Avoiding Hatred between Jews
You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you should reprove your
fellow and do not bear a sin because of him (Vayikra 19:17)
Question: Why does the Torah combine in one pasuk the prohibition of hating
another Jew with the command to reprove him?
Discussion: There are two basic approaches in the interpretation of the
verse cited above. Some commentators explain the verse as relating to
matters which are bein adam l'Makom, between man and Hashem. If a Jew
observes another Jew transgressing any one of the mitzvos, it is incumbent
upon the observer to reprove the sinner in regard to his sin. Failure to do
so will ultimately result in hating the sinner, since it is permitted —under
certain circumstances —to hate a Jew who purposefully and deliberately
disregards the commands of the Torah. Rebuke, therefore, is the means
through which hatred of another Jew can be avoided, since rebuke may be the
impetus for the potential transgressor to change his ways. [The halachos
concerning the proper method of rebuke are intricate and not the subject
of this Discussion.]
Many other commentators, however, suggest a different approach in explaining
this verse. The command to “reprove your fellow” is written in regard to
matters which are bein adam l'chaveiro, matters which concern the
relationship between man and his fellowman. The Torah, which prohibits a Jew
from hating another Jew, is teaching us why hatred may develop and how to
avoid it. Often, ill will is a result of miscommunication or
misunderstanding. When not resolved immediately and in a straightforward
manner, minor run-ins or disagreements can grow into major conflicts,
leading to friction and hostility among Jews. To prevent this from
happening, the Torah commands, “You should reprove your fellow,” meaning,
you should approach the person whom you feel has wronged you and question
him as to why he did so, whether he can justify his actions, etc.
Most of the time, the questioning will yield one of the following outcomes:
- The alleged incident never took place; it was either completely
fabricated or greatly exaggerated.
- The incident did happen but it was not the intention or fault of the
- The offender will sincerely apologize for his misdeed, the incident
will be forgotten, and peace will be restored.
- The offender will justify his actions to the satisfaction of the
Any of the above outcomes will usually resolve the dispute and relieve the
tension. Thus by questioning and reproving the person who—in your
opinion—hurt you, one can allay much of the hatred that is unfortunately
prevalent among some Jews.
The notion of avoiding hatred by reproving one’s friend is not merely a
“nice idea” based upon an explanation of a pasuk in the Torah. It is a
halachic obligation agreed upon by all of the poskim, from the Rambam
down to the Mishnah Berurah.
Of course, one who can bring himself to forgive his fellowman without
rebuking him may do so. [The Rambam refers to this conduct as middas
chasidus, exemplary behavior]. The requirement to confront the offender
applies only when otherwise, hatred will result between the parties.
When rebuking a fellow Jew, the rebuke must be delivered in a gentle,
conciliatory manner and in private.
If, after properly rebuking the offender, the latter remains antagonistic
and unapologetic, it is then permitted for the injured party to despise the
person who did him harm.
1. See commentary of Tosafos (Hadar Z'keinim), Tur, and Chezkuni
(second opinion). This is also the simple explanation of the Talmud (Arachin
2. See Beiur Halachah 1:1, s.v. v’lo; Ahavas Chesed (Margenisa Tavah #17);
Dibros Moshe, Bava Metzia, pg. 356.
3. See O.C. 608:2.
4. See commentary of Rashbam, Ramban and Chezkuni (first opinion), Ohr
ha-Chayim and Rav S.R. Hirsch.
5. Hilchos Deiyos 6:6. See Lechem Mishneh who quotes the Talmudic source,
and Kiryas Melech who quotes a source from the Midrash.
6. 156:4, quoting the Sefer ha-Mitzvos. This halachah is also quoted by
the Magen Avraham and Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav, ibid.
7. Although the Rambam mentions such conduct only in regard to an offender
who is unable to repent, many other poskim do not differentiate and allow
one to act with middas chasidus towards any offender. They argue that since
the Torah’s main concern is the possibility of hatred developing, if the
offended person will forgive the offender wholeheartedly, no rebuke is
necessary; see Lechem Mishneh, Hilchos Deiyos 6:6 and Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav,
O.C. 156:4. See also Rav S. R. Hirsch commentary to this pasuk.
8. Mishnah Berurah 156:4.
9. Kehilos Yaakov 10:54 and Birchas Peretz (Kedoshim), based on the
opinion of the Yereyim. See Bein Adam l'Chaveiro (Machon Toras ha-Adam
l'Adam) for a complete elaboration of this subject.
Weekly-Halacha, Text Copyright © 2012 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Torah.org.
Rabbi Neustadt is the Yoshev Rosh of the Vaad Harabbonim of Detroit and the Av Beis Din of the Beis Din Tzedek of Detroit. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org