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7 Nissan 5762 - March 20, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Recalling a Capacity to Hate Evil

by Mordecai Plaut

We cannot presume to know the intention of Providence in the events we undergo, but we must learn the lessons inherent in them. The Rambam writes (Taanis 1:3) that not to do so is cruelty: " . . . if they say it is just the way the world is, this trouble just happened -- this is cruelty; it causes them to persist in their evil ways and will compound the trouble and add more." To that end, we must understand and characterize what has happened and is happening, and try to draw lessons from it.

The behavior that we -- and the whole world to some extent and especially America -- have experienced in the recent past is unequivocally hateful.

How else to describe people whose sole aim is to murder and maim and destroy as many and as much as possible? How else to describe people who murder wantonly and continually, without any specific, declared result?

The lack of a specific goal on the part of the Palestinians is not just a tactical shortcoming. Without a realistic, or at least even a possible, state of affairs that is their declared aim, all the acts of murder and mayhem are not part of a political discourse. They are merely criminality and perhaps blood lust. Is this not despicable behavior?

What are people who aim their guns at infants, who pack their explosives with screws and metal to make their effects more gory, who drag the dead bodies of their victims triumphantly through their streets, who display their murderous hands literally stained with the fresh blood of their victims, who dance and rejoice at reports of innocent non-combatant deaths -- if not hateful?

The lowest of all this lowliness is that fact that these murderers have such a low opinion of humanity that they do not even care about themselves. From the messages they leave describing their preparations and the reaction of their friends and families, it is evident that their actions are not the result of extreme dedication to a cause (not the least for the fact that the cause is not defined at all) but rather a disgusting lack of any value for humanity per se in any form.

Nor is the act one of desperation, since the wave of suicide bombers began in the heady days of Oslo when there were no closures or encirclements, but rather the spring of the "New Middle East" was in the air.

The cause of murder and suicide is a part of their theory: it is included in the curriculum of Palestinian schools and it is also part of the curriculum in Islamic schools in Pakistan. Parents are proud when their children turn themselves into a mound of bones and blood. They say clearly that they are happy with the death of their child.

Is this all not truly despicable?

The most obvious thing that such hateful behavior teaches is hatred itself. In our tolerant times, this is a lesson that must be learned, and it is an important lesson, as we shall see.

Though visceral vestiges undoubtedly remain, the official creed of Western Civilization teaches that tolerance is one of the most important virtues. We are taught that we must respect and protect even those with whom we disagree, and this is certainly true and important. Debate and dissent are essential parts of modern social structures, and they must be encouraged and not suppressed. Excessive intolerance for differences among people that seem relatively trivial and easy to live with, can be blamed for millions of deaths over hundreds of years.

Hatred is thus a very powerful emotion and must be kept under careful control. However, it does have its place, as the terrorists remind us daily.

There is real evil in the world, as US President George W. Bush has been saying since the destruction of 3,000 innocent human beings and five buildings on that fateful day in September. Evil must be eradicated. And the first step towards eradication is one that we can take immediately, since it takes place within ourselves: we can hate evil.

We hope that G-d in His mercy will see fit to bring this terrible terrorism to an end, and the sooner the better. But in the meantime, as long as we must endure it, we may at least learn from it how to hate evil, more and better with each awful blow.

Properly hating evil is an important accomplishment that is not necessarily an easy task.

In his Sefer Hamitzvos, mitzvas asei number 189 the Rambam says: "It is that He has commanded us to remember what Amolek did to us when he hurried to do harm to us. And we must hate him all the time, and we should arouse people with speeches to fight him and we should encourage the community to hate him, so that the mitzvah not be forgotten and so that the hatred of him will not weaken or slacken from the souls over time. . . . Look at Shmuel [the Prophet]: when he began to perform this mitzvah, first he recalled his evil deeds and then he commanded [King Saul] to kill him . . . "

It is quite clear from the Rambam (and was said explicitly by HaRav Moshe Shapiro) that remembering Amolek and hating him is the first stage in eradicating him.

Amolek is the epitome and the embodiment of evil in the world. That is why it is singled out for destruction, and this is indicated by the statement (Shemos 17:16) that Hashem Himself, as it were, the Source of all good, battles Amolek throughout the generations.

Destroying Amolek is destroying all the evil in the world. The process of destroying Amolek is the process of destroying evil in the world.

The first stage in destroying evil in the world is obliterating the evil that we harbor within ourselves. That which is within ourselves that is evil must be discerned, identified as evil and thoroughly rejected.

Hatred is the strongest feeling of rejection that there is. That is why we must, after identifying the Amolek that is the epitome of all evil, hate him, that is, that part of him that lurks within ourselves, the yetzer hora. We must utterly hate it so that we banish it from within ourselves, and then we turn, with pure souls and pure motives, to making physical war against the evil that persists in the world, until we have completely obliterated every trace.

It is of the utmost importance that this hatred of the evil within ourselves be of the highest intensity possible. It is no easy task to uproot the evil within ourselves utterly, and it requires a powerful hatred.

Yet this is the key to controlling the hatred, to ensuring that its power is not unleashed against some undeserving target. Its primary thrust must be directed inward, where we have better control and truly intimate knowledge. Moreover, it is clear that once the inner-directed hatred has destroyed its target and the soul is pure, and once it is experienced in seeking and destroying the evil within, hatred can be used with confidence to seek and destroy its proper target: the evil in the world.

This, it seems, is how we can try to draw an effective and constructive lesson from the extremely unsought opportunity that the Palestinians and other terrorists have given us to experience so much repulsive evil. Forced to confront evil so closely and so extensively, we can learn well how hateful it is so that we can increase the force of our hatred to be used to wipe out all evil both within and without.

And then there will be no more barrier, and then will G-d be King of all the land . . .

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