Before I share my feelings on love and hate, I would like to share a quick thought I saw after the terrorist attack in Nice. Someone posted: How do you tell the difference between an anti-Semite and a Jew? An anti-Semite says: “I hate the Jewish people but the few Jews I know are okay.” A Jew might say, “I love the Jewish People, but I hate this one, that one and the other one”.
This summer seems to be filled with such terrible hatred. There are terrorists who have attacked innocents in Orlando, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Nice and Israel, including slitting the throat of a sleeping 13-year-old girl. Racist groups have cropped up including a Black Lives Matter supporter who assassinated five police officers in Dallas.
Should we now hate the haters? Should we hate these people who kill, maim and destroy? Or is all hate wrong? Should we just love everyone? Or should we hate them? What if we don’t even know them? What can we do to help fix this growing attitude of hate?
Hate is a very strong word, and there are those who maintain that eliminating hate will make the world a better place. I don’t agree. Any human attribute can be either good or bad.
Inappropriate love can be just as destructive as malicious hate. Imagine a wife who remains loyal to a child abuser and does not report him because she loves him. That love is evil. Yet when love is directed in the right direction it is one of the most powerfully positive and constructive forces known to mankind.
The same is true with hate. The Jewish people are intimately acquainted with the consequences of senseless hatred.
We are about to enter the saddest period on the Jewish calendar. It is known as the three weeks and is marked this year from July 24-August 14. This is when we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and our launch into a still-ongoing exile.
The period begins on the 17th of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, a fast day that marks the day when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans in 69 CE. It reaches its climax and concludes with the fast of the 9th of Av, the date when both Holy Temples were set aflame. This is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, and it is also the date of other tragedies spanning our nation’s history.
According to the Sages it was “sinat chinam” senseless hatred that caused the destruction of the Holy Temple. Clearly irrational and pointless hatred is a terrible and destructive force. However this does not mean that all hatred is bad. There are some things that we are actually obligated to hate.
The rationale behind this is a profound one. Since humans naturally distance themselves from things that they hate, it follows that the surest way of keeping away from evil is to hate it. If one is ambivalent towards evil one can easily become sympathetic towards it. The minute we begin to rationalize evil and its causes is the minute we become open to being influenced by it.
However one must also realize that even good hate can be dangerous. Our hate must remain constructive not destructive. We may hate the sin but never the sinner. If one become consumed by hate to the extent that it takes us over, then our hatred undergoes a metamorphosis from a constructive force to one that is senseless, destructive and even terroristic.
This is where the terrorists have gone wrong. There may be many destructive elements within Western society that one may oppose or even despise. But if one allows this hatred to become all-consuming, as the terrorists have done, then it crosses the boundary and becomes evil.
Thus our response to the evil scourge of terrorism must be unrelenting. In order to successfully oppose it we must despise it. Our challenge, however, is not to allow this legitimate antipathy to consume us to the extent that it becomes a force for destruction and evil.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that you can’t beat darkness with a broom. You can only beat it by illuminating it with light. Every time we do an act of kindness we push away the darkness a bit more and more. Soon the whole world will be illuminated with a Divine glow of goodness and Blessing. That is how we can merit the rebuilding of the Temple and the Era of Peace and Goodness for all mankind.
So by all means Love your neighbor and hate that which is evil. But most important of all is do a mitzvah (good deed) and encourage a friend to do the same. Your act of kindness will light up the world, chase away the evil and usher in the good.
Shabbat candles should be lit on Fridays, July 22 at 8:43 p.m.; July 29 at 8:37 p.m.; August 5 at 8:30 p.m.; August 12 at 8:21 p.m.; August 19 at 8:12 p.m. and August 26 at 8:02 p.m.
Editor’s note: Rabbi Chaim Litvin, a local emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, has volunteered to provide Torah commentaries for Community.