"In this week's parasha, we are forbidden to call another person derogatory names, or to act with any other form of belittlement. "You shall not wrong one another" (Lev 25:17). The sentence continues to say, "And you shall fear your God". What is the connection?
When you call your friend unintelligent, weird, boring, you are not "fearing" the Godliness in that person. His ability to create new habits, his ability to change. The Baal Shem Tov would say, if you want to talk to God, you will find Him standing on your enemy's shoulder. Go ahead and respect your enemy's Godly ability to forgive, and his God-like ability to be aware of what he has done wrong. Respect his ability to choose a new way, and change.
Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students died, for they did not respect each other. We cannot fathom their greatness, but we are told that it was their lack of respect for one another on their level that brought about their deaths. So, Rabbi Akiva's mantra in Ethics of the Fathers, his message to us all is never to forget, even for a minute of your life, that Man is God-like."
Rabbi Yosef Farhi
May you hav a great and uplifting Shabbat!!