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23 Tammuz 5760 - July 26, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Klal Yisroel -- Only When They Are Unified

By HaRav Shimon Moshe Diskin

This essay was written by HaRav Diskin in response to some questions which Yated Ne'eman's Rav Moshe Karp put to a panel of talmidei chachomim. This and the other replies were published in the Shabbos supplement for parshas Eikev, 5756. These insights are particularly appropriate and applicable during this Three Week period of mourning.

"In every generation in whose time the Beis Hamikdosh is not rebuilt, it is as though it was destroyed." This is some kind of pointer to our situation today. We posed the following questions: One: Did Chazal truly mean to say that if it is not rebuilt in our times, it is as though it was destroyed in our times, and that we have a problem of baseless hatred? Two: If this is the case, how does this manifest itself in our generation? And three: How can these negative phenomena be corrected, for we all want the Beis Hamikdosh to be rebuilt?

The point you are raising is a difficult one because Chazal's statements of halocho are unlike their statements of aggodoh. In the case of halocho, we have a chain of tradition as to how to explain and elucidate them, starting with the Rishonim, and ending with "our teachers in the diaspora," the roshei hayeshivos, z'l.

The statements of Chazal [such as these] for which the explanatory tradition is small in quantity and what there is of it is abridged, are wide open to anyone's interpretation. Various thinkers and poets offer explanations that are more representative of the feelings of their own hearts than they are of firm, well grounded elucidations of what Chazal meant. The exceptions are the greatest among our holy sages z'l, with their great powers of comprehension of Chazal's meaning. All that they say is like Torah shebe'al peh for us and our lives are built upon their utterances.

It is however also true that we ought not to scorn the inner prompting of the hearts of great men of broad spirit, whose explanations may not be exactly what Chazal intended but which still are deep and fundamental in and of themselves. However, it is hard to say with any certainty that this is what Chazal meant though it may just happen that this was their intention. In my replies, I will try to explain these words of Chazal, though to set this down as their meaning can only be incidental.

Commenting on the posuk about the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdosh, "Why was the Land lost? Because they forsook My Torah" (Yirmiyohu 9:11), Chazal tell us, "This question was put to the chachomim and they did not explain it. They asked the prophets and they did not explain it until Hakodosh Boruch Hu explained it Himself, `Because they forsook My Torah'." What needs to be understood is that even when Hashem explained it, it was done through prophecy. When they asked the prophets, they were seeking an answer through a vision from Hashem, in other words, prophecy. What the prophets did not explain until Hashem Himself explained, would therefore seem to be one and the same thing.

Perhaps we can answer by noting that the expression Chazal use is, "they did not explain," rather than "they did not reply." This means that there was a prophecy but that the prophets were unable to explain it. It was given without explanation, and they needed Hakodosh Boruch Hu to explain. Unlike other prophecies, this one had to come with a full explanation. This means that if the message, "because they forsook My Torah," would have been given in the same measure of clarity as other prophecies, which all had to receive their final elucidation from the prophet, it would not have been enough. In this case, none of them, neither the chachomim nor the prophets, would have been able to understand until Hashem came and explained it.

This was not the case with the destruction of the Bayis Sheini, where the cause of the churban could be divined through wisdom alone. Chazal determined that it happened because of baseless hatred.

We find another statement of Chazal's: "The sin of the earlier ones [in the time of the first churban], was revealed and so was the end of their exile, whereas the sin of the later ones [at the second churban], was not revealed, nor was the end of their exile." Why did they say that the sin of the later ones was not revealed, when Chazal have told us that their sin was baseless hatred?

Apparently, Chazal are referring here to the kind of revelation which we have mentioned above, namely, the prophecy about the sin of the earlier ones that was explained by Hashem Himself, whereas no such explicit prophecy came regarding the sin of the latter ones. We see that the end of the exile and the way to correct the sin which caused it are easier to learn if the reason for the exile has been explicitly revealed by prophecy. Correction of the sin is only possible after it has been clarified and identified, and that identity has become decisively fixed in the nation's consciousness.

In the light of all this, it is reasonable to delve into the essence of what the sin was and to explain it. The benefit of this is that it leads to the sin's correction. It is therefore perhaps fitting to give a detailed explanation of the sin of baseless hatred -- sinas chinom -- and to discuss and debate it from a halachic viewpoint. This will help the awareness of its severity to penetrate our consciousness and Hashem will then help us to overcome this prohibition. My comments are therefore only presented as halachic debate, around the periphery of this topic.

