Seasons - Then and Now

For the week ending 18 July 2020 / 26 Tammuz 5780

Harmony of a Nation - Overcoming Baseless Hatred (Part 3)

by Rabbi Chaviv Danesh
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Ways to Overcome Baseless Hatred

People often think that it is impossible to change the way one feels about someone else. After all, how can a person be expected to control his/her instinctive, emotional feelings about others? This is especially true if, as a result of past interactions, there is built-up hatred or animosity between the two. In such cases, people regularly think that there is no way to stop hating someone after the things that went on between them. This is, however, simply not true.

We mentioned previously that every type of hatred, other than that which is halachically permitted (refer to the previous article about the details of when it is permitted), is considered baseless hatred — because no reason is good enough to hate someone. We also mentioned that one can be guilty of baseless hatred by merely hating someone in one’s heart without doing any action against one’s fellow at all. For example, just taking pleasure in the downfall of one’s fellow, even without taking part in causing it, is considered baseless hatred. Now, it is obvious that Hashem wouldn’t demand something from us if it was not within our ability to do it. Therefore, from the very fact that Hashem commanded us not to hate anyone (outside of where halacha allows it), it means that it is within the ability of each and every one of us to control our emotions and remove the hatred from within us. This being the case, let’s analyze different things one can do to remove inner hatred.

Overcoming Jealousy

The commentaries explain that often the root of baseless hatred is jealousy. It is jealousy that causes one to find faults in the other person’s actions, in order to justify his personally triggered hatred (see the Chafetz Chaim’s Ahavat Yisrael, Perek 4). So, the question becomes: How can one fight jealousy, especially when one considers the fact that there are opinions that hold that one transgresses the prohibition of jealousy by merely wanting something his friend has — even in his heart? (See Ibn Ezra on Shemot 20:14, Rambam, Sefer Hamitzvot, lo taaseh 266.)

The Chafetz Chaim explains that a person who is a carpenter is not jealous of a diamond maker’s tools. Even though the diamond maker’s tools are much more expensive than the carpenter’s, he does not desire them since he has no use for them. So too, every person should realize that Hashem has put him in this world to accomplish certain tasks that are specifically meant for him. Hashem, with His all-encompassing knowledge, also gave him all the tools he needs to accomplish his goals. These tools include his mental abilities, skills, financial means, familial upbringing, and more. If there is anything that was not included in this “package” from Hashem, then it is a sure sign that that tool is simply unnecessary for his purpose in this world! While overcoming jealousy is no simple task, contemplating this idea can be very beneficial in removing jealousy (Machaneh Yisrael vol. 2 perek 1. See also Ibn Ezra on Shemot 20:14). (Notwithstanding the above, it must be noted that sometimes the reason one is not given something from Hashem is because of his transgressions or because he didn’t pray for them.)

Overcoming the Desire for Taking Revenge

Often, hatred is a form of passive revenge for a seeming offense that was done to him. This means that even though one wouldn’t actively try to hurt his fellow, nevertheless, he would take pleasure in bad things that might happen to him. The Sefer HaChinuch explains that one reason behind the prohibition of taking revenge is to instill in us the realization that everything is essentially from Hashem (Sefer Hachinuch, 241). Even if the other person did do something wrong by performing the misdeed, from the fact that Hashem did not stop him from doing it we see that Hashem wanted it to happen! As it says in the Gemara: No one can lift even a finger without Hashem allowing him to do so (Chullin 7b), and elsewhere it says: Nobody has the ability to touch something that is meant for another person (Yoma 38b). Therefore, if someone did “touch” something that belonged to us, we must realize that it was not really meant for us at all. By remembering this, we are able to avoid taking the action personally, and minimize — if not eradicate — the hatred we feel.

Another way to fight the desire for revenge, and thereby remove the hatred one feels, is by remembering the words of the Talmud Yerushalmi. The Yerushalmi explains that someone who takes revenge is like a right hand, which, upon being cut by the left hand, goes and cuts the left hand in return (Yerushalmi, Nedarim 9:4). Commenting on this Yerushalmi, the Korban HaEida explains that we are all different parts of one whole — so just because one was hurt by another, hurting him in return would be just as absurd as the right hand cutting the left in return for its carelessness. One can get to this level by working on the mitzvah of loving one’s fellow as oneself, until one can reach a degree of love where one feels like he is “one” with his fellow. But, how can one build love towards someone he hates? Chazal tell us that one way to build love and unity with one’s fellow is through giving and doing acts of kindness, which is the topic of the following section.

Generating Love through Giving

Chazal tell us that if one wants to love his friend, he should perform acts that will benefit his friend (Derech Eretz Zuta, perek 2; see also Bava Metzia 32b and Tosefot “lakof yitzro” there). To explain these words of Chazal, Rav Dessler writes that people generally think that it is because they love someone that they perform positive acts for them. And the more that someone loves another, the more he gives to him. People generally are under the notion that it is their love for another that generates their giving to them. However, when investigating further, we find that, in fact, the opposite is even truer. Rav Dessler explains that every person essentially loves himself, and when he gives and helps others he extends of himself to that person, and it is that extension of himself that he sees in the other that generates love towards him. Based on this, we can say that it is the giving that leads to the love.

So, the more one gives, the more love is created. Rav Dessler explains that this is why people love their children, their pets, their plants, their creations. In all these cases it is the giving that is creating the love! This also explains why parents usually love their children more than the children love their parents. Since the giving is often from the parents to the children, the parents feel more love towards the children. All of this wisdom is contained beautifully and succinctly in the words of Chazal, who say that when one wants to love another, he should give to him (see Michtav M’Eliyahu, vol. 1 p. 31-39).

Based on the above, one should try to give to, or do acts of kindness for, someone whom he doesn’t like, in order to generate love for him. One can even do this through praying for him. This, too, is an act of giving that can create love (see Iggrot, Chazon Ish 1:123).

Next week we will, iy”H, continue with more ways of overcoming baseless hatred.

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