קדושים תהיו וכו' איש אמו ואביו תראו
You shall be holy . . . You shall revere every man his mother, and his father (Leviticus 19:2-3)
The commandment to revere one's father and mother is placed after the commandment to be holy, because, as Rashi explains, this is where they were commanded not to engage in any forbidden relationships and to maintain the holiness of marriage. But the Ramban explains that the commandment to be holy encompasses the entire Torah, so that one is required to avoid certain acts even though they are not explicitly prohibited by the Torah, for you are required to sanctify yourself through that which is permitted to you (קדש עצמך במותר לך).
And it appears to our master that the commentators have already explained that a person who even in his youth withholds himself from physical pleasure and does not pursue his physical desires will merit to have children who are faithful, who are of good character and of great ability, and who can accept the Torah in purity. Such a child can then follow in his father's footsteps, because he will have a proper role model of his own flesh to follow. For if the child is conscientious, he will understand that his parents have conducted themselves righteously and uprightly and did not follow the desires of their hearts. The child will then revere his parents and will accord them the reverence of honor (יראת הכבוד). But if he is a rebellious son, of bad character, he will not revere his parents and will not revere their greatness, because his soul will attribute to his parents his own imperfections (as our master explained in seder Toldot [ויאמר הקול קול יעקב והירים ידי עשיו] why Jacob revered his father more than his brother Esau did). Thus, after the Scripture says "You shall be holy," it immediately says "every one of you shall revere his mother and his father." For in the place of holiness is found the nest of reverence, as the Sages deduce in the Talmud from the verse (Leviticus 19:30) "and reverence my sanctuary" (ממקודשי תירא), "revere those who are holy unto me."
ואהבת לרעך כמוך
But you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18)
Rashi comments:R. Akiva said this is a great principle of the Torah (Toras Kohanim, Kedoshim 19:18;See also Talmud Yerushalmi, Nedarim 9:4)
In the Talmud (Shabbat 31a) an incident is recounted concerning a Gentile who came to Shammai and said, "Make me a proselyte on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Shammai chased him away. The Gentile came to Hillel who converted him saying, "whatever is hateful unto you, do not do to your friend. This is the whole Torah, while the rest is commentary thereof. Go and study." And our master revealed wonders in connection with this incident and explained it with wisdom and understanding. For this Gentile did not believe in the judgment of the wicked and the reward of the righteous that is reserved for them in the world of eternity, because it is not mentioned in the Torah. So he wanted to know what a mortal person gains by observing all the commandments of the Torah and what he loses by acting wickedly. He therefore asked Shammai to show him what benefit there is in keeping the Torah while he stood on one foot, which meant while he was standing here on the earth. By this he meant to say, do not tell me that the explanation is too far removed from me to be understood, so that I must take a long step with my other foot into the grave to be among those asleep in the dust before I can understand the benefit of observing the Torah. That is why Shammai chased him away and replied angrily that if he did not believe that there would be reward and punishment in the world of eternal life, then he would destroy the entire structure, because here in the valley of tears it appears that the wicked rejoice and thrive while the righteous person is lost despite his righteousness. The houses of the wicked are full of bread and tasty dishes, but in the pot of the man of G-d there is death. It is only in the courtyards of our G-d that the righteous will inherit the earth and take pleasure in the abundance of peace while the sinners will be destroyed altogether and the wicked will at last be cut off.
However, when the Gentile came to Hillel, Hillel explained to him that while a private individual is neither punished nor rewarded for his deeds in this world, there is a reward here on earth for the actions of the entire nation. If the nation keeps all the commandments and the statutes, she will go on her way in peace and security and no one will disturb her. The nation achieves happiness and success when she conducts herself righteously and uprightly according to the Torah, and all her people stand tall and are united in their purpose. It was the nation as a whole that the Torah was addressing when it said (Leviticus 26:3): "If you will walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them" (אם בחקתי תלכו וכו') and (Leviticus 26:15) "and if you will spurn my statutes and your soul abhors my ordinances, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant (ואם בחקתי תמאסו וכו'). But if one man from the entire nation sins, every evil will not befall him, and G-d will bring judgment upon him for all his actions only in the world to come.
It was in this way that our master explained the verses at the end of poroshat Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:18-20): "lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, 'I shall be safe though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart' . . . the Lord would not pardon him, but rather the anger of the Lord and his jealousy would smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book would settle upon him, and the Lord would blot out his name from under heaven."
This is amazing, for is it because this person hears G-d's covenant that he blesses himself in his heart? Should the Scripture not rather have said "when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, he will not be afraid"? Moreover, what is the reason for the great anger directed at this person beyond that directed against other sinners? But according to what has already been said, we can well understand the words of the Scripture. For the Eternal established these covenants with the whole congregation of Israel in order that they observe His ordinances and keep His laws for the sake of the happiness and welfare of the nation. If, therefore, a single individual should arise to do any sin or transgression and he acts wickedly and says in his heart, even though for the sake of the entire nation it would be very much desired that I act uprightly and although the entire community is obligated to do justice and righteousness to ensure the national welfare, nevertheless, I, myself, will transgress the law to do whatever is right in my own eyes, because my private conduct will not cause the ties of the community to break or its foundations to collapse. It is in this way that the person blesses himself in his heart, because he thinks that if he alone walks in the stubbornness of his own heart, he will be safe and no ill will befall him. That is why the anger of the Lord will burn and He will pour His wrath on this person. For if he removes himself from the community, then so will his neighbor, and the nation will collapse on her foundations and her pillars will tumble. That is why the Eternal will be enraged and will smite him sevenfold for his transgressions and will settle upon him all the curses measure for measure.
Let us now return to what we said above. A person of dear spirit and good heart who loves every man as he loves himself will find a great incentive to fulfill the entire Torah for the sake of the nation as a whole. He will not exclude himself from the community, because he loves the community as much as he loves himself. He will therefore take care to do what is good and upright even with no expectation of reward after his death when he will ascend to the mountain of the Eternal and will rise up to His holy place. These are the beautiful words that Hillel told the Gentile:
What is hateful unto you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the great principle of the Torah and in this you will find an explanation for all the ordinances while standing on one foot here in this world. And the rest [by which he meant, reward and punishment in the eternal world] is not explained clearly. It is only commentary (פירושא הוא) that you may infer from punishment of "being cut off" (כרת) and from many other Scriptural derivations. Go and study and you will understand.