59. In earlier Jewish traditions, the imperative to love and care for others appears to have been limited to relationships between members of the same nation. The ancient commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18) was usually understood as referring to one’s fellow citizens, yet the boundaries gradually expanded, especially in the Judaism that developed outside of the land of Israel. We encounter the command not to do to others what you would not want them to do to you (cf. Tobit 4:15).
Eventually the good of the tribe and the protection of one’s kin expanded to include others as Judaism refined and widened its outlook.
In the first century before Christ, Rabbi Hillel stated: “This is the entire Torah. Everything else is commentary”.[Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud), Shabbat, 31a] The desire to imitate God’s own way of acting gradually replaced the tendency to think only of those nearest us: “The compassion of man is for his neighbor, but the compassion of the Lord is for all living beings” (Sirach 18:13).
Imitating God implies that believers saw God as a lover of all humanity. And indeed, all creation. When we decline to do so, we separate ourselves from the Almighty and the divine intent for how human beings should conduct their lives.
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