I am always fascinated that when I study Torah, something I have always taken for granted now has deeper significance. In our portion this week there are seventy-two mitzvot, a larger number than any other portion. Many of these commandments have applications in how we behave in public and how we are to properly relate to others. I immediately thought of the Holiness Code (Leviticus 19), which contains laws to raise our consciousness in how we should behave with others. Fifteen times in the Code, the justification for obeying is found to be, “I the Eternal, am your God.” But here, the justification for following the law – found twice within the first few verses – is, “You must not remain indifferent.” Perhaps the reason is that we are so far from the Sinai experience, it is difficult to respond with the same sense of awe of our ancestors. So, to be a law-abiding citizen, to be able to speak up for those being treated unjustly, we must be aware of what is happening around us and be heard and be seen.
Remember that “love” in the Torah is actually “respect” – that is, to have a sensitivity and an openness to others. This refers to God, our neighbors, and the stranger (appearing 36 times). Remember, also, what Elie Wiesel said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Moses teaches us today: Keep these values, pass them on, and most importantly, lo tuchal l’hitaleim, “You must not remain indifferent.”