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N1. Loving Our Neighbor, the Stranger, and Even Our Enemy.    [Make a Comment]

We are to love our neighbor, the stranger among us, and even our enemy.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Exodus 23:4-5 (Maimonides RP202, RP204, RN270; Meir MP69, MP70 Chinuch C80, C538)
If you come upon your enemy's ox or donkey straying, you must return it to him. If you see the donkey which belongs to someone who hates you lying down helpless under its load, you are not to pass him by but to go and help him free it.

Exodus 23:9 (Meir MP61)
You are not to oppress a foreigner, for you know how a foreigner feels, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:17
Do not hate your brother in your heart, but rebuke your neighbor frankly, so that you won't carry sin because of him.

Leviticus 19:18 (Maimonides RP206, RP207, RN304, RN305; Meir MP60, MP61, MN80, MN81; Chinuch C241-243, C431)
Don't take vengeance on or bear a grudge against any of your people; rather, love your neighbor as yourself; I am ADONAI.

Deuteronomy 10:19 (Maimonides RP207; Meir MP61; Chinuch C431)
Therefore you are to love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 22:1-4 (Maimonides RP203, RP204, RN269, RN270; Meir MP69, MP71, MN182, MN183; Chinuch C538-541)
You are not to watch your brother's ox or sheep straying and behave as if you hadn't seen it; you must bring them back to your brother. If your brother is not close by, or you don't know who the owner is, you are to bring it home to your house; and it will remain with you until your brother asks for it; then you are to give it back to him. You are to do the same with his donkey, his coat or anything else of your brother's that he loses. If you find something he lost, you must not ignore it. If you see your brother's donkey or ox collapsed on the road, you may not behave as if you hadn't seen it; you must help him get them up on their feet again.

Mark 12:28-31
One of the Torah-teachers came up and heard them engaged in this discussion. Seeing that Yeshua answered them well, he asked him, "Which is the most important mitzvah of them all?" Yeshua answered, "The most important is, 'Sh'ma Yisra'el, ADONAI Eloheinu, ADONAI echad [Hear, O Isra'el, the LORD our God, the LORD is one], and you are to love ADONAI your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your understanding and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You are to love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other mitzvah greater than these."

Luke 6:27-36
Nevertheless, to you who are listening, what I say is this: "Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone hits you on one cheek, offer the other too; if someone takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well. If someone asks you for something, give it to him; if someone takes what belongs to you, don't demand it back. Treat other people as you would like them to treat you. What credit is it to you if you love only those who love you? Why, even sinners love those who love them. What credit is it to you if you do good only to those who do good to you? Even sinners do that. What credit is it to you if you lend only to those who you expect will pay you back? Even sinners lend to each other, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing back! Your reward will be great, and you will be children of Ha'Elyon; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Show compassion, just as your Father shows compassion.

John 13:34-35
I am giving you a new command: that you keep on loving each other. In the same way that I have loved you, you are also to keep on loving each other. Everyone will know that you are my talmidim by the fact that you have love for each other.

Supportive Scriptures

Proverbs 17:17 (NKJ)
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 24:17
Don't rejoice when your enemy falls; don't let your heart be glad when he stumbles.

Proverbs 25:21-22
If someone who hates you is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. For you will heap fiery coals [of shame] on his head, and ADONAI will reward you.

Matthew 5:38-47
You have heard that our fathers were told, 'Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you not to stand up against someone who does you wrong. On the contrary, if someone hits you on the right cheek, let him hit you on the left cheek too! If someone wants to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well! And if a soldier forces you to carry his pack for one mile, carry it for two! When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something from you, lend it to him. You have heard that our fathers were told, 'Love your neighbor - and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! Then you will become children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun shine on good and bad people alike, and he sends rain to the righteous and the unrighteous alike. What reward do you get if you love only those who love you? Why, even tax-collectors do that! And if you are friendly only to your friends, are you doing anything out of the ordinary? Even the Goyim do that!

Matthew 7:12
Always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that sums up the teaching of the Torah and the Prophets.

Matthew 22:33-40
When the crowds heard how he taught, they were astounded; but when the P'rushim learned that he had silenced the Tz'dukim, they got together, and one of them who was a Torah expert asked a sh'eilah to trap him: "Rabbi, which of the mitzvot in the Torah is the most important?" He told him, "'You are to love ADONAI your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.' This is the greatest and most important mitzvah. And a second is similar to it, 'You are to love your neighbor as yourself.' All of the Torah and the Prophets are dependent on these two mitzvot."

