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Insight 5757-22,23: Defining Sinat Chinum http://www.nishma.org/articles/insight/insight5757-22, 23.

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INSIGHT
5757 - #22, 23

DEFINING SINAT CHINUM


PART ONE
T.B. Yoma 9b informs us that the First Beit HaMikdash was destroyed because of
violations of the three cardinal sins of Judaism: avoda zara, gilui arayot and
shefichat damim (idolatry, incest/adultery and murder). The Second Beit
HaMikdash, though, is indicated as being destroyed solely because of one failing:
sinat chinum. As such, the gemara argues that we must understand the evil of
sinat chinum to be equal to the combined evil of the above three cardinal sins. In
light of the fact that the exile that followed the destruction of the First Temple
lasted only 70 years while our present exile is still ongoing, the argument can
further be made that sinat chinum is even worse. What, though, is sinat chinum?

Sinat chinum is usually translated as causeless or baseless hatred. Literally the


term means "free hatred" and so the general translation: it is hatred that is free,
that just flows without cause. The Talmud, though, specifically ties, to this term, the
notion of hiding one's hatred. Indeed, seforim such as Kad Hakemach1 and
Ahavat Yisrael,2 connect sinat chinum to the transgression of hating a fellow Jew
in one's heart,3 which is understood by many, including Rambam, Mishneh
Torah, Hilchot De'ot 6:5,6, as specifically applying when one maintains hatred
hidden, solely in one's heart. It would seem to be the hiding of one's hatred, not
the lack of reason for the hatred, that is the basis of sinat chinum. Yet, the
language of this term, literally "free hatred", would seem to present no support for
this understanding.

The above equation of the Talmud also demands contemplation. Many simply
understand the gemara as asserting that the concern for the ethical, for the
relationship between man and man, should override the concern for the ritual, for
the relationship between man and G-d.4 Thus hatred among people is deemed
worse than even the breach of the three cardinal sins.5 Yet included among these
three cardinal sins is the greatest violation of another human being: murder.6
Clearly, the violations preceding the destruction of the First Temple included
transgressions bein adam l'chaveiro and with murder, there must have been
hatred and enmity.7 It is not sina, hatred, that is the reason for the Second
Temple's destruction but specifically sinat chinum, a certain type of hatred.
Furthermore, as the gemara explains, this is a hatred that can also be
accompanied by good deeds and proper conduct between individuals.8 What is

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this unique type of sina and why is it so problematic?

An investigation of the command, lo tisnah et achicha bilvavecha, "do not hate


your brother in your heart," reveals a disagreement among the commentators as to
the exact definition of this command. As mentioned, Rambam defines a violation
as occurring when one maintains this hatred hidden, in one's heart. As such, a
violent act against another, while forbidden for other reasons, since it reveals this
hatred does not involve a violation of this specific mitzvah. Shiltot D'Rav Achai
Gaon, Shilta 27, though defines the command as meaning "even in one's heart".
As such, a violent act motivated by hatred would also violate this command.
Rambam's view would seem to represent the majority voice, yet, the sources from
Chazal seem to be contradictory. While clearly there are sources that stress the
specific evil of hidden hatred -- when one acts as a friend while really being an
enemy9 -- there are other sources that clearly point to a violation of lo tisnah even
when the hate is revealed.10

The difficulty with the approach of the Shiltot, though, lies in the original verse
itself. Vayikra 19:17 continues: hoche'ach tochi'ach et

amitecha, rebuke your neighbour. As Ramban explains, if all hatred is forbidden,


then this second part of the verse simply constitutes another commandment. Yet, it
is one verse and as such Ramban agrees with Rambam that the combined
command of the verse is: do not hate your neighbour in your heart but rebuke him
and inform him of your feelings. It is hiding the hatred that is the verse's focus.

BeDerech Tovim 7:11, note 15, though, explains that even according to the
Shiltot, it is possible to see the verse as one connected command: do not simply
hate but act correctly upon your hate, inform your neighbour of your feelings and
correct the misdeed. A close reading of Rambam, Sefer Hamitzvot, Lo Ta'aseh
302 actually indicates that this approach can be incorporated in Rambam's view as
well. The issue is not whether the hate is hidden or not but rather how the hate is
directed. The violation according to Rambam occurs not only if someone acts as a
friend when really an enemy but even when it is clear that there is enmity. The
problem of lo tisna is not acting upon the hate: not informing the other of your
feelings. While an act of violence yields other transgressions, it does not constitute
a violation of lo tisna in that the hate is communicated. The Shiltot, though,
demands not only communication but correct communication thus an act of
violence still represents a violation of lo tisna.

