Shiur #08a: Hidden Hatred

  • Rav Yitzchak Blau
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Understanding Aggada
Yeshivat Har Etzion

Shiur #08a:  Hidden Hatred

 By Rav Yitzchak Blau



Why was the First Temple (Bayit Rishon) destroyed? Because of three sins: idolatry, sexual immorality and murder...But why was the Second Temple (Bayit Sheini) destroyed, if the people were engaged in Torah, mitzvot and gemilut chasadim?  Because of groundless hatred (sinat chinam).  This teaches you that groundless hatred corresponds in gravity to the three sins of idolatry, sexual immorality and murder… 

Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Elazar both say: The earlier ones (the generation of the First Temple), their sin was revealed and the end of their exile was also revealed; the latter ones (the generation of the Second Temple), their sin was not revealed and the end of their exile was also not revealed.

                            (Yoma 9b)


We understand the gemara's distinction between the two destructions regarding the end being revealed, as there was a prophetic prediction about the duration of the first exile (seventy years; see Yirmiyahu 25:11) and no such prediction about the length of the second.  Indeed, we still suffer from the continuation of the second exile without a clear promise of when it will end.  Yet what does this have to do with sins being revealed?  Moreover, why were the earlier sins revealed in a way that the latter ones were not?  Is there some aspect of groundless hatred that lends itself to being hidden?


This leads the Maharsha to explain that the Jews at the time of Bayit Sheini pretended to love their colleagues and neighbors, but stabbed each other in the back at the first opportunity; the gemara refers to sins that were not revealed because those sins were covered up with a facade of false friendship. To bolster his argument, Maharsha cites the famous idea of Chazal (Bava Kama 79b) that the gazlan (mugger) pays less than the ganav (burglar) because only the latter keeps his crime a secret, attempting to maintain a righteous veneer for society.  According to this explanation, hypocrisy makes a sin much more grievous and difficult to repent of; the exile continues because we have not successfully combated this hypocrisy.  In our age of advertising and public relations, this call for authenticity should certainly strike a chord.


Alternatively, the Ben Yehoyada suggests that people were upfront about their enmity, but did not treat it as a serious crime; what was hidden from them was the understanding of sinat chinam as a major transgression.  When people evaluated the gravity of their crimes, the sin of hatred was not exposed for the horror it is.  People understand that murder and adultery are seriously wrong, but often make light of a little communal discord; the quarrelling and enmities of shul or school politics seem like a ubiquitous feature of Jewish life that need not overly concern us.  However, Jewish history has shown us the terrible dangers of groundless hatred. With all our contemporary internal squabbling, this second message should also hit home.


Yet another view is presented by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Darash Moshe 29), who explains that the hatred was clear to all, but not the baseless quality of that hatred.  Unlike the Maharsha, Rav Moshe contends that the people did not hide their feelings, but also unlike the Ben Yehoyada, Rav Moshe argues that they fully appreciated the conceptual problem of groundless hatred: they simply did not think that their own hatreds and enmities qualified.  Usually, both sides of a conflict tend to consider the dislike of the other to be fully justified. No one repents of sinat chinam, because no one thinks that their sina is truly chinam. Rav Moshe reminds us to forthrightly face the question of whether our strong dislikes are justifiable based on real reasons, or are due to such poor motivations as feeling threatened, not liking having competition or something as silly as finding another's laugh to be irritating. Only when we recognize the groundlessness of much of our enmity will authentic repentance become a possibility.


These three interpretations emphasize three crucial themes.  Firstly, we need to show love rather than just make an external show of talking about it.  Furthermore, we need to see communal and personal strife as serious matters.  Finally, we need to assess whether or not our carefully constructed grounds for disliking others are really justified.