as though you were a complete stranger–assuming the best, and finding something new in everything you do. You might find out a few things you didn’t know. Heck, you might even find some new things to love.

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