Matthew 25:31-46
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, accompanied by all the angels, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. The 'sheep' he will place at his right hand and the 'goats' at his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you made me your guest, I needed clothes and you provided them, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the people who have done what God wants will reply, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you our guest, or needing clothes and provide them? When did we see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' The King will say to them, 'Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!' Then he will also speak to those on his left, saying, 'Get away from me, you who are cursed! Go off into the fire prepared for the Adversary and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave me no food, thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, a stranger and you did not welcome me, needing clothes and you did not give them to me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they too will reply, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, needing clothes, sick or in prison, and not take care of you?' And he will answer them, 'Yes! I tell you that whenever you refused to do it for the least important of these people, you refused to do it for me!' They will go off to eternal punishment, but those who have done what God wants will go to eternal life."

Luke 10:25-28
An expert in Torah stood up to try and trap him by asking, "Rabbi, what should I do to obtain eternal life?" But Yeshua said to him, "What is written in the Torah? How do you read it?" He answered, "You are to love ADONAI your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your understanding; and your neighbor as yourself." "That's the right answer," Yeshua said. "Do this, and you will have life."

John 15:12-13
This is my command: that you keep on loving each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than a person who lays down his life for his friends.

John 15:17
This is what I command you: keep loving each other!

Romans 12:9-10
Don't let love be a mere outward show. Recoil from what is evil, and cling to what is good. Love each other devotedly and with brotherly love; and set examples for each other in showing respect.

Romans 12:14
Bless those who persecute you - bless them, don't curse them!

Romans 12:19-20
Never seek revenge, my friends; instead, leave that to God's anger; for in the Tanakh it is written, "ADONAI says, 'Vengeance is my responsibility; I will repay.'" On the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For by doing this, you will heap fiery coals [of shame] on his head.

Romans 13:8-10
Don't owe anyone anything - except to love one another; for whoever loves his fellow human being has fulfilled Torah. For the commandments, "Don't commit adultery". "Don't murder", "Don't steal", "Don't covet", and any others are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does not do harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fullness of Torah.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13
I may speak in the tongues of men, even angels; but if I lack love, I have become merely blaring brass or a cymbal clanging. I may have the gift of prophecy, I may fathom all mysteries, know all things, have all faith - enough to move mountains; but if I lack love, I am nothing. I may give away everything that I own, I may even hand over my body to be burned; but if I lack love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind, not jealous, not boastful, not proud, rude or selfish, not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not gloat over other peoples sins but takes its delight in the truth. Love always bears up (always trusts)

Galatians 5:13-14
For, brothers, you were called to be free. Only do not let that freedom become an excuse for allowing your old nature to have its way. Instead, serve one another in love. For the whole of the Torah is summed up in this one sentence: "Love your neighbor as yourself";

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self control. Nothing in the Torah stands against such things.

Ephesians 4:2
Always be humble, gentle and patient, bearing with one another in love ...

1 Thessalonians 3:12
And as for you, may the Lord make you increase and overflow in love toward each other, indeed, toward everyone, just as we do toward you

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10
Concerning love for the brothers we do not need to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other; and you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do it even more.

1 Thessalonians 5:15
See that no one repays evil for evil; on the contrary, always try to do good to each other, indeed, to everyone.

Hebrews 10:24
And let us keep paying attention to one another, in order to spur each other on to love and good deeds ...

Hebrews 13:1 (NKJ)
Let brotherly love continue.

James 2:8
If you truly attain the goal of Kingdom Torah, in conformity with the passage that says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well.

1 Peter 1:22
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth, so that you have a sincere love for your brothers, love each other deeply, with all your heart.

1 Peter 2:17
Be respectful to all - keep loving the brotherhood, fearing God and honoring the emperor.

1 Peter 4:8
More than anything, keep loving each other actively; because love covers many sins.

1 Peter 5:14
Greet each other with a kiss of love. "Shalom aleikhem!" to all who belong to the Messiah.

1 John 3:11
For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning: that we should love each other

1 John 3:14
We, for our part, know that we have passed from death to life because we keep loving the brothers. The person who fails to keep on loving is still under the power of death.

1 John 3:18
Children, let us love not with words and talk, but with actions and in reality!

1 John 4:7-8
Beloved friends, let us love one another; because love is from God; and everyone who loves has God as his Father and knows God. Those who do not love, do not know God; because God is love.

1 John 4:11-12
Beloved friends, if this is how God loved us, we likewise ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God remains united with us, and our love for him has been brought to its goal in us.

