It's Time To Stop Talking
We dream of redemption and we dream of a new world order. We dream
returning to Yerushalayim, rebuilding the Bais Hamikdash, and the
ingathering of the exiled. We dream of a redeemer who will unify the
nations beneath the single banner of G-d as taught to the world by His
chosen children. We dream of prosperity, good health, long life, and
security. We pray for all these things, at times we cry for them, and if a
guarantee could be given, we would even pay for them. Yet, are we prepared
to change for them?
Chazal told us that there were reasons why we were exiled from our land,
why the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed, and why we are still in exile bereft
of the Bais Hamikdash and the wonderful wishes we hope, pray, and cry for.
Sinas Chinum – unwarranted hatred, was and is the reason for the present
world order. The Gemara states that any generation in which the Bais
Hamikdash is not rebuilt is judged as a generation in which the Bais
Hamikdash was destroyed. That means that if the generation of its
destruction was accountable for Sinas Chinum then all subsequent
generations (including our own) are accountable for Sinas Chinum. Simply
put, redemption, world peace, and the rebuilding of Yerushalayim depend on
the generation healing from Sinas Chinum and engaging in the reverse –
Ahavas Chinum – unwarranted love.
Before transitioning to the Parsha, let us properly define Sinas and
Ahavas Chinum. The word Chinum means “for free – without payment – without
intent of personal gain.” It does not mean “without reason.” Ahavas Chinum
means, loving someone because they are, not because they have given or
will give us something. Of course there is Ahava that is and should be
motivated by the flow of give and take. Friendships and family ties, acts
of generosity and kindness, all create a setting of cause and effects
wherein which love can and should flourish. However, that is not the kind
of love that we expect or suggest outside of those exclusive
relationships. Ahavas Chinum suggests a level of love and appreciation
that is appropriate toward a stranger, someone for whom we do not have any
other cause to feel or care for. It describes a love that should be the
starting point of every relationship. It is the minimum, not the maximum.
In fact, those who equate Ahavas Chinum with the kind of Ahava expected of
friends and family are either acting inappropriately with their family and
friends or inappropriately with strangers. In relation to the friend they
are not doing enough and in relation to the stranger they might be doing
On the other hand, Sinas Chinum means unwarranted hatred and resentment.
Obviously, there might be reasons to have strong emotions against someone
else; however, much of our time is spent in activities that are hateful
and resentful against individuals who do not deserve our hatred and
resentment in any way. Sinas Chinum is unwarranted hatred because we
choose to act hatefully. We are not motivated by strong emotions of hurt
or betrayal; rather, we elect to be hateful and attempt to justify our
actions one way or another.
Ahava should just be while Sinah should never just be. Not loving someone
demands cause and justification; however, passivity and non-action is not
the same as hatred. For someone to justifiably hate or do hateful acts
demands the objective scrutiny of Halacha at its most advanced level. It
is the active engagement of Sinas Chinum which keeps us in exile, not the
passive disengagement from doing acts of Ahavas Chinum to strangers. Ahava
advances the geulah while Sinah hinders the geulah.
If we truly desire redemption, the rebuilding of Yerushalayim, and the
ingathering of the exiled, it behooves us to identify how we engage in
Sinas Chinum and hinder what we profess to want more than anything else.
Some hateful acts are obvious and as we do them we know we should not.
Unfortunately, there are others that have become so common place that we
do not think what we are doing as we do them and we never take
responsibility for the extraordinary harm we cause. Specifically, I am
referring to Lashon Harah. Lashon Harah is Sinas Chinum personified. We
speak it, we justify it, we enjoy it, and we never take responsibility for
the harm it wreaks in the lives of its subjects.
The Gemara in Arachin 15b states that the Hebrew word Metzorah is a
contraction made up of the two words “Motzei and Raah.” The Metzorah is a
person afflicted with Tzarras, and the Gemara is letting us know that the
Metzorah was so afflicted because he or she was Motzei Raah – perpetrated
evil – by speaking Lashon Harah. This week’s Parsha presents the involved
laws of the Metzorah and the process he must engage in to rejoin the body
of society from which he was temporarily expelled.
