February 2021 Message
February is known by many as the month dedicated to love. Valentine’s Day begs us to purchase Hallmark’s best, albeit virtually these days, as well as overflowing bouquets of flowers and boxes of chocolate covered cherries. Lovely and delicious, yes, but what about the love part?
Our sage, Rabbi Hillel, taught us not to do what is hurtful to us to anyone else; the Golden Rule informs us to treat others as we would have them treat us. To some of us, these words embody true love, taste as sweet as those cherries and look as beautiful as those flowers. They were, after all, first spoken by teachers who “got it” and sensed how we might best get along in the complicated and often challenging world in which we live. “Love thy neighbor” is an oft-heard refrain, but how do we actually love a neighbor?
“Love thy neighbor as thyself” might mean as many different things as there are people who chant this verse. If I love spaghetti and give you a bowl, is that not love? And if I need help shoveling snow and offer to clear your driveway, is that not also a show of love? And how about those hard-to-get exhibition tickets? Is that not a show of the utmost caring when tucked inside a sweet note? We might get it wrong at times, especially if our love object is on a Keto diet or loves the snow, but it’s often the thought that counts, right?
We may also show love of our fellow man and woman when delivering a bag of groceries to a food bank, reading to a child online, calling an isolated friend or donating toiletries to a shelter. A little less glamorous, perhaps, than that gold bracelet, but, at the very least, just as loving.
There are so many ways to express love and these don’t have to be relegated to only the second week in February. The Buddha taught that we should “Radiate boundless love toward the entire world.” Maybe we can do this one thing at a time, touching one life at a time. We have an amazing blueprint: Just treat others as we wish to be treated. And, while we’re loving our neighbors as ourselves, perhaps try loving yourself as your neighbor, too.