1 John 4:20-21
If anyone says, "I love God", and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if a person does not love his brother, whom he has seen, then he cannot love God, whom he has not seen. Yes, this is the command we have from him: whoever loves God must love his brother too.

1 John 5:1-2
Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Messiah has God as his father, and everyone who loves a father loves his offspring too. Here is how we know that we love God's children: when we love God, we also do what he commands.


This Mitzvah is sometimes referred to as "Love your neighbor as yourself," and sometimes "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The "love" alluded to in this Mitzvah is not a love of feeling or emotion, but of doing for others what is best for them because we genuinely care about them. And why should we care about our neighbor, the stranger (ger), and our enemy? It is because they, like we, are created by our Heavenly Father and we are, in that sense, brothers and sisters. Moreover, Scripture (e.g. John 3:16) tells us that God loves his entire creation so, if we care about God, we must also care about those for whom He cares. Also, the Book of 1 John tells us:

1 John 3:10-11:   Here is how one can distinguish clearly between God's children and those of the Adversary: everyone who does not continue doing what is right is not from God. Likewise, anyone who fails to keep loving his brother is not from God.

1 John 4:7-9:   Beloved friends, let us love one another; because love is from God; and everyone who loves has God as his Father and knows God. Those who do not love, do not know God; because God is love. Here is how God showed his love among us: God sent his only Son into the world, so that through him we might have life.

1 John 4:20-21:   If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if a person does not love his brother, whom he has seen, then he cannot love God, whom he has not seen. Yes, this is the command we have from him: whoever loves God must love his brother too.

Some of the Scriptures that support this Mitzvah require that we love our Israelite (Jewish) brothers, some our brothers in the faith, some our neighbors, some strangers (gerim), some our enemies, and some people in general. No matter. Yeshua directs us to maintain an attitude of love toward all and, in this world of modern communication and modes of travel, our neighbor may be half-a-world away. In Luke 10:29, a Torah scholar, seeking to justify withholding love, asked Yeshua:

And who is my neighbor?

Yeshua side-stepped answering him directly and, instead, told a story and then turned the question back to the scholar by asking him which of three persons in the story qualified as a neighbor? When the scholar answered that it was the one who showed another mercy, Yeshua neither affirmed nor disaffirmed his answer, but merely said to him in Luke 10:37:

You go and do as he did.

Yeshua's answer and the Scriptures that support this Mitzvah lead us to understand that we are to love ("as ourselves") every human being with whom we relate. That means that we are to desire for each person, that which we would want for ourselves, were we them. In truth, obeying this Mitzvah (especially as it applies to enemies) requires great faith and dying to self, which is the mark of a mature and discipled person.

To be sure, the acts of love we show toward a peaceful neighbor are not expected to be the same as those we show toward an enemy who is intent on killing us. So, for example, we may personally visit our hungry neighbor with a gift of food but, if our enemy's heart is dark and he wants to do us harm, perhaps the most loving thing we can do for him is to make sure that he cannot find us. That is not an attempt at humor. If our enemy is able to find and harms us, it will be counted against him as sin, and we should not want that for him. An example from the Bible of this, is David hiding from Saul who was intent on killing him (1 Samuel 19-24).

As a side matter, I should say a few words about Proverbs 25:21-22's, and Romans 12:19-20's use of the expression "you will heap fiery coals on his head."1 Why would God approve of such a seemingly harmful act that appears to be the antithesis of loving our neighbor? Historians inform us that, in ancient times, the expression was understood as a blessing and not a cursing. Fires were difficult to start so, when possible, a person who wanted and needed to start a fire for his warmth or food would ask his neighbor for one or two glowing hot coals from his already-thriving fire. The fiery coals were customarily carried to their new location in a container placed on one's head and protected by an insulating mat. Heaping fiery coals on our neighbor's head rather than giving him just one or two coals was, therefore, considered a generous favor.

1. The CJB translation renders the expression: "you will heap fiery coals [of shame] on his head." I see no justification for inserting "[of shame]" and have omitted it. I suppose the translator's logic is that if you bless your neighbor who hates you, he will feel shame for his hate and repent.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch treat loving neighbors, gerim, and enemies as separate mitzvot, and draw distinctions between neighbors who are Jews and those who are not. Also, the term ger refers to non-Jewish foreigners who have come to live within the cities of Israel (within Jewish communities), but it more certainly refers to proselytes who have converted to Judaism. The classical commentators' concepts of "love", as expressed in their respective mitzvot, are very similar to how "love" is defined in this Mitzvah.


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