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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Causeless Hate

By TorahLab

One of the most trying epochs in the history of the Jewish People took place in the year 3828, better known as year 68 of the common era. The Jews lived in the Land of Israel, as they do today but more so. Jerusalem was our religious center. The Beis HaMikdosh stood gloriously and a renaissance of scholarship was under way. However, the Roman Empire was growing daily and the dreadful time had come when the Roman Emperor decided to conquer Jerusalem. The Jews in Israel were in a state of fear, shock and controversy. The people of Israel broke out into teams. On the extreme was a group known as the Beryonim, militant nationalists determined to fight to the bitter end. On the other side was the Rabbinic leadership led by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai who were searching for reasonable ways to negotiate with the Romans and make peace. There were many groups in the middle each with their own thesis as to how to deal with the oncoming storm. From a state of unity Klall Yisroel erupted into hundreds of fragmented groups each trying to undermine the other. They didn’t only argue politics but argued Mesorah. The Beryonim claimed that the Gedolei Hador were no longer carriers of the Mesorah. Each one proclaimed his derech of Yiddishkeit to be the only correct version. Ultimately the division made Israel into a pushover state. The Romans entered and burned down Jerusalem.

In the words of Chazal: The first Temple was destroyed because people violated the three cardinal sins. They worshipped foreign gods, there was murder in the streets and forbidden incestuous and adulterous relationships were common place. During the Second Temple period none of this took place. Jerusalem was destroyed because of Sinat Chinom. The accusations and smearing, one group of another, had nothing to do any longer with the issues at hand. Causeless discrediting and hate were common. In the words of the Talmud, “This teaches us that Sinat Chinom is equal to the three most serious transgressions of the Torah.”

The Jerusalem Talmud questions this deduction. In fact the Babylonian exile lasted only 70 years while the Roman exile is still with us today. The amount of bloodshed caused by the Romans and their followers far outreached the horrors of the Babylonians. The Jerusalem Talmud concludes therefore that in fact Sinat Chinom is much worse then the worst transgression of the Torah. In their words “During the first Temple era the wrongdoing were revealed, during the second they were hidden.”

The Vilna Gaon in his commentary to Bava Batra offers a profound explanation. As terrible as the violation of the cardinal sins of the Torah are they do not, says the GRA, necessarily indicate that the people are intrinsically evil. It is possible to be taken into a culture of Avodah Zara, to lose ones head and kill, or to fall into a forbidden relationship. These are terrible sins and one must give ones life to avoid them. But they can be external to the person and don’t necessarily define the person. Sinat Chinom, says the GRA, is an internal sin. It reflects the essence of the human being and defines him. A person who hates has a bad heart. With a bad heart one can not worship God. The Temple was destroyed and will remain that way until we remedy the cause.

I remember almost 20 years ago when I was newly married and living in Jerusalem. My wife and I hosted a sheva brachos for one of our friends. In his honor amongst the many guests was one of the great poskim of Jerusalem. A discussion broke out at the table about why there seems to be so much mudslinging going on in the religious community. Some claimed that jealousy was the cause, another said that it was ignorance and yet another claimed it was financial. We looked toward the Rav as he said, “Ich mein as es felt in lev tov”. A good hearted person doesn’t hate. This, says the GRA, was the sin that we still mourn.

I’d like to draw a parallel. Allow me to present before you two scenarios of which I’d like you to judge which is worse.

A person keeps kosher. Only the strictest standard will do. They go into their normal mehadrin butcher shop and buy a piece of meat. The butcher earlier that day had a visit from another neighborhood butcher that wasn’t kosher. He had a surplus of meat and was willing to sell it to the kosher butcher for a fraction of the price. The kosher butcher couldn’t resist and bought it. Our glatt kosher consumer ate treif.

Scenario two. A kosher keeping Jew feels he had enough. He decides he’s going to have some treif. He randomly gets off the bus in China town walks into the first butcher shop and buys 2 pounds of felanken. Little does he realize that earlier that day the Chinaman got a great deal from the kosher butcher who wanted to leave for the mountains and so sold him is inventory for a fraction of the price. Our traifenyack had a glatt kosher dinner.

Which is worse. He who did the sin but didn’t want to or he who wanted to but didn’t do it? Says the Gemara in Sanhedrin as the Maharsha explains it “Hirhurei Aveira kashin MeAveira”. The though of the Aveirah is worse than the Aveira itself. One says the Maharsha is a function of ones action and one is a function of the heart. A sin of the heart is much worse for although the hearts wish has not been fulfilled, the wish served the purpose of defining what I am. As much as the Torah is concerned with what I do it is so much more concerned with what I am.

Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai was the leader of the generation. He had to spread a rumor that he died and leave Jerusalem in a coffin in order to negotiate with Vespasian without being assassinated by his brethren. In a lesson with his students in Yavneh after the Temple had been destroyed he implored them to look around them and observe what is the main path a man should delve to walk on. They came back with many observations of what could have avoided the tragedies of the day. A good eye, a pursuit of friendship, neighborliness. Reb Alozor ben Aroch said, a good heart. Lev Tov. Reb Yochanan ben Zakai told his students that Reb Elazar hit the nail on the head. Because if one has a Lev Tov everything else will follow. The message of the GRA was Reb Yochanan ben Zakai’s message to his generation and to ours.

My personal opinion is that there are too many words and labels that have crept into our culture. When I was a child people spoke of a shomer shabbos Jew as the defining character of a frum Jew. It seemed fair enough. But the definition extended to Kosher, what kind of kosher, kippa and what kind of kippa, not yeshiva but which Yeshiva. It became difficult to articulate so we came up with words such as heimish and unzerer. Whether you put the accent on the first or second syllable of your Hebrew words is enough to put you in or out of the box.

Many of our schools have become so elitist that they will not accept frum boys and girls unless they meet unrealistic expectations and come from exactly the right type of family. And so it is with shiduchim and employment.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a member of the faculty of the Lakewood Yeshiva. The Yeshiva he told me wishes to get involved in outreach, they have an army of 2000! We discussed what took so long and I proposed that Rav Aharon Kotler ZT”L was against it. But, I said, although I can’t prove it I believe that if Reb Aharon was alive today he would back the Kiruv movement 100%. The person I was talking to corrected me and said that he can prove it. Before Reb Aharon moved to the United States he was a Rosh Yeshiva in Kletzk. Reb Aharon at that time spent half of everyday knocking on the doors of Kletzk, the doors of the Bundistim and the Maskilim and begged them to send their children to a Yeshiva, or rather to his Yeshiva. None of us do that today.

We must stop speaking about exclusivity and star speaking about inclusivity. We must celebrate our commonalties and develop a tolerance for differences of opinion. Most of all we must develop a Leiv Tov.

Rav Nachman Breslover once asked if the right is so important in Jewish law why is our heart on our left side? Said Rav Nachman, if our heart is for ourselves than we have an excellent question. But if our heart is for the person that stands before me, than in fact it is on his right.

May we merit to see the unity of our people and the rebuilding of Jerusalem in our days.

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