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Parshas Devarim/Erev Tisha B'Av - Ahavas Yisrael   7 Av 5781

07/15/2021 11:57:03 PM


I believe everyone would agree that by following a given set of instructions most people would be able to reach their destination and accomplish the goal they are trying to reach. If a person deviates ever so slightly, the detour creates a longer trip, possibly preventing or seriously delaying that which he was working to build or preventing him from attaining the goal. This rule of thumb applies to us all: perhaps we are a bit closer to where we need to be, but we have not gotten there just yet.

Almost another year has gone by since we mourned the burning of the Beis Hamikdash and the destruction of Yerushalayim. Unless something drastic takes place in the next forty-eight hours, we will be repeating the same process we have experienced the last 1951 years of fasting, lamenting, and mourning. Why is it taking so long to bring an end to the galus/exile? The answer is fairly obvious: we have not followed the directions delineated  to reverse the root cause of what brought about the initial exile. So…just what did cause the initial and subsequent exiles?

The sages in Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1 taught, "Any and every generation that has not brought about the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash, is as if the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed in that generation and in their times." So, what are we waiting for? After all these millennium don’t we know why the second Bais HaMikdash was destroyed? In fact, the same lack of merit resulting in its destruction has resulted in its not being rebuilt. The Midrash Socher Tov, Shmuel 31 states a frightening outcome of not yearning for the rebuilding of the Temple, "All the communities that fell were destroyed only because they didn't inquire after and demand the Beit HaMikdash." The Gemara Yoma 9b discusses the reasons for the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem.  It differentiates between the causes of the first destruction and those of the second: Why was the First Temple destroyed? It was destroyed due to the prevalence of three things: idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed. But why was the Second Temple destroyed, seeing that in its time they occupied themselves with Torah, mitzvot and acts of kindness? Because baseless hatred/Sinas Chinam prevailed. This teaches all of us that baseless hatred is equal to the three sins of idolatry, illicit relations, and murder. The severity of sinas chinam is clear: even a generation of charitable scholars can be punished for this sin. It is considered as grave as the three cardinal sins combined. The mention of sinas chinam as the root cause of the Second Temple's destruction is repeated elsewhere, with additional components. The Talmud Yerushalmi Yoma 1:1 state that during the Second Temple era, the people were avid in their Torah study and careful in their fulfillment of mitzvot. Destruction came upon them because the people loved money but hated each other.  Indeed, they hated each other with baseless hatred. The Midrash Eicha Rabbah 1:21 adds that during the Second Temple era, "People rejoiced over the downfall of others."  

*If hatred were always forbidden, under all circumstances, then it would be easier to curb the phenomenon of one Jew’s hatred for another.  However, because circumstances do in fact exist that allow one to hate another, the dividing line between permitted and forbidden hatred must be drawn.  When permissible, the “mitzva” of hate is unfortunately often much easier to fulfill properly than the mitzva to love another Jew.  Now, when it comes to the individuals whom we naturally would love, the mitzva is seemingly unnecessary.  It is when considering those individuals whom we might be tempted not to treat in the prescribed manner, for a whole host of reasons, that the mitzvot of love and hate bear most significance.

 To gain a greater understanding of this hatred, we must properly define it.  The term sinas chinam is rather strange.  People do not usually hate others for no apparent reason.  Usually, the reason to hate others is because they have mistreated us, are a bad influence, have different opinions, and so forth. Why would sinas chinam have been so pervasive during Second Temple times if it were really baseless? Evidently, the sinas chinam - which was so prevalent and widespread - was not "baseless" in the usual sense of the term.  Everyone numerous reasons to hate others. The Sages, however, view these feelings as baseless if they are not based on the permitted hatred.  In fact, the hatred allowed in certain cases is a constructive hatred, aimed at distancing bad influences; therefore, such hatred is limited in its scope and level.  Even so, there are numerous opinions which understand that hatred, even for these elements of society, is either disallowed in our time or severely limited. If so, any hatred which does not carry with it the Torah's permission is viewed as sinas chinam.  The Talmud, however, stresses the severity of this form of hatred. After all, despite the fact that the generation of the destruction was accomplished in Torah study and even acts of kindness, the phenomenon of baseless hatred was sufficient to lead to its downfall. Therefore, sinas chinam is akin to the three cardinal sins which led to the First Temple's destruction. Even when the Torah permits hatred, it does not neglect the responsibility of loving a fellow Jew*.

The current antidote to Sinas Chinam is the opposite…Ahavas Chinam - love for no reason or for free. The reason I say ‘current’ is it has no mention in the Torah or even in the Talmud. One of the earliest sources is attributed to the Pele Yoetz in 1824 and later to Rav Kook in 1930 in his sefer Imrei Phi. The question is how do we define Ahavas Chinam and how do WE apply it to OUR daily lives. Reb Mordechai Shlomo of Boyan told the following story to one of the sons of the Vizhnitzer Rebee of Monsey zt”l. The Ahavas Yisrael of Vishnitz once arrived in a city and bestowed a lot of honor to a very simple person. People hinted to the Rebbe, the Ahavas Yisroel, that this person is not a Rav/Rabbi in the city, he is not an honorable person at all. He is rather a simple person. Their hints were for naught as he continued to give him a lot of honor. They asked the Ahavas Yisrael later, ”What does the Rebbe see in this person that the Rebbe gave him so much honor?” The Ahavas Yisroel replied that the Bais HaMikdash was destroyed because of baseless hatred, we rectify it by having baseless love. The meaning or definition is to “love a simple person for no reason at all. I did not see anything in him, not Torah and not anything else. There is a concept that loving a Torah scholar is loving the Torah itself, but loving a simple person is loving the person himself; you love him for no reason at all”. We need to train ourselves to honor each other for no reason, unconditionally, even if the person does not deserve it”. This, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe said, will bring about the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash.

I suggest that from now on (not just the next few days until Tisha B’Av) we consciously embrace this attitude, committing to working on this important social obligation. We tend to go out of our way to greet someone important, wealthy, or influential but typically ignore someone who is not. Each and every one of us should go out of our way (at least once a day and keep a record of it) to say hello to someone or inquire of their well-being. By demonstrating our care and concern for the Chinam person, we will reverse the baseless hatred and do our part towards the rebuilding of the Bayis Shlishi B’Mheira B’Yameinu in the next few hours……….    


Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*Adapted from an article by Rabbi Ari Zivotofsky in Jewish Action magazine.

Mon, August 15 2022 18 Av 5782