The first point to consider is whether sinas chinom is identical with that which the Torah prohibits in the mitzvo, "Do not hate your brother in your heart" (Vayikro 19:17), and this was therefore the mitzvo which the generation of the second churban transgressed. Alternatively, the mitzvo may not refer to sinas chinom as such, which one can transgress without encroaching on lo sisno, the latter being confined to cases where one nurses the hatred in one's heart and does not let it show, whereas sinas chinom is even when one shows the hatred outwardly.

A second point for clarification is whether this particular sin has extra severity because it leads to the loss of the Land, or whether it is the disgust that it causes, as the Sefer Hachinuch (245) explains. If so, it may not depend on transgressing the actual mitzvo and then hatred that is expressed outwardly will have the same effect, as Chazal said, "Why were they victorious? Because there were no slanderers among them." We see that this failing can lead to defeat in battle, and perhaps to the loss of the Land as well.

We might be able to resolve these questions in the light of the explanation of the posuk, "Yaakov is the portion of His inheritance," (Devorim 32:9), where the word chevel is also understood as a rope, meaning that the whole of Klal Yisroel is one unit composed of many threads twined together, each of which alone is not considered to be a part of the whole, unless all the threads are joined together to form one rope. If this unity is damaged through sinas chinom, the unity of Klal Yisroel is harmed, with the result that whatever depends on Klal Yisroel as a whole for its existence, will no longer exist.

Jealousy and hatred are closely interlinked, for jealousy can easily lead to hatred, the latter becoming a convenient solution to the former. Jealousy as a trait cannot be totally rejected however, because one type of jealousy is permitted and is even desirable, as we find in the Torah, "And Rochel was jealous of her sister" (Bereishis 30:1), and as Chazal say, "Jealousy among scholars increases wisdom." Now we have to decide which kind of jealousy is permissible and desirable and which is forbidden and disgusting.

The answer to this is straightforward. Simply put, the entire subject boils down to my unwillingness for my friend to rise any higher than I. If this leads me to strive to improve myself and my path in life, so that by elevating myself I narrow the gap between us, that is the good kind of jealousy. If it leads me to any other kind of intention, such as how to put him down without my bothering to work on myself, it is forbidden.

There are two possible ways to put down someone of whom I am jealous. Either I can cause him to stumble and bring about his fall from the level he is on -- this is hard to do and is not encountered very frequently -- or, I can try to belittle him both in my heart and thoughts and in my speech. In making light of him and interpreting everything he does negatively, there is profit for me. Hatred is also involved in this shameful trait, because it affords a way to dispel some of the frustration which I feel towards my friend.

This is baseless hatred. I don't hate him because of his badness or his shortcomings but precisely because of his virtues.

It is an obvious and an acknowledged fact that jealousy is especially prevalent towards those in the group to whom I am closest, and the closer my friends are to my own territory, the more powerful the jealousy. Any group or community that is more closed than the surrounding society, whose members are therefore closer to one another and who are in constant interaction, also scald one another and jealousy is especially strong.

Those in this situation should take special care to keep their distance from this trait, to which they are particularly vulnerable. They should adopt different ways and means of combating the yetzer hora which fans and feeds the fire of jealousy and, consequently, of hatred as well.

What more can I add concerning how to fight this shameful trait? All the mussar works, whose authors had extensive knowledge of the human character and whose knowledge and understanding of Chazal's statements was great, treat the subject at length and offer advice. I will just make one point, which I repeat to my talmidim: Don't praise yourselves . . . One can only feel dismay at another's virtues if he attained them through his own work. Characteristics and abilities that people have had since they were born are not reasons for feeling proud and are therefore nothing to be jealous of. Anyone who thinks about this a little will acknowledge that it is so. Since the vast majority of jealousy is over things which the other person has because he was made that way, and not because he toiled for them, some thought in this direction can eliminate jealousy and sinas chinom too.

One should also take note of the fact that we are all Hashem's soldiers and were all created for one purpose. Each and every one of us has to serve Hashem and put to use those powers that were given him, according to his ability and the reward is in proportion to the effort. So, what place is there for jealousy?

Let us pray to Hashem to remove the jealous spirit within us and to redeem us again, with the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdosh, bimheiroh beyomeinu omein.

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