Seasons - Then and Now

For the week ending 1 August 2020 / 11 Av 5780

Harmony of a Nation - Overcoming Baseless Hatred (Part 5)

by Rabbi Chaviv Danesh
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Relating One’s Feelings

Often when people can’t rid themselves of their inner hatred for their fellow, they act outwardly as if nothing happened, even though they are burning with hatred on the inside. There are many reasons why people do this. Sometimes it is because they want to avoid uncomfortable confrontation. At other times it is because they do not want to expose their pettiness by showing that such a small thing hurt them so much. There are also times when they do not want to reveal their true feelings because, then, their friend may apologize, and deep down they are not ready to forgive (see Alei Shor, vol. 2 p. 240). There are even times when people do this with very pure intentions, thinking that they are doing a mitzvah by “putting on a nice face” to the person who did them wrong. However, the halacha says otherwise.

The halacha dictates that after one tries everything mentioned in the previous articles (including reprimanding where the halacha calls for it) and realizes that he cannot rid himself of his hatred, he should let the other person know about his ill feelings towards him. This can often lead to reconciliation through: 1) his fellow apologizing for what he did, 2) his fellow explaining the rationale behind his actions, 3) his fellow showing how it

was all a big misunderstanding. Even if none of those scenarios happen, one still gains by letting the other know about his feelings. This is so because there are opinions that teach that if one informs his fellow about his feelings, he is no longer committing the prohibition of hating another person in his heart, because it is no longer in one’s heart but rather out in the open (see Rambam, Sefer Hamitzvot, mitzvot lo taaseh 302, Hilchot De’ot 6:5, Chafetz Chaim, Lavin 7, Be’er Mayim Chaim and Kehillot Yaakov, Erachin 4).

According to these opinions, the Torah specifically warned about hatred in the heart more than revealed hatred, because in many ways hatred that is in the heart is more harmful. One reason is because, as mentioned above, when someone reveals his feelings, it can often lead to reconciliation, either between themselves or through a third party who will try and make peace between them. However, when one keeps it in his heart, others may not even know that there is animosity between them, and, therefore would not even try to make peace between them (Peleh Yoetz, “sinah”). Also, at times his fellow either would not know that he did something wrong, or even if he did, he would think that his friend already forgave him and will therefore not make an effort to appease him.

Another reason why hatred in the heart may be worse is that when hatred is kept in the heart it grows bigger and bigger, while when it is revealed it is therapeutically diminished (see Yad Haketana, Hilchot De’ot 6:4).

Furthermore, when the hatred is not revealed, his fellow will not try to protect himself from possible revenge from him because he does not even know that his friend is angry at him. At times, he may even put his full trust in him, leaving him vulnerable to maltreatment. But when the hatred is revealed, his fellow will have his guard up, which can possibly prevent vengeful harm that may be coming his way (see Rabbeinu Yonah on Mishlei 3:29 and Chafetz Chaim, lavin 7, Be’er Mayim Chaim).

Obviously, one must be very careful in how he relates his feelings. Often, the way it is presented makes all the difference in whether it will lead to reconciliation or the opposite. It is therefore worthwhile to seek the advice of a competent halachic authority on how to go about this.

It must also be pointed out that this must only be a last resort, because, firstly, there are opinions that hold that one is committing the transgression of baseless hatred even when he shows it openly (see Ramban on Vayikra 19:17, see also Kehillot Yaakov, Erachin 4, for a discussion of the opinions). Furthermore, even according to the opinions that hold otherwise, one should still try to work on letting go of his hatred, because even though by revealing his feelings he does not transgress the prohibition of hating his fellow in his heart, he still transgresses the mitzvahs to not take revenge, to not bear a grudge, and to love one’s fellow as oneself. But according to these opinions it is still worthwhile to let his fellow know how he feels, because it is better to commit these transgressions than violating the more serious offense against hating one’s fellow in his heart (see Rambam, Sefer Hamitzvot, lo taaseh 302).

Personal Considerations

Other than the fact that baseless hatred is a serious transgression, there are also other personal considerations that can push one to rid himself of baseless hatred.

The Gemara says that the sin of baseless hatred causes quarrels to increase in one’s house, it causes one’s wife to have miscarriages and it causes one’s little children to die young (Shabbat 32b). (It is beyond the scope of this article to address why these things happen as a result of baseless hatred. The reader is encouraged to look at the commentaries for explanations of why this is so.)

Elsewhere, the Gemara says that whoever is not exacting with his fellow and does not try to repay him measure for measure for the pain that he caused him, Hashem also acts that way with him and is not exacting with him to repay him measure for measure for his own transgressions (Rosh Hashanah 17a, according to Rashi).

It was mentioned in a previous section that one of the ways to overcome baseless hatred is by judging one’s fellow favorably. With regard to this, the Gemara says that judging one’s fellow favorably is one of the unique things for which one receives reward both in this world and in the World to Come (see Shabbat 127a).

Building the Beit Hamikdash

We daven and look forward to the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash all the time. If permission were granted from Hashem to rebuild the Beit Hamikdash, every person would surely offer anything he could to make it happen. The Chafetz Chaim explains that the truth of the matter is that Hashem is offering us the opportunity to rebuild the Beis Hamikdash, through fixing the sin of baseless hatred that caused its destruction (Yoma 9b, Shemirat Halashon vol. 2 perek 7, Ahavat Yisrael, Chapter 2, see also Peleh Yoetz, “sinah”). As it says in Sefer Yeshayahu: The hand of Hashem is not short from saving, and His ear is not hard of hearing; rather, it is your sins that are separating you from your G-d, and your transgressions have caused Him to hide His face from you and from hearing you (Yeshayahu 59:1-2). Perhaps one big way to push ourselves to overcome baseless hatred is through reflecting on the fact that through removing the hatred we directly contribute to the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash. May we merit doing complete teshuva and thereby contribute to the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash speedily in our days.

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