16-5770 Mitzvah N-78
March 8, 2010
Negative Mitzvah 78 – This is a negative commandment: Do not hate in your heart any decent Jew.
Hafetz Hayim – As Scripture says: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart.” (Lev. 19:17) – and should one man sin against another, he should not bear hatred for him in his heart and keep silent. Instead, it is a religious duty for him to inform the other person and tell him, “Why did you do thus-and-so to me?” And he should erase the hatred from his heart. If, however, he saw the other person committing a sin, whereupon he warned him, but the other did not turn back, it is then a religious duty for him to hate the other one (since he does not conduct himself as “your brother”).
This applies everywhere and always, for both men and women.
When human beings live in proximity to one another, there is always the danger of conflict, sometimes serious conflict. Our news is filled with men and women who go berserk in their hatred and their need for vengeance and who open fire on the people they hate and on innocent people as well. Since it seems to take some time for anger to grow into murderous rage, this Mitzvah is designed to cut that possibility off before it can begin.
It is impossible to pass a law that forbids Jews from hating each other; that would be too hard for any person to bear. The fact is that we get angry at others all the time and the hatred is just a byproduct of that anger. The trick here is to cut the anger off from the beginning. This is best accomplished, says the Hafetz Hayim, by asking questions and getting an explanation of what has occurred from the point of view of the other person. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people jump to terrible conclusions when there were easier and more logical explanations of what had occurred. When we stand before the one who has made us angry and ask for an explanation, in the vast majority of cases, we will find that it is all a misunderstanding and that there was no real reason for the anger and the hurt. Even if the explanation is not enough, the fact that there is an alternative way of seeing the incident will help end the animosity and cut off the hatred. It is important to cut off the hatred in your heart before it can amplify into something far more dangerous.
I am not sure I agree with the second part of this Mitzvah. A Jew who sins is still a Jew. It does no good to harbor hatred against him, even if he is a sinner and has ignored attempts to bring him back to the right place. No matter if he (or she) is a good Jew or a bad Jew, we must not hate a fellow Jew in our heart. I just can’t see how we could ever consider a fellow Jew NOT to be our brother, for even an instant. There is always the possibility of repentance and change.
While I know that there are non-Jews who hate Jews so much that they are dangerous to know and too dangerous to ignore, we must indeed fight against them on every front and at every opportunity. This is not a matter of hatred; it is a matter of the survival of our faith and the preservation of our lives. I also know that much of what passes for hatred of Jews today, is based mainly on ignorance of what Judaism is and what it stands for. Here too, asking the question, “Why did you do thus-and-so to me?” can go a long way to help educate a bigot and thus change his or her mind. It really does no good for any Jew to really harbor hatred in his or her heart. Hatred will not cause someone else to change for the better, we can only work toward making others think before they do or say something rash, and work hard to let others know the pain and hurt that hate causes. Love is more powerful than hate, and we need to work to help remove hatred from our hearts against any other human being.