Removing Hatred from the Heart

"You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your fellow and not bear a sin because of him." (Leviticus 19:17) - According to our sages, this prohibition is referring to concealed hatred (Sifra).


Dear Friends,


One of the classical biblical commentators, the Ramban - Nachmanides - explains the above verse in the following manner: Do not hate your brother in your heart when he has wronged you in any way; rather reprove him by saying, "Why did you do thus to me?" In this way, you will not bear a sin because of him by concealing your hatred in your heart and not telling him. In fact, speaking out what is in your heart can remove the hatred, for he may give a valid reason for his behavior, or he may express regret for his action and you will forgive him.


A similar teaching is given by the Rambam  - Maimonides - in his code of Torah law (Hilchos De'os 6:6,9). He explains that a person should not harbor hatred in his heart against one who has offended him; instead, he should discuss his grievance with the offender. The Rambam stresses that if the offender regrets his action and asks for forgiveness, he should be forgiven. What if the offender is the type of person that one cannot speak to? The Rambam answers that if one forgives the offender in such a case, he is acting according to the higher standard of "chassidus" - the love for the Creator and all creation which inspires one to go beyond the letter of the law. For a loving person will not allow hatred to fester in his heart.


According to the Ohr Ha-Chaim, a leading 18th century sage and biblical commentator, a person should not think that only a violent feeling of animosity is prohibited, but a slight feeling of dislike is permitted. In his explanation of the words, "You shall not hate your brother in your heart," he points out that the Torah defines hatred in terms of the ideal relationship we are to have with a "brother"; thus, any lack of brotherly love constitutes hatred!


Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his book, "Love Your Neighbor," cites the following teaching in the name of Ravid Hazahav: The phrase, "You shall not hate your brother - bilvavecha - in  your heart" can also be translated, "You shall not hate your brother because of your heart." A person who has a warm heart and always does favors for others may begin to hate those who have not yet developed this virtue. The verse is therefore indicating that a person who has a good heart should not hate those who are not yet on his level. Instead, such a person should follow the following advice of the great sage Hillel:


"Be among the disciples of Aaron, loving shalom and pursuing shalom, loving human beings, and bringing them closer to the Torah" ( Pirkei Avos 1:12 ).


In general, we all need to remember that no matter how good we think we are, we also have faults, as it is written: "For there is no person so wholly righteous on earth that always does good and never sins." (Ecclesiastes 7:20). In this spirit, Rabbi Pliskin offers the following advice for “idealists”:


"Idealists can easily become irritated with people who do not measure up to their standards. This irritation can cause them to overreact when they try to reprimand others. They see the truth so strongly that they tend to condemn others for not behaving on the level they should. The major problem is that when they overreact, other people develop negative attitudes towards them and their ideals. If you are idealistic, do not misuse your idealism by attacking others. Rather work on developing approaches that will be effective in influencing others to increase their idealism. Our own idealism should include the virtue of being careful with the feelings of other people. Don't get so carried away with whatever cause you are enthusiastic about that you forget to treat other people with the respect that they deserve." (The Power of Words, pages 140-41)


During the messianic birth pangs, we are to remember the following Divine message, so that we can hasten the birth of the new age of unity and shalom:


"My beloved children! Is there anything I lack that I should have to ask of you? All I ask of you is that you love one another, that you honor one another, that you respect one another." (Tanna Dvei Eliyahu 28)


May we be blessed with true Shalom!

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen  (See below)


Related Teachings:


1. The People of Israel have a responsibility to develop a model community of love and caring which can serve as a model for others. We are therefore not to allow the harmful “weeds” of hatred and grudge-bearing to take root in our hearts. We are therefore given the following Divine mandate: "You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18).

The Torah first tells us not to take revenge and not to bear a grudge before telling us to love others like ourselves. The order of the verse indicates that we first have to let go of our grudges and learn how to forgive others in order to truly fulfill the mitzvah, "Love your neighbor as yourself."


2. When people in search of truth are engaged in an intellectual debate, they should avoid ego concerns which can lead to hatred. They should therefore remember the following teaching: "Just as the faces of people do not exactly resemble one another, so too their opinions do not exactly resemble one another" (Brochos 58a). Rav Shlomo Eiger explains that a person should say to himself: "Just as it should not bother me when someone does not look like me, so too, the fact that someone does not think like me should not bother me." Rav Eiger does not mean that we should not defend and teach true ideas and beliefs.  He means that we should not take it “personally” if others may argue with us, for each person has a different way of thinking. With this attitude, we can seek the truth through constructive discussion and debate without developing feelings of animosity. In fact, a constructive and elevated debate between two individuals can lead to a deeper relationship between the two individuals, as they will be grateful to each other for being a partner in the search for truth.


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