Congregation Etz Hayim at Hollis Hills Bayside

The consolidated communities of Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and Marathon Jewish Community Center

Shabbat Aharei-Mot/Kedoshim 5775

The second of this week’s two Torah portions, Kedoshim, demands of us that we live a life of holiness, in relation to God and to each other. Its central verse, “ve-ahavta lerei’akha kamokha–love your fellow as yourself”–is considered to be the most crucial of all passages in the Torah.

For that reason, we chose to study the chapter on “Neighbors and Neighborly Relations” in The Observant Life (pp. 713-726). In preparation for the lunch and learn this Shabbat, please focus your reading attention on the dynamic between the right of the community to insist on certain neighborly standards, and the rights of the individual to meet their needs without legitimate opposition from the neighbors. 

We’re used to encountering the halakhic rulings of Maimonides in a variety of areas, but it’s likely that we’ve never encountered Hilkhot Shekheinim, the laws of neighbors. Indeed, this is a section in Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, and several passages are referenced in the chapter by Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin. During the lunch and learn, we’ll look at some of the passages, and discuss the implications of this section of Jewish law.

Consider this particular example: “Fellow members of a neighborhood may coerce one another to participate in building beams for the neighborhood” (Hilkhot Shekheinim 5:12). How do private and public rights intersect in this ruling, and how does this ruling compare to civil law?

I look forward to seeing you at shul on Shabbat to study this fascinating material!

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi David Wise