The essence versus the details
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
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.
Related post: http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2008/03/rabbi-akiva-said-of-himself-that-before.html
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