Many of us could write up a list of rules for how we’d like to be treated by our friends. Most don’t have a physical list to hand out to people (although it might reduce some painful guesswork if we did), but this is how the list might look:
- Be sincere — no acting.
- Respect me, always.
- Check up on me to see how I’m doing
- Be supportive when I’m in pain.
- Greet me warmly when I visit.
- Give me the benefit of the doubt.
- If I need some help, be ready to lend a hand.
- Don’t act overbearing or disdainful towards me
In our eyes these expectations are within reason. We don’t delude ourselves to think our friends would give us full access to their bank accounts, or sign their house or car over to us, nor do we want them to.
We’re obliged to “Love your friend like yourself” (Lev. 19:18). The obvious question is: how can we be obligated to love others as we love ourselves? Even for someone who naturally loves people, there’s no way such love could equal the devotion they have to themselves!
We come back to our list of expectations. That’s all we really want from others, and it’s really all they want from us. Just treat others as you expect them to treat you — that’s the obligation. Are we able to demonstrate that level of love? We must be, for we couldn’t reasonably expect of others more than we’re capable of doing ourselves! (HaKsav VeHaKabalah, R’ Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg, 1785–1865)
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
Program Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org