closeicon

Hatred is an evil character trait

November 24, 2016 23:02

Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael…between Paran and Tofel, Lavan, Chatzeiros and Di Zahav. (Deuteronomy 1:1)
Rashi cites the Rabbis who note that they are unable to locate the places to which the Torah refers. If they do not exist, where are they? Actually, these places are not geographical indicators, but rather allusions to sins which occurred in the wilderness, minor and major rebellions which took place during the nation's journey to the Holy Land. Tofel refers to their complaints concerning the manna, which was lavan, white. A similar idea applies to some of the other names. While complaining about the manna reflects the nadir of ingratitude, does it constitute a sin? Can it be compared to the murder of Chur? Yet, Moshe Rabbeinu did not rebuke them for this outrage.

Horav Arye Leib Bakst, zl, comments that the Torah does not necessarily address the actual sin. Instead, it focuses on the origin of the sin, the cause of the aberative behavior. What brought about such a violation? What catalyzed this wanton act of rebellion? For example, concerning Chur's murder, the Torah writes, "And they got up to revel" (Shemos 32:6). Rashi explains that the term tzchok, revel, implies the cardinal sins of idolatry, licentiousness, and murder. We derive from here that when revelry reigns, anything can happen - even the murder of a Navi. When someone loses control, he is capable of anything, especially if he is being rebuked for his actions. He will not tolerate anyone who stands in his way or points out his errant ways.

In reporting Klal Yisrael's negativity about the manna, the Torah is not underscoring the actual slander; rather, the Torah is highlighting the fact that they were ingrates whose primary concern was for their stomachs. For a nation that had recently left Egypt - amidst miracles and wonders unprecedented in the history of the world - to be concerned about the food they eat indicates a lack of dignity, the antithesis of the type of character refinement that would be expected of the dor deah, generation of knowledge.

In the Talmud Nedarim 81, Chazal ask: Al mah avdah ha'Aretz? "For what (sin) did we lose the Land (of Eretz Yisrael)?" Shelo barchu baTorah techillah, "They were lax in blessing the Torah prior to studying it." In other words, they did study Torah, but they did not precede the study with a Bircas HaTorah, blessing for the Torah. This does not seem to coincide with Chazal's position in the Talmud Yoma 9b that the second Bais Hamikdash was destroyed due to sinaas chinam, unwarranted hatred, among Jews. How do we reconcile these two differing opinions?

Rav Bakst explains that the root of the sin of sinaas chinam is a lack of respect for the Torah. Since their learning was not important enough to recite a blessing on the Torah prior to their study, they developed a perverse attitude to the Torah. This led to a total breakdown, whereby they lost respect for one another. The next step was open hatred, for no apparent reason. It is the Torah that keeps us human. Without the Torah, we lose our fidelity to anything sacred. Friendships are of no value; relationships are of no consequence. It is all about "me," since I have lost the source of my value system: the Torah.

An individual who respects Torah, one for whom Torah is paramount to the point that it becomes equivalent to life itself, acts differently. He is an exalted person, a refined person, a better person. One who is involved in understanding a shverer, difficult, commentary by Rabbi Akiva Eiger and is interrupted by a friend who tells him that he has a nicer car than he has, will, at best, look at him incredulously. He will certainly not be jealous or hateful concerning his friend's "nicer" car. He is on a different plane. One who approaches Torah study as life itself, by first blessing the Torah, shows his respect. Such a person does not hate. He is incapable of hatred.

We entreat Hashem daily to sweeten for us His words of Torah. V'haarev na Hashem Elokeinu es divrei Torasecha b'finu. Why is this prayer rendered only for the mitzvah of limud haTorah? Why is there no prayer that the mitzvah of Tefillin, Succah, Shabbos, etc. be sweetened? What about the mitzvah of Torah study requires areivus, sweetness? Is it so "troublesome" that it requires a special prayer? Rav Bakst explains that Torah studied in a manner such that the individual senses its sweetness and delight is an entirely different learning. Only such a type of study will transform a person. Hatred is an evil character trait found in the average person. One who studies Torah on the level of areivus is incapable of hatred. He is not the average person, having risen above the norm to a level where the pettiness that often leads to unwarranted hatred plays no role.
P.S. Please see my public profile

November 24, 2016 23:02

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive