web analytics
December 29, 2014 / 7 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Of Love And Hate

At the center of the mosaic books is Vayikra. At the center of Vayikra is the “holiness code” (chapter 19) with its momentous call: “You shall be holy because I, the Lord your G-d, am holy.” And at the centre of chapter 19 is a brief paragraph which, by its positioning, is the apex, the high point, of the Torah:

“Do not hate your brother in your heart.”

“You must surely admonish your neighbor and not bear sin because of him.”

“Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against the children of your people.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself. I am G-d” (19:17-18).

In this study, I will examine the second of these provisions: “You must surely admonish your neighbor and not bear sin because of him.”

Rambam and Ramban agree in seeing two quite different levels of meaning in this sentence. This is how Rambam puts it:

“When one person sins against another, the latter should not hate him and remain silent. As it is said about the wicked: ‘And Absolom spoke to Amnon neither good nor evil, although Absolom hated Amnon.’ Rather, he is commanded to speak to him and to say to him, ‘Why did you do such-and-such to me? Why did you sin against me in such-and-such a matter?’ As it is said, ‘You must surely admonish your neighbor.’ If he repents and requests forgiveness from him, he must forgive and not be cruel, as it is said, ‘And Abraham prayed to G-d…’ ”

If someone sees his fellow committing a sin or embarking on a path that is not good, it is a commandment to make him return to the good and to make known to him that he is sinning against himself by his evil actions, as it is said, “You must surely admonish your neighbor…”

Likewise, Ramban:

“You shall surely remonstrate with your neighbor” – this is a separate command, namely that we must teach him the reproof of instruction. “And not bear sin because of him” – for you will bear sin because of his transgression if you do not rebuke him…

However, it seems to me that the correct interpretation is that the expression “you shall surely remonstrate” is to be understood in the same way as “And Abraham remonstrated with Avimelech.” The verse is thus saying: “Do not hate your brother in your heart when he does something to you against your will, but instead you should remonstrate with him, saying, ‘Why did you do this to me?’ And you will not bear sin because of him by covering up your hatred in your heart and not telling him, for when you remonstrate with him, he will justify himself before you or he will regret his action and admit his sin, and you will forgive him.”

The difference between the two interpretations is that one is social, the other interpersonal. On Rambam’s second and Ramban’s first reading, the command is about collective responsibility. When we see a fellow Jew about to commit a sin, we must try to persuade him not to do so. We are not allowed to say, “That is a private matter between him and G-d.” “All Israel,” said the Sages, “are sureties for one another.” We are each responsible, not only for our own conduct but for the behavior of others. That is a major chapter in Jewish law and thought.

However, both Rambam and Ramban are aware that this is not the plain sense of the text. Taken in context, what we have before us is a subtle account of the psychology of interpersonal relations.

Judaism has sometimes been accused by Christianity of being about justice rather than love (“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”). This is entirely untrue. There is a wonderful teaching in Avot deRabbi Natan: “Who is the greatest hero? One who turns an enemy into a friend.” What sets the Torah apart is its understanding of the psychology of hatred.

If someone has done us harm, it is natural to feel aggrieved. What then are we to do in order to fulfill the command, “Do not hate your brother in your heart”? The Torah’s answer is: Speak. Converse. Challenge. Remonstrate. It may be that the other person had a good reason for doing what he did. Or it may be that he was acting out of malice, in which case our remonstration will give him, if he so chooses, the opportunity to apologize – and we should then forgive him. In either case, talking it through is the best way of restoring a broken relationship. Once again we encounter here one of the leitmotivs of Judaism: the power of speech to create, sustain and mend relationships.

Rambam cites a key prooftext. The story is told (2 Samuel 13) of how Amnon, one of King David’s children, raped his half-sister Tamar. When Absolom, Tamar’s brother, hears about the episode, his reaction seems on its face irenic, serene:

“Her brother Absolom said to her, ‘Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.’ And Tamar lived in her brother Absolom’s house, a desolate woman. When King David heard all this, he was furious. Absolom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad…”

Appearances, however, deceive. Absolom is anything but forgiving. He waits for two years, and then invites Amnon to a festive meal at sheep-shearing time. He gives instructions to his men: “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him.” And so it happened. Absolom’s silence was not the silence of forgiveness but of hate – the hate of which Pierre de LaClos spoke in Les Liaisons Dangereuses when he wrote the famous line: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

There is another equally powerful example in Bereishit:

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age, and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him [velo yachlu dabro l’shalom.]” This literally means: “They could not speak with him to peace.”

On this, Rabbi Jonathan Eybeschuetz (c. 1690-1764) comments: “Had they been able to sit together as a group, they would have spoken to one another and remonstrated with each other, and would eventually have made their peace with one another. The tragedy of conflict is that it prevents people from talking together and listening to one another.” A failure to communicate is often the prelude to revenge.

The inner logic of the two verses in our sedrah is therefore this: “Love your neighbor as yourself. But not all neighbors are loveable. There are those who, out of envy or malice, have done you harm. I do not therefore command you to live as if you were angels, without any of the emotions natural to human beings. I do however forbid you to hate. That is why, when someone does you wrong, you must confront the wrongdoer. You must tell him of your feelings of hurt and distress. It may be that you completely misunderstood his intentions. Or it may be that he genuinely meant to do you harm, but now, faced with the reality of the injury he has done you, he may sincerely repent for what he did. If, however, you fail to talk it through, there is a real possibility that you will bear a grudge and in the fullness of time, come to take revenge – as did Absolom.”

What is so impressive about the Torah is that it both articulates the highest of high ideals, and at the same time speaks to us as human beings. If we were angels it would be easy to love one another. But we are not. An ethic that commands us to love our enemies, without any hint as to how we are to achieve this, is simply unlivable. Instead, the Torah sets out a realistic program. By being honest with one another, talking things through, we may be able to achieve reconciliation – not always, to be sure, but often. How much distress and even bloodshed might be spared if humanity heeded this simple command.

Adapted from “Covenant & Conversation,” a collection of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s parshiyot hashavua essays, to be published by Maggid Books, an imprint of Koren Publishers Jerusalem (www.korenpub.com), in conjunction with the Orthodox Union.

About the Author: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, is the author of many books of Jewish thought, most recently “The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning.”


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Of Love And Hate”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Kerry, the one who is short in size and common sense, with Kerry, the one who is tall in size but short on common sense.
Abbas Bucks Kerry and Runs to the UN to Throw Obama under the Bus
Latest Judaism Stories
Torah-Hakehillah-121914

Why is the tzitzis reminder on our clothing? How does it remind us that there are 613 mitzvos?

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

The court cannot solely rely on death certificates issued by non-Jewish institutions without conducting its own investigation into the facts of the case.

Business-Halacha-logo

“I’m still not sure we have a right to damage his property,” said Mrs. Schloss. “Can you ask someone?”

Rabbi Sacks

Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim over Manasseh had nothing to do with age and everything to do with names

Slavery was universal; So, why was Egypt targeted in this object lesson?

Rav Akiva Eiger is assuming that the logic of the halacha that both the son and his mother are obligated to honor his father and therefore he must honor his fathers wishes first, is a mathematical equation.

The first requirement is a king must admit when he is wrong.

Reward And Punishment
‘Masser Rishon For The levi’im’
(Yevamos 86a)

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

Reb Shlomo Zalman could not endure honorifics applied to him because of his enormous humility

Because we see these events as world changing, as moments in history, they become part of us forever.

They stammer “I’m not Orthodox,” as if that absolves them from the responsibility of calling to G-d

It’s fascinating how sources attain the status “traditional,” or its equivalent level of kashrus.

She was determined that the Law class was Dina’s best chance of finding a husband, and that was the real reason she wanted her to go to college.

But who would have ever guessed that Hashem would unlock the key to the birth on same day as the English anniversary of our wedding.

More Articles from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Sacks

Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim over Manasseh had nothing to do with age and everything to do with names

Rabbi Sacks

Tamar’s conduct bears an uncanny resemblance to Ruth’s; virtuous outsiders at the margins of society

A Jew is an iconoclast, born to challenge the idols of the age,whatever the idols, whatever the age.

Simply too many cases of prayers being answered to deny it makes a difference to our fate. It does.

When Jacob was chosen, Esau was not rejected; G-d does not reject.

Between Judaism and Islam there can be friendship and mutual respect as Abraham loved both his sons.

God wanted to establish the principle that children are not the property of their parents.

The Babel story is the 2nd in a 4-act drama that’s unmistakably a connecting thread of Bereishit

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/jewish-columns/rabbi-lord-jonathan-sacks/of-love-and-hate/2013/04/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: