The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ (Mark 12. 29-32).
I am fascinated with the teachings of Jesus and the clarity of his words. The Shema (Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is One..) is central to the daily prayer and encapsulates the monotheistic essence of Judaism. But it is in the second part, the practical implications of the Shema are spelled out and made made clear: Love your neighbour as yourself…. It is “as” yourself, and not like yourself. It does not mean to concede to your neighbour what you have and not withhold or recject anything he may want. It does not mean to wish your neighbours well and get along with them. What is really means is much more radical – it means to love the other AS yourself.
To love the other AS myself, requires me to BE myself first. It means to drop my mask, come out of hiding, approach and embrace the other with an open heart. It means to drop the barriers between myself and the other and that sounds like a lovely philosophical or theological concept, until we start to understand and experience the intimacy that is possible between living beings, once we cease to judge, label or resist. Once we have learned to take another to heart, literally . There is no sense of division anymore – the other has become myself, so deeply, so profoundly and so intimately, that I cannot tell the difference any more. So the Shema has become a reality and I live it with all that it entails.
Moments of loving another as oneself can be experienced with anything – objects, animals, plants and of course with people. It is a sense of true intimacy and the truth that lies in recognising the other as oneself. And it is a matter of practice, because it does take a while until we are able to be so open, so vulnerable and trusting to allow another being to come so close and really be intimate, a part of us. It truly means to love the other not as the other – but as myself.
This is the teaching of the heart and to me this is the evolution of Judaism to Christianity. It is one thing to believe in God as the One – but it is quite another to drop one’s guard so thoroughly, so completely, that I am able to truly experience in myself what it means – God is in me and God is One.
Some readers may feel taken aback by exploring the words of Jesus the Teacher. But to me he is just so clear, so direct and so to the point. It is radical, it is glaringly obvious and there is no room for misunderstanding : The intensity and clarity of this teaching surpasses everything any spiritual teacher has ever taught.
Love your neighbour as yourself. If you follow this one teaching, the kingdom of heaven is yours to behold.
Listen to the Shema: