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  1. What are the original Hebrew words for "love", "thy", "neighbor", "as", "you", "love", "yourself" in "love thy neighbor as you love your self"?
  2. What's the transliteration of those words in English (in case you answer the first with Hebrew letters)?
  3. What are the potential reasonable translations of those words?
  4. What are the possible reasonable meanings of those words?

Sorry for making 4 question marks, but I am sure everyone can see that it's essentially one question. I am just guiding the kind of detailed explanation I want to see.

Motivation: Many Jews seem to think that it's the second most important commandment in Torah.

  • English speaking Christians think it means to be "altruist" to "those who live near you". Actually that's literally what "love your neighbor" means in English.
  • Wikipedia says that Jews interpret that to mean being "fair" to "fellow Jews".
  • Some gnostic gospel claims that it means you need to love your "friends," namely those who have been kind to you. It's more of advice than a good deed.
  • Indonesians translate that as something along "love your fellow humans" (kasihilah sesamamu manusia seperti dirimu sendiri) which literally implies we have to love members of the same species as us (homo sapiens). That is the actual Indonesian translation of the Bible phrase.

Thus, this is supposedly the second most important commandment and yet everyone interprets it differently to a pretty substantial degree.

So I simply want to know more about what are all the reasonable meanings and perhaps I can have a better "guess" of what it must truly mean.

Obviously, since I'm asking on this site, I seek the Jewish interpretations.

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Cf. the toldos aharon on that pasuk (mikraot gedolot) –  Adam Mosheh Jul 23 '12 at 15:56
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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The phrase comes from Leviticus 19:18:

וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ
Ve-Ah-Hahv-TA Le-Ray-Ah-CHA Ka-MOE-Cha

It is three words in Hebrew:

  • And you should love
  • Your fellow
  • Like yourself
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@JimThio Yes. It doesn't mean neighbor like 'next door neighbor' but it also doesn't mean friend like 'best friend'. I guess it's more like 'comrad'. If someone else has a better English word please suggest it. –  Double AA Jul 23 '12 at 15:43
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@DoubleAA, I've sometimes seen "your fellow" (don't remember where), which like "comrad" avoids some of the ambiguities of "friend". –  Monica Cellio Jul 23 '12 at 15:58
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Note: The prefix LE of le-reyacha means "to," IOW "you should love to your fellow/comrade/friend like yourself." I think that the meaning is that it is not referring to the emotion of love, but to actions of love. –  Dov F Jul 23 '12 at 16:03
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Thanks Dov. So love here means somewhere along being profitable, kind, or useful to your comrade? –  Jim Thio Jul 23 '12 at 16:05
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@DovF Interesting point. I can't search now, but offhand do you know of other instances where the root A.H.B takes a 'to' instead of a standard direct object (such as Veahavta ET Hashem Elokecha...)? –  Double AA Jul 23 '12 at 16:10
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