We live in the city of good neighbors, but what does that really mean?
For me, it is the bouquet of beautiful lilies brought in a few days after the shooting in Poway, California. And the young man who, with tears in his eyes, offered them to our synagogue in tribute to his grandfather who helped liberate a concentration camp in World War Two.
It is the countless members of the Jewish community who showed up at the Islamic Society of Niagara Frontier the Friday after the shooting at mosques in New Zealand, unannounced, just to after support.
It is the little ways all of us look out for another, every day, all over Western New York. That is neighborly love.
In the Torah being a good neighbor comes down to three Hebrew words from this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Kedoshim – “v’ahavtah l’re’echah camochah – love your neighbor as yourself.” These words eventually form the basis of the Golden Rule: treat others like you want to be treated.
My teacher of blessed memory, Dr. Saul Wachs, always emphasized that loving your neighbor as yourself, must start with loving yourself. We cannot show compassion for others, without having the same compassion for ourselves.
More than that, the words also remind us to love God, after all, as we are told later in the Torah, “we must love (v’ahavtah) God with our whole heart, soul, and might.” We are all made in the image of God, and therefore all have the spark of God within ourselves.
I can’t help but think that the creators of our city’s slogan had the famous words from Leviticus in mind when they crafted it. Both as Buffalonians, and as Jews, we should continue to strive to show kindness to one another, going out of our way to make both those in and out of our community feel at home. If we do this, we will truly make this a city of good neighbors.