Hatred: A wasted emotion

Jews are meant to be holy. Non-Jews are meant to be righteous.

By KENNETH COHEN
January 2, 2016 21:58
4 minute read.
Reform Jews

American Jews who are members of the Union for Reform Judaism, formerly the Union Of American Hebrew Congregations at the Western Wall in Jerusalem‏.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Many years ago the students of Machon Meir were addressed by a unique couple. They were “Noahides” from the “Bible Belt in the Southeastern part of the United States.”

They had abandoned Christianity and joined the numerous other Noahides by observing the Seven Noahide Laws as described in the Torah after Noah left the ark following the flood.

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The address of the couple was meant to tell our students how fortunate they were to be living the special way of life of observant Jews. They said, “ Our job is to be righteous. Your job is to be holy.” In essence, this was an explanation of the special role the Jew was given on Mount Sinai. Jews were given 613 commandments with the goal of creating a “holy nation.” The non-Jews were given seven laws to create righteousness. Hence the expression “righteous gentiles.”

The primary reason that Judaism is not a racist religion is that it accepts converts, regardless of race or color. In other words, Jews come in all shapes, sizes and colors, as do non-Jews. The only difference is which system of laws each accepts. The Jews made a covenant on Mount Sinai to observe the 613 and live a life of holiness and the non-Jew the seven Noahide laws.

There is nowhere in the Torah that allows the Jew or encourages the Jew to hate anyone; not a fellow Jew or a gentile.

There is a commandment in Leviticus that prohibits us from hating another Jew in our heart. We are commanded to rebuke our fellow Jew and not harbor ill feelings. This is the same chapter that tells us to “Love our neighbor as ourselves.” There is a reference in Psalms where King David says that he will hate those who hate God, but that seems to be more of an expression of David’s passion for the Almighty. There are many references to destroying our enemies, but nowhere does it say that we are to hate them. If it is necessary to go to battle, the motivation should be love of family and land, and the need to protect it and keep safe that which we hold most dear.

In the early eighties, I was privileged to know the late Rabbi Meir Kahane on a personal level. I was one of a few pulpit rabbis who was willing to host him in my synagogue. I was able to get to know the man from up close. He was thoroughly enjoyable to be around as he had a great sense of humor, and he was a great Torah scholar. On many occasions, I pleaded with him to change his image as a racist rabbi so that people could see the side of him that I got to know and admire. For some reason that I will never understand, he felt it necessary to keep his image of “macho rabbi.” Despite all of this, Rav Kahane, the so called “racist rabbi,” often said, “I don’t hate Arabs. I love Jews.”

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Hatred is a wasted emotion. It is counterproductive.

It accomplishes nothing to rant about how much one despises certain individuals or peoples. It is against Torah values. If there is an individual who has character traits that are difficult to love, keep a distance from that person. If a nation threatens our survival, destroy them and fight with tenacity.

Do not sit around talking about how much you hate. It serves no purpose. The emotion of love is much more powerful and productive.

The classic work Orchot Tzaddikim devotes an entire chapter to the subject of hating. The author writes that people hate for foolish reasons. They hate because they were refused a loan by a friend, or because they felt they received an inferior gift. People of the same occupation tend to hate one another. The worst hatred is hating out of jealousy.

However, the chapter continues by saying that if one is shamed, physically hurt, or suffers a monetary loss at the hands of another individual, he has legitimate reasons to feel animosity toward that person. But even in these situations, he must not allow those feelings to eat away at him. This is remedied by rebuking that individual and making him aware of his misdeed with the hope that he will rectify the situation. This rebuke, according to the Torah, will prevent him from violating the prohibition of hating a fellow Jew.

Somehow we allow our emotions to get the better of us and we lose sight of the real values that we are meant to possess.

Perhaps it would do us well to remind ourselves of that message of that very kind couple from the Bible Belt. Jews are meant to be holy. Non-Jews are meant to be righteous.

The author is the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles, and is currently a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem.

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