As we have discussed in previous issues, Tzarras was a physical ailment
motivated by sin, not bacteria or virus. I do not know whether the
afflicted itched or were discomfited so that salves and medications were
of value. We do know that the diagnosis of a Kohain rather than a doctor
was required and that Teshuvah, time, and exclusion from society were the
only prescribed therapies. The Metzorah was rendered Tameh (unpure) by the
Tzarras and his purification demanded Teshuvah besides the sacrificial
protocol commanded in the Torah. Mostly, the Metzorah had to confront
himself and the realization that he had engaged in Sinas Chinum causing
inestimable damage to his intended and unintended victims and society as a
whole. Amends had to be made as best they could recognizing that it is
impossible to put the genie back into the bottle once he has been let
Lashon Harah is the personification of Sinas Chinum. Most often the
subjects of the slander have not harmed us directly. They may or may not
have harmed others but our part in perpetrating hatred is believing what
we heard and sharing it with others. Why believe, and worse, why tell?
What motivates us to share the juiciest and vilest news with others? And
unfortunately, the juicer and viler the better to tell! Does it make us
seem better than they? Are we glad when others are hurt and brought low?
Do we win points with our friends that somehow we are in the know and
therefore more important and vital? Let’s be honest with ourselves. The
subjects of our stories never need know that we were the ones who defiled
their lives and privacy. Somehow we are emboldened by the anonymity of our
actions. Somehow we are able to justify that the news is the news and in
the world of the 21st century everyone is entitled to know “what’s going
on.” Or are we?
The tenth Ani Maamin states that we believe with absolute faith that the
Creator knows everything. On the one hand it establishes G-d’s credentials
for the next Ani Maamin that we believe with absolute faith that the
Creator punishes and rewards. In order for G-d to be an absolutely
truthful judge Who punishes and rewards He must know everything there is
to know about every single case. He must know what happened and why it
happened. He must know the effect the crime had on others and what effect
any consequence will have on the perpetrator and all others. Only G-d Who
knows everything can be that truthful judge. On the other hand, the tenth
Ani Maamin says to us, “You do not have to know everything.” We are not
supposed to judge each other. Just the opposite! We are minimally supposed
to extend to each other Ahavas Chinum which suggests we are each
inherently flawed but valuable and therefore very much the same as each
other. If we judge each other negatively we must in turn see ourselves and
judge ourselves the very same way. Besides, even the insufferably self-
righteous among us must accept that reward and punishment are G-d’s
purview. We do not have to concern ourselves with punishing each other or
protecting society. There are judges and enforcement agencies chosen and
hired by society to do that job so we do not have to be judge, jury, and
executioner. And even the critics and skeptics among us who decry
society’s failing state of judiciousness and accountability must accept
that no one ever escapes the absolutes of the eleventh Ani Maamin. What
escapes society never escapes G-d.
Lashon Harah harms beyond measure. Regardless of the truth, Lashon Harah
is Sinas Chinum. It is an act of unwarranted hatred because we choose to
share the stories, act hatefully, and harm others for no justifiable
reason. Our gain in doing so is only negative and the consequences to all
others, the subjects and the listeners, hurtful beyond measure.
Wishing, dreaming, hoping, praying, and even crying for the coming
redemption and the rebuilding of Yerushalayim is both expressive and
admirable, but they will not make it come true. There is only one way to
bring Mashiach. We must stop engaging in Sinas Chinum, stop speaking
Lashon Harah, and minimally treat everyone how we would like to be
treated. How important must it be to Hashem that we do not speak Lashon
Harah if He willingly destroyed His own home, exiled His beloved children,
and devoted almost two whole Parshios to the affliction of Tzarras and the
plight of the Metzorah?
The question still stands, “We pray for all these things, at times we cry
for them, and if a guarantee could be given, we would even pay for them.
Yet, are we prepared to change for them?”
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Torah.org
The author is the Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley
Village, CA, and Assistant Principal of YULA.