The essence versus the details

I was struck by this thought this morning when I read some comments about organizations that confuse their mission statement with various values or goals. A mission statement is meant to be a short, definitive statement, not a bucket list. And that reminded me of what Hillel said is our mission statement.

I do try to avoid repeating myself, but since the last post I wrote about this topic appeared over a year ago, I will repeat here:

All you need is ...

All you need is love, and maybe not even that

I got the link to this in my Twitter feed:
John Lennon’s hierarchy of needs is so much simpler than Maslow’s. No wonder Lennon was so popular.

Practically speaking, of course you can't live on love alone. But from the point of view of simplicity and focus, there actually is something to reducing all to one guiding principle. That is exactly what Hillel did in response to the person who demanded that he teach him all of Torah while the listener stood on one foot. Hillel's answer (which is sometimes misquoted as that of the principle that R' Akiva's  klal gadol baTorah "veahavta lereacha kamocha" [Love your neighbor as yourself]) was "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. The rest is commentary; go learn it."  So we do have a single guiding principle on which we peg the infinite wisdom of the Torah -- that you not do to another what you don't want done to yourself, even if you haven't yet achieved the level of true ahava [love] for another. Interesting that there are songs of "veahavta lereacha kamocha," but none with the words of Hillel, though, admittedly, they don't have the same rhythm.

*Note added on May 8th: In this week's shir, Rav Goldwicht referred to that Gemara and provided another insight into the connection of the standing on one leg and Hilllel's formulation. He said that his point was that one leg cannot stand alone; it needs the support of another to go forward. Likewise, one Jew does not stand alone (we are not islands) but is inherently connected to his fellow. Consequently, he must treat the other as he would himself, or his own second leg.

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Binyomin Adler said…
that's a great vort from Rav Goldwwicht. Is this the one who taught in KBY?
Ariella Brown said…
Sorry for the delay in response, +Binyomin Adler. I keep moderation on and haven't checked for comments in a while. This is his nephew. He has been in the US for the past two decades or more, and regularly gives shiurim in Hebrew in Lawrence, among other places..

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