This commandment is repeated at least three times in the Torah--in Leviticus 19, Deuteronomy 10, Exodus 22, and Leviticus 25. Leviticus 19:33-34 say:

"When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

I was reading a Yahadut book that claimed to cover all the mitzvos in the Sefer HaMitzvos, and the only iteration of this principle it included was something pertaining to ger tzedeks (converts to Judaism); it didn't say a word about the treatment of ger toshavs (righteous non-Jews). Has the love of non-Jews completely disappeared as an official mitzva?

Also, I read this here:

The Sefer Ha-chinukh notes that one who transgresses any of the two commandments relating to the proselyte actually transgresses two commandments, the specific commandment relating to the stranger and the parallel general commandment relating to all people.

Where is the latter of these commandments, and why do we not seem to worry about it these days?

That is, it never seems to be mentioned in frum chinuch textbooks; I have never once been instructed in it in all the sermons, classes, and shiurim I've heard in my 2-3 years in the (right-wing) Orthodox world, nor seen it in any published educational materials; and it is not something one hears the frum community complaining about when it is violated.

Related: May one love a non-Jew?

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    Are you asking about a particular book, or about practice as you've observed it? If the former, please edit in which book it is. If the latter, please include more details of what you've observed, the more substantial, the better.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 13:49
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    As I had heard from several sources, the commandment to love the stranger is the most repeated mitzvah in the Torah. I don't know, offhand how many times it's repeated, but I think it's a good number more than 3. I'm also assuming that you would want to include the phrasing "You shall remember the ger" which we see numerous times, even if it doesn't use the term "love".
    – DanF
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 14:00
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    SAH, if you want answerers to reconcile what it says in the Torah with what you've seen, then you have to explain clearly what you've seen. We can see what it says in the Torah and look up commentaries, but we can't see what you've seen.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jul 1, 2015 at 2:05
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    @SAH, please edit the question to contain as much substantiation as possible.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 14:48
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    It is a problem and Jews need to change. I am sure that during the time of the evil kings of Israel who were doing idolatry, the good Jews and prophets were astounded that the entire nation forgot about the sins of idolatry which comprise a large portion of the Torah and commandments. The same goes for the lack of derech eretz, middot, and compassion that is plaguing our people today. Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 23:07

5 Answers 5


I think you are being a bit mislead by the translation of "The stranger who resides with you". In Hebrew it is using the verb form of the same word: Ger.

The definitive reference to a Ger Toshev is Devarim 14:21:

לֹא תֹאכְלוּ כָל נְבֵלָה לַגֵּר אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ תִּתְּנֶנָּה וַאֲכָלָהּ אוֹ מָכֹר לְנָכְרִי

You shall not eat any carcass. You may give it to the stranger who is in your cities, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner

The "stranger who is in your cities" - Ger Asher BiSharecha - is the reference to a Ger Toshev. He can eat non-Kosher, and you have to give it to him (there is an obligation to support him if he is poor). Other non-Jews ("foreigner") should pay for it.

The Rambam (Melachim 10:12) extends that to say that a Ger Toshev has to be treated with the same respect and kindness as a Jew. That is pretty close to the principle of "love as yourself", and any distinction would be subtle.

The Ramban (Shemos 21:10) says that the plain meaning of the verses is that this is the tell-tale sign of a Ger Toshev - "the stranger who dwells in your cities" - however, Halachically the Rabbis read each instance contextually. His example is related to Shabbos observance, where in one context it mentions Ger next to servants, who have to keep Shabbos, so that is a Ger Tzedek, whereas if it mentions Ger next to animals, that is a Ger Toshav who is allowed to do whatever he wants for himself on Shabbos, as one's animal is allowed to graze grass for itself on Shabbos.

  • Thanks @Yishai. You suggest that Rambam's opinion is that we must love righteous gentiles. However, I am still wondering--"What happened to this mitzvah?" Why does no one seem to recognize it, or worry about keeping it?
    – SAH
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 9:05
  • @SAH He said Ger Toshav, which is more than simply righteous gentile, and in fact does not apply today, save for perhaps the B'nei Noach.
    – HaLeiVi
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 15:33
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    @HaLeiVi It's not that hard to keep the Noachide laws; there are many who do without knowing it...
    – SAH
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 23:27
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    @SAH: I think that because throughout the ages, the gentiles have been hostile to us, many Jews have developed a mistrust or even hatred towards them and then passed these beliefs on to their children; it also gets taught in some schools, unfortunately. It is a serious issue, but I see major positive change happening in this generation among all Jews. My view is simply that because we are dealing with potential Biblical commandments, middot, and internationally accepted moral standards of our time, we have to be stringent and lean towards the side of love to embrace as many people as possible. Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 15:41

It didn't "disappear" because it wasn't one in the first place. The first sentence of the article you linked to clearly says: "the stranger referred to in these verses is the proselyte who converts and comes to live amongst the people of Israel."

