emunah, tefillah, a little mussar, and a shmeck of geula

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sinas Chinam 101

The Three Weeks are upon us.

From now till Tisha B’Av almost any speaker worthy of the name will be decrying the sinas chinam that was the root cause of the destruction of the Bayis Sheni (Second Temple) in addition to the sins that were responsible for the Bayis Rishon (First Temple).

Sinas Chinam is conventionally defined as baseless hatred and baseless hatred in turn is defined as hatred for insufficient cause.

Now that we have the definition firmly in hand, what does it mean anyway?

A whole lot of stuff, as can be seen from even cursory look at what our rabbis have to say on the subject.

Rabbi Mordechai Willig tells us that the Netziv dramatically expands the understanding of the sinas chinam that caused the churban.  The Netziv says that the hate was not limited to those who (were imagined to have)"wronged" a person. Rather, it extended to those who served Hashem differently. If one would see a halachic leniency, he would brand it heresy, and distance himself from that person. He would then mistakenly justify attacking that person, even to the point of murder.

Moreover, Rabbi Willig adds that The Netziv laments that such internal hatred within the observant community existed in his time (the late nineteenth century) as well. Hating someone who "wronged" us is necessarily limited. With how many people can we fight over money or honor? But if we hate those who differ with us on matters of halacha or hashkafa, the sinas chinam is unlimited. Unfortunately, Orthodox individuals and communities with different halachic practices and/or ideologies are still guilty of this type of sinas chinam, which is preventing the ge'ula.

This is, unfortunately, one of the ways that sinas chinam manifested itself at the time of the churban, in the Netziv’s generation, in our time, and in every other era.

So we know on a basic level what sinas chinam is and at least one of the ways that it takes us down to our spiritual socks.

But from where does it spring? 

“It’s all about jealousy,” says Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein.

He tells us that you don’t hate something unless you are jealous of it.  All of the hatred in this world comes from jealousy.  Classically speaking, if you’re jealous you want what the other guy has, be it his good looks, his car, his money, or his wife.  It’s not for nothing that jealousy made it big time into the Aseres HaDibros (Ten Commandments). It was the basis for Chava’s sin with the Eitz HaDaas and it has been going strong ever since.

Or one’s jealousy may be of the kind that is intolerant of what others do or think as if to say: Hey, I’m locked into my rigid view of life, so why should you have any wiggle room?

The churban came from sinas chinam and sinas chinam comes from jealousy.  And Rabbi Wallerstein tells us that jealousy can be only be found in those who aren’t samayach b’chelko (satisfied) with what they have in this world.  A person who is makker tov for what he has can never be jealous.  He innately understands that if Hashem didn’t give him whatever it is that he lacked he doesn’t need it.

And if he doesn’t need it he surely won’t want it, and if he doesn’t want it he most surely won’t come to hate the other guy for having it.

And if we would all be like him, and not hate the other guy for no good reason then maybe we would zoche to see the Bais HaMikdash be rebuilt speedily in our days.