We have just passed the period of mourning on our national calendar. Tisha B'Av 5770 is a memory. We enter the weeks of 'nechama', consolation. Yet we remain as a people mired in the 'galut' and painfully incomplete. The yearning for Mashiach is as compelling as ever.
In the search for comfort, this week I want to look back with you at what got us here. How have we gotten stuck for so long in this state of brokenness? What can we do to finally bring it to an end?
The Talmud teaches us that the sins of our People committed during the time prior to the destruction of the second Temple were more severe than the sins committed at the time of the destruction of the first. We know this because the first exile lasted but 70 years, while we remain 2000 years later waiting for the culmination of the current exile.
How surprising that is, when we we know the first Temple was destroyed because the Nation violated the three cardinal sins, idolatry, murder, and sexual lasciviousness. The Jews of the second Temple, in the period prior to its destruction, kept the Torah and even were learned. Their sin, the cause of the destruction was, according to the Talmud, that of 'sinat chinam' unwarranted hatred one Jew for another. Could the sin of 'sinat chinam' be more pernicious than the sins of totally forsaking the principles of the Faith?
The mystery goes further. The Talmud also teaches that the power of Torah learning is so great that it can save a person/nation from the awful consequences due them because of commission of the three cardinal sins. Torah protects! If the Jews of the first Temple had studied Torah, even with their terrible 'aveirot', they would have been spared destruction. Yet, the Talmud notes, that as great as the power of Torah to protect is, it cannot protect nation or person from the consequences of the sin of 'sinat chinam'.
Why is this sin of hatred undeserved so consequential as to be irredeemable? What makes it beyond pardon?
I think if we reflect on the sin of hating another we may find clues to the answer. Lets explore hatred. The Talmud calls the 'avaira', "'sinat chinam'",literally that means "hatred for no reason". We might ask, is there such a thing? Does anyone hate for no reason. I mean lets think about the worst kind of hate, say
racism. Every racist has a reason for his/her hate. Hitler, in his own mind, evil as it was, thought he was doing the world a favor in getting rid of the Jews. He perceived us as a blight on humanity.
Those who hate always have reasons.
When the Talmud gives us the famous story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza and how the host of a major event who thought he invited one, his friend, and to his chagrin found that mistakenly he had invited the other, his enemy, refused to allow this enemy any saving dignity, and caused his humiliation by throwing him out, did that host have no reason to hate one of the Kamtzas? I bet you if you gave the host half an hour he would fill you with reasons why the Kamtza he hated was slime and totally undeserving of compassion.
He would tell you why he was right to expel him from the party, maybe even a mitzva.
Ask anyone why they hate someone and they always have a reason. In their own minds the hatred is justified. No, more than justified, typically they will tell you the hatred is indeed a mitzvah. Moreover they will tell you that you too should hate the other.
So then why does the Talmud refer to this sinful hatred as 'sinat chinam' "hatred for nothing". Its not a hatred with no reason? All hatred has a 'reason'. And how can we distinguish this 'sinat chinam', the hate which brought about our destruction and continues to cause us to languish in the galut from hatred that may truly be warranted?
I would like to suggest that the 'chinam', the "for nothing" that the Talmud uses to characterize this hate has not to do with the motivation for the hatred. All hatred has a basis and for that matter a cause, if not a reason. When the Talmud refers to the sinful hate as 'baseless' it means that the base for the hatred is rooted in the hater not in the hated. 'Sinat chinam' is when we hate another not for who they are, but rather because of who we are!
Yes, Hitler would tell you he had a reason to hate the Jews. He would name all our vile characteristics. It was not a hatred with no base. Problem was that the base for his hatred of the Jews lay inside his psyche, not in us. That's the problem with all prejudice. Sure we may give it reasons. But the essential source of our prejudice is rooted inside us, not in the other. No matter how hard we may try to project the reasons for our hate on the other, at the deepest level the hate starts with us, our issues our baggage, our fears.
The reason 'sinat chinam' is so irredeemable, beyond even the worst sins in our Tradition is because we think our hatred is not only not a sin, but, in fact, a good and noble thing. We idealize our hatreds. No matter how bad the sin of idolatry and murder etc are, no one makes them into Torah values! To sin in them is horrific. But the perpetrator knows he has gone against his/her Faith. Bring him/her back to the fold and s/he will do teshuva.
Hatred is not like that. We hate while we eat our b'datz meat. We hate while we learn hours each day. We hate while go make extraordinary sacrifices to raise our children frum and committed.
We hate and never feel guilty about it. We hate and believe our hatred a mitzvah !
We fool ourselves to believe the hatred is deserved and based on the wickedness of the other. We never see that core source of the emotion emanates within us. Perhaps the other is not perfect either. But the hate for them is not earned by them but rather the product of our projections, rooted in our fears and anxieties!
The sad part of the story is that now 2000 years after the Temple's destruction we are no closer to remedying the causes that brought it about. Learn more Torah? That won't help. They were learned then!
Daven more? observe more? None of that will help. We pale before the generation of the Destruction in our Jewish observance.
Its 'sinat chinam' we need to remedy. That's the only way to bring about the 'g'eula', redemption. Yet we remain self-righteous in our prejudices, believing them not only warranted but in-fact mitzvot to maintain!
When we will ever learn?
Are we at least on the road to the true 'nechama', consolation? I fear we have taken every road but the one that leads to the promise of our destiny!
Lets you and I ask ourselves, where does 'sinat chinam' reside in us? Who do we hate where the basis for the hatred is not in them but in our fears, anxieties, and at times self-loathing. Be honest with yourself! If we are, I will guarantee that 90% of the hatred we carry is 'sinat chinam". Oh sure the other isn't perfect! But 'hate', that comes from us!
The first step in the teshuva process is recognizing the sin! That's the one we miss entirely here. And that's the one redemption calls for. Simply recognizing that the hate we carry for another is a sin, and that it is rooted in our flawed character will speed the arrival of Mashiach and make real 'nechama' possible.
Oh when will we ever learn!