The Chinuch (431) adds that we can learn from this mitzvah to be compassionate to people who are not in their native land and have no one to help them. But Minchas Chinuch there says that this is all very nice, but not part of the mitzvah itself.

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    i disagree with your statement that it never existed.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 17:49
  • @Shamiach Re: "The first sentence of the article you linked to clearly says: "the stranger referred to in these verses is the proselyte who converts and comes to live amongst the people of Israel." --Then what of the quote I actually excerpted, which identifies two types of geirim as relevant in Jewish law?
    – SAH
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 13:35
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    @SAH the "all people" there means "all Jewish people," as is easily seen by looking at what the Chinuch actually says.
    – Shamiach
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 21:49

2-3 years is actually quite a short time to expect to have heard of all Halachos. You probably haven't heard a Shiur in Halacha of living a Jew either. not have you heard a Halachic Shiur on jealousy, being haughty, or anger.

These aren't in the Shulchan Aruch, although it was filled in by the Magen Avraham and Mishna Berura. They don't have set ins and outs. Therefore, although it is a Mitzva d'Oraysa it is treated as good Midos.

We find that the Gemara in Keddushin applies loving your neighbor as a reason to love your wife, and her looks. That obviously doesn't apply to your bench-mate in shul. We see that there is a context to this that is not applied with rules, but rather with a sensitivity that you are brought up with or learnt by example.

There are actually Halachos set in place to separate us from others, such as Yayin Nesech and Eiruvin. These have guidelines and are therefore discussed.

Other Halachos surely don't add to the understanding that ואהבת לרעך כמוך was meant for non-Jews. For dealing with them we have the general ideals of being upright, well-mannered people, just like we expect them to be although they don't have this Mitzvah.

So, you are looking in the wrong place. The place for instilling ideals in during upbringing, or at Mussar speeches. Halachah lectures are about topics in Shulchan Aruch that have details to be aware of.

  • I agree I have not heard "all" halachos nor anywhere close. But ahavas Yisroel, jealousy, and anger I have heard and read a lot about (although you're right--people seem to treat them as far less than the mitzvos d'oraysa that they are.) Even these important mitzvos do not seem to be directly addressed by the Torah as much as "love the stranger," which begs the question--how do we manage to overlook it so thoroughly in our modern understanding? This seems like an unwise breach to me. (+1 on your answer, by the way.)
    – SAH
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 23:31

i would agree with you that it seems like most Rabbis don't interpret the verse the way you do, and mostly interpret it to mean that the miswah only applies to converts or other Jews. But sprinkled here and there in our history, there are Rabbeim who interpret the verse as you (and arguably Sefer HaChinuch) does. i'm sure there are more examples, but it seems to me that that the Orthodox world of today tries to censor these thoughts out by removing these comments from the mainstream books, by discrediting them (usually with arguments they weren't orthodox enough) like as has been done to the Hertz Chumash.

From the Hertz Chumash, written by the former Chief Orthodox Rabbi of the United Kingdom from 1913-1946.

Commentary to Leviticus 19:18

Though the founder of Christianity quotes ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ as the old Biblical command of recognized central importance, many Christian theologians maintain that the Heb. Word for ‘neighbor’ (rea) in this verse refers only to the fellow-Israelite. Its morality therefore is only tribal. But the translation of the Heb. Word rea by ‘fellow-Israelite’ is incorrect. One need not be a Hebrew scholar to convince oneself of the fact that rea means neighbour of whatever race or creed. Thus in Exodus XI, 2 – ‘Let them ask every man of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, etc.’ – the Heb. Word for neighbour cannot possibly mean ‘fellow-Israelite’, but distinctly refers to the Egyptians. As in all the moral precepts of Scripture, the word neighbour in Lev. XIX, 18, is equivalent to ‘fellow-man’, and it includes in its range every human being by virture of his humanity.

Additional Leviticus Notes (Page 563 of the Hertz Chumash)

"The Golden Rule In Judaism - The world at large is unaware of the fact that this comprehensive maxim of morality - the golden rule of human conduct - was first taught by Judaism... "In the generation after the destruction of the temple, rabbi Akiba declares ' "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" is a fundamental rule in the Torah.' His contemporary, Ben Azzai agrees that this law of love is such a fundamental rule, provided it is read in conjunction with Gen. V, 1 ('This is the book of the generations of man. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him'); for this latter verse teaches reverence for the divine image in man, and proclaims the vital truth of the unity of mankind, and the consequent doctrine of the brotherhood of man. All men are created in the Divine image, says Ben Azzai; and, therefore, all are our fellowmen and entitled to human love."

