Who Is My Neighbor?

In order to grasp the teaching of our Messiah Yeshua, Jesus in one of His greatest Parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke, we have to first come to know the original history context of the Jewish background in that time. From the well-known words of Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

Later, in the Jewish Tradition, this phrase has been the most important daily recitation and prayer in the morning and evening in a person’s life. Also known as The Shema Prayer, from the word “Shema Israel” (Hear, O Israel). For this is the fundamental commandment that one should hear and follow the Torah of God. Yeshua further expounded in Mark 12:29-31 that “The first of all the commandments is to love the LORD your God with all your heart…” and the second, is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Firstly, It will be helpful to know that during the first-century time, a Jew would generally understand that there are basically three groups of people. The first being the priests (kohanim) which descended from Aaron; then there’s the Levites (levi’im) descended from other children of Levi; and the Israelites, descended from the children of Jacob. In the opening of the story when the “lawyer” asking Jesus “how to inherit eternal life?”. Jesus responded with a question: “What is written in the law?”. (by this time and in their thought, they would had known by heart that in order to love the LORD, is to hear and to obey His Torah. Namely from the scripture in Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18). However, as the dialogue continues, next is Jesus’s well known parable that would shock the understanding of the Jews who was with Him at that time. The newness of Jesus’s teaching may escape a non-Jewish reader, but it is not something the Jews would expect.

In the mentioned of the first two anticipated groups who passed by the poor man who was left half dead down the road (after priest and Levite in the story), the Jews who was with Jesus at the moment would naturally think and expect our Messiah would mention of an Israelite. But to their surprise, a Samaritan! – the enemy of the Jews. The Tensions between the Jews and the Samaritans were particularly high in the early decades of the 1st century. Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan would seem an insult to his Jewish audience. Not only that, the Samaritan expresses care and kindness as compared to the priest and Levites. Which directly challenges the contemporary Jewish interpretation of the word “neighbor”.


Love Your Enemies

Jesus, our greatest teacher, had come to fulfill the words of the law. By showing us the way of the LORD. Perhaps this could be the reason in Jesus’ commandment to also “love your enemies” in Matt 5:44 and Luke 6:27-35.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

Interestingly, the Hebrew words for “neighbor” (rea) shares the same consonants with the word “evil one” (a word designated for “an enemy”), the slight difference is only the vowel. Therefore, when Jesus was asking the Lawyer in the parable, he was asking, “What do you read here?” “How do you see it?” and can you see the teaching of the Torah, narrowly defined by a short variation in the word on how you interpret this passage, to love both neighbor and enemy. What a great master and teacher we have here!


The LORD Who Is Among Your Neighbor

If we look back to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:2-17. There is a fascinating hidden wordplay that the LORD wants us to learn. In fact, the whole Ten Commandments in this passage can be summarized into four words. By combining the first two words (“I am” the LORD your God, who brought you…) and the very last two words (“You shall not covet… …nor anything that is “your neighbor’s”) . Thus we can learn from here that the Lord “I AM” is indeed “YOUR NEIGHBOR”.


Reference:

1.Israel Institute Of Biblical Study