My grandfather was a brilliant man who stepped in to help raise my brothers and sisters after my father passed away. I was only 7 when my father died, so my grandfather had much to teach me. He taught me to fish, he taught me right from wrong, he taught me to be a gentleman and he taught me about G-D. He made sure that I attended synagogue regularly and that I went through Hebrew school and that I became a Bar Mitzvah.
Because of my grandfather, I know many things. Because of him I was raised to put great value in education. But the most valuable lesson my grandfather taught me was that you can only have a truly great life if those around you were a part of your great life. He taught me that Torah taught us to Love G-D with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
It takes both for us to have the full-blessed life that G-D wants us to have. We must love G-D as Torah teaches us in Deuteronomy 6:5 (TLV): "Love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." We must also love our neighbors as we read in Leviticus 19:8.
We as believers often put much of our effort into loving G-D through worship, and we tend to put our effort into loving our neighbors through charities, such as outreaches, food pantries and clothing drives. But my grandfather said that meeting the physical needs of those around us through charity is actually still a part of loving G-D. That loving our neighbor was not about meeting physical needs but actually opening our hearts and lives to them. Not just being friends but truly welcoming them into our lives. Because, as he said, you can have a large house with all the best furniture; you can have a new, top-of-the-line car. You can have the best clothing and jewelry. But you will not have a great life until you welcome life into it.
Everything in our world falls into two categories: They are either objects or lives. We can fill our world with objects and never have happiness or peace, or we can fill our world with lives and find great happiness and peace. My grandfather taught me that things are temporal, but lives are eternal. That is why the two greatest commandments are about loving that which is eternal: G-D and people.
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, #ManWisdom: With Eric Tokajer and Jesus is to Christianity as Pasta is to Italians.
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