Commentary of Leviticus 19:18 by Rabbi Raphael Samson Hirsch

ואהבת לרעך כמוך אני ה'. זה כלל מסכם לכל התנהגותנו החברתית - בדיעות, במלים ובמעשים.. ידוע מאמרו של הלל: "דעלך סני לחברך לא תעביד"..."השנוי עליך א-ל תעשה לחברך": הרי כאן שוויון גמור לכל - כעיקרון מנחה לכל פעולותינו; על - פי זה נדרוש את שלום רענו כשלומנו; נהפוך אנוכיות ואהבה עצמית לאהבת ריע ולשמירת כבודו; נלמד לאהוב ולכבד כל נברא בשוויון גמור עמנו. אכן מושג "חברך" במשמעותו הרחבה כולל כל נברא, ולא רק כל אדם; ובמשמעות רחבה זו הרי כאן באמת תמצית כל התורה. שהרי זו כל כוונת התורה: היא מרחיקה אותנו מכל "סני": מכל המתנגד באיבה לשלומנו ולשלום כל נברא שבחברתנו

"Love your neighbor's well-being as if it were your own; I am God," is the summarizing final maxim for the whole of our social behavior, in feelings, word, and deed. Hillel’s interpretation of this as: “That which is hateful to you don’t do to someone else” imposes complete equality of all as the guiding principle of all of our deeds, makes everyone take to heart the weal and woe of everybody else, changes selfishness…into consideration and love of one’s neighbor. The concept of “your neighbor” extends the ideas beyond the narrow confines of your fellow men to the idea of fellow creatures, so that in fact this sentence does contain the contents of the whole Torah, which indeed is nothing else, but the teaching of avoiding everything which is contrary and hateful to the happiness and well-being of ourselves and to that of the fellow creatures who enjoy existence down here in this world. http://www.on1foot.org/text/rabbi-samphson-rafael-hirsch-commentary-leviticus-1918-pentateuch-vol-1-genesis

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    Hertz was big on apologetics for Judaism, which is fine for its purposes, but let's not kid ourselves that his interpretations have much validity. What would he do with "rea" in Deuteronomy 15:2, where it's clearly in opposition to "the foreigner" in the next verse?
    – Shamiach
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 18:09
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    @Aaron, Is there any support prior to the 20th century for this argument about this verse? The general argument is true (see judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/14324/…) but this question is about understanding the Halachic import of specific verses, and as such, it seems very poorly supported. || I would also note the distinct lack of censorship obvious in the sources at that link, so I think it is an unfair accusation.
    – Yishai
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 18:28
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    @Yishai And i believe Rabbi Hirsch makes the interpretation of Leviticus 19:18 to include non Jews and goes even further (18th Century) " ...is the summarizing final maxim for the whole of our social behavior, in feelings, word, and deed... The concept of “your neighbor” extends the ideas beyond the narrow confines of your fellow men to the idea of fellow creatures, so that in fact this sentence does contain the contents of the whole Torah.." on1foot.org/text/…
    – Aaron
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 18:48
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    @Yishai i'm not trying to build a halachic slam dunk, even if these comments exist, the normative halacha clearly doesn't follow it. But there is a common misconception that there have never been Rabbis who have interpreted the verse to expanding past non Jews, and that is simply not the case, and if we don't provide sources to the contrary, then the situation will only get worse. Not better.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 19:05
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    @Aaron, If Rabbis Hirsh and Hertz didn't intend their comments Halachically, then that kind of case doesn't apply here. But there really isn't a Halachic disagreement here, AFAICT, it is just variations on how to interpret certain verses, and שבעים פנים לתורה, etc. || Any statement that the Halacha is X but if you want Y you have what to rely on is itself a Halachic judgement. It isn't sufficient to have such an opinion extant.
    – Yishai
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 19:21

I asked this question in a "stump the rabbi" session (with Chabad's best).

I was told:

Perhaps it is your personal mission in life to be the ambassador to this mitzvah.

It sounds like I stumped the rabbi, and/or it's an actual mitzvah, no?

  • That it a terrible way to interpret what this Chabad rabbi told you. This Mitzvah isn't very active right now and if you help by promoting this Mitzvah it could become your mission in life what Ribono Shel Olam (God) has in mind for you.
    – Josh
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 16:43

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