Sinat chinum, thus, is not causeless hatred but rather purposeless hatred. The
concern is not why we hate -- its cause -- but rather what we do with the hate --
our response. It is "free hate" because it lacks direction. In Part Two, we will
investigate why this is such a great evil.

PART TWO

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The concern of the Torah in the commandment of lo tisna, not to hate a fellow Jew
in one's heart,1 is not the cause of the hate but rather the response to the hate. As
indicated by the command of hoche'ach tochi'ach, to rebuke your neighbour,2 one
is not allowed to simply hide one's hate but must communicate this hate to the
other person.3 It is how one acts when feeling hatred that is the essence of this
mitzvah. In connecting the command of lo tisna with the concept of sinat chinum,
we can conclude that the correct translation of this concept is not "baseless
hatred" but rather "purposeless hatred". It is not the source of the hatred, its lack of
reason, that marks the extreme evil of sinat chinum but rather our response to the
hatred, its lack of purpose and direction. Hate ultimately is an emotion arising
within the human being, sometimes with clear cause and sometimes without; it a
natural consequence of human existence. As with all the lessons of Torah, it is
how we respond to the general existence of mankind that marks the Jew.

A review of the literal translation of sinat chinum actually seems to support a


translation of "purposeless hatred". Literally, the term means "free hatred". What
does it mean when something is free? When receiving something for free, a
person acquires an object without undertaking any responsibility. Acquisition of an
object usually does mean the acceptance of a responsibility, i.e. one has to pay.
Acquisition for free does not mean that there was no reason for the acquisition - a
gift often has a reason - but that the acquisition created no responsibility. The
mitzvah of lo tisna ultimately informs us that the feeling of hatred demands a
response; the feeling creates a responsibility to act, as prescribed by Torah, in
reaction to this feeling of hatred. Sinat chinum is, thus, a "free hatred", a hatred so
vile that it does not foster in us this Torah-demanded responsibility to act.

Hatred is ultimately the human emotional reaction to that which offends us and, as
such, in itself, hatred is neither good nor bad. The nature of the stimulus which
causes us to hate, which offends us, obviously is a factor in our determination of
whether the hatred is acceptable or not. We are indeed called upon to hate evil.4
The mitzvot of lo tisna and choche'ach tochi'ach, though, further inform us that the
determination of hate as positive or negative is also dependent on how we
respond to the hate. To be positive, our emotion of hate must also demand of us
that we confront evil and attempt to correct the wrong. Remarkably, in that
process, we also gain knowledge of the true enemy, the true nature of the
offensive stimulus, and the essence of the hate itself also changes.

Malbim, Vayikra 19:17 points out that rebuke is only possible when the one
rebuking is also willing to receive rebuke. The process of rebuke is ultimately a
dynamic one; the interchange is not one way but flows in both directions.5 As we
challenge our neighbour who has offended us, he or she will respond: perhaps
admitting their wrong, perhaps justifying their actions, perhaps challenging our
critique. Only one who in turn can accept rebuke will allow the dynamics of this

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process to unfold to the greatest extent possible. And the only way that can be
achieved is in recognition that the enemy is not the person but evil - the evil within
others and the evil within oneself. Choche'ach tochi'ach is not just a call to confront
evil, it is a charge to recognize the true nature of evil and to accept the
commitment to fight it in all of its manifestations, including within oneself. The hate
is transferred from the person to the evil itself -- and as the evil is defeated through
knowledge and growth, the hate subsides.

