“Love your neighbor as yourself.” How’s that even possible for me to love my neighbor? I don’t even like him. I can’t stand his ideas, he talks too much, and his behavior is embarrassing. Love him? No way. At best, maybe I can force a smile when he comes around.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” doesn’t mean that I have to love my neighbor’s ideas, opinions or actions. I must love my neighbor because I and s/he are both part of One Soul, One “I” – G-d. Notice how that verse ends: “Love your neighbor as yourself, [for] `I’ am G-d.”
In other words, I need to get beyond my ego, and I need to see beyond your ego. Then I can love you, as a soul and help you get beyond your ego too.
I once met a fellow — I’d like to call him Sparky — who cynically denied a spiritual dynamic between people. “It’s a bunch of baloney. I don’t buy this soul stuff, this spiritual junk.”
I asked him “Is there any one that you love?”
He said, “Yeah sure, I love my wife.”
“Well, what then is love?”
He flatly said, “Neuro-electrical impulses.”
Good old Sparky, a real romantic.
Unlike Sparky most people believe in a soul connection. However when they start looking for love, they often confuse the personality with the soul, and get trapped in a kind of shopping mode looking for what a person has rather than who a person is.
Not too long ago, I did a singles workshop in Manhattan. The place was packed. I asked the participants to write a list of what they were looking for in a future partner. I then asked for volunteers to share their list with the crowd. People anxiously put up their hands hoping that by the end of their reading some other lonely soul would call out, “Yoo-hoo, here I am.”
So my first volunteer got up, and he nervously read: “I am looking for someone who is warm, soft, calm … ” At that point someone rudely called out: “Get the guy a cat.” The crowd burst into laughter. Not exactly a love-your-neighbor-as-yourself scene. After that all the volunteers’ hands quickly went down.
I then cautioned the group that lists like these can be misleading because they are only describing personality, and not soul. The question is – are you looking for a persona partner or a soul mate? Lists can sometimes get in the way of meeting your soul mate.
There is a wonderful old children’s story that illustrates how we all yearn to be loved for our true selves.
Once upon a time, there lived a very good but very poor couple, who had a son. When the boy was born a relative sent some expensive and elegant cloth as a birthday present. The mother stored it away and said, “When my son will be a man I will send him into this world with a beautiful robe made of this material.” One day, when the boy grew up, a rich merchant invited all the town’s people to a feast. The son came in his usual tattered clothing, and no one made room for him at the table. Broken-hearted at the rejection, he went home.
To console him, his mother gave him a beautiful robe made from the elegant cloth she had stored away all these years. The boy returned to the feast dressed in his new finery.
The rich man saw him, rushed over and bowed, and asked him to sit beside him. The boy took off his elegant robe, holding it by the food and said, “Eat robe, eat as much as you want.” “Why are you talking to your coat?” asked the rich man. “Because when I was here before, in poor clothing, no one paid any attention to me. But now I come in a fancy robe and you treat me royally. It is clearly not me you invited to eat beside you, but my robe.”
The lesson is clear: If you love me for my robe, you rob me of my self. But if you love me for myself, you give me a treasure beyond price.