As presented in T.B. Brachot 10a, Rabbi Meir, in response to attacks by a band of


thieves, prayed for their destruction. His wife Bruria informed him that he should
curse their actions not them. Rabbi Meir agreed and prayed for them to repent, for
their evil actions to be destroyed, and in the end, the thieves repented. Maharsha
explains that the prayer for the thieves to repent only worked because Rabbi Meir
included himself in that prayer, he prayed for himself also to repent. The initial
response of hate is usually directed against another individual. Yet, another
individual is not the true offensive stimulus that we are encountering; it is the evil
action, it is evil itself

that offends. Hate is obviously wrong if it is caused by good, if we are offended by


righteousness and correct behaviour. Yet, hate can also be problematic even when
initiated by that which is truly offensive. Lo tisna and choche'ach tochi'ach cause
us to transfer our hate from the person to the evil itself - and through the process
and new joint effort to defeat evil, the powerful emotion of hate, only positive when
it is temporary and motivating direct action, subsides. Sinat chinum, though, is a
hate that insists on gluing the focus to the person. It is furthermore a hate that is
stoked, that the individual continues to feed. It is a hate that challenges lo tisna
and choche'ach tochi'ach themselves. Ultimately, sinat chinum with its focus on the
person to be hated, veers one away from the true enemy -- evil itself -- because its
goal is not the defeat of evil but the protection of self.

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, Horeb 2:33 categorizes the sins that led to
the destruction of the Second Temple as "self-seeking". One of the great tragedies
of religion is that it can create self-righteousness as individuals use their
observance6 to project themselves as closer to the Deity. For self-righteousness to
exist, though, there must always be an object of comparison, the one that I am
better than. Maharsha explains that in the time of the Second Temple, cliques
were formed - there were my friends and there were my enemies. Evaluation was
comparative and so evolved sinat chinum - to gain value in myself, there had to be
the other that I hated.

Choche'ach tochi'ach ultimately challenges this concept. In the dynamics of proper


tocha'cha, all individuals join together in fighting the true enemy, evil - within
oneself as well as within the other. Humanity is joined in fighting this enemy. The
one who cannot receive rebuke and, as such, cannot properly give it, the one who
violates lo tisna, though, wishes to maintain the other individual as the object of

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hate. Humanity is divided. The goal is not to lead the individual into a confrontation
with evil but rather to maintain the individual's self-perception as better than the
other. In fact, correct action upon the hate is avoided because it may lead to
self-critique. Is it no wonder why sinat chinum is so vile?

Rabbi Benjamin Hecht e-mail

Notes (Part One)


1
Rabbeinu Bachya, Kad HaKemach, "Sinat Chinum".

2
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (the Chafetz Chaim), Kuntras Ahavat Yisrael in Kol Kitvei Chafetz
Chaim Hashalem, volume 1.

3
Vayikra 19:17.

4
This argument is deemed to be supported by the stress various commentators place on idolatry in
regard to the destruction of the first Temple. See, for example, the above noted Kad HaKemach,
including Rabbi Chavel's notes #16 and "Evel", #120.

5
Within this argument, reference is also made to Maharal, Chiddushei Aggadot, Gittin 55b. As we
shall see, the reduction of this comparison to the issue of the ethical versus the ritual, of concern for
bein adam l'chaveiro, the relations between man and man, versus the concern for bein adam
l'Makom, the relation between man and G-d, is just simplistic.

6
See, further, Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Rotze'ach 4:9.

7
The argument can also be made, based upon the gemara in Yoma, that, in fact, it was the positive
aspects of the relationship between the Jewish People and G-d, bein adam l'Makom, that shielded the
nation from greater tragedy as a result of the destruction of the first Temple. See, further, Maharsha,
T.B. Shabbat 139b.

8
Indeed, if the problem with sinat chinum is simply that it leads to incorrect behaviour between
individuals, which in the extreme would include shfichat damim, murder, then the violations of murder
in the first Temple period, by definition, must compare to the sinat chinum of the second Temple
period.

9
Our gemara in Yoma clearly supports this view. See also Maharsha. The classic source for the
extreme evil in acting as a friend to someone when really you feel enmity, is Bereishit Rabbah 84:9
which praises Yosef's brothers for being honest about their feelings although it still does critique the
hatred itself.

10
See T.B. Nedarim 65b; T.B. Sotah 3a.

Notes (Part Two)


1
Vayikra 19:17.

2
In the same verse of Vayikra 19:17.

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3
See Insight 5757 - #22 for a further discussion on this topic.

4
See Mishlei 8:13. See also T.B. Pesachim 113b.

5
See, also, Ramban, HaEmek Davar, Meshech Chachmah on this verse.

6
Note how T.B. Yoma 9b states that the people were involved in Torah, mitzvot and gemilat
chassidim.

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