Friday, July 31, 2015

Love and Hate - My weekly message for Shabbat Nachamu 2015/5775

Shalom,

Love and hate are two feelings that seem contradictory to one another, and yet, there’s adage that is often quoted:  there’s a fine line between love and hate.  In Judaism, that line is just 6 days:  from the 9th of Av to the 15th of Av.  Within the span of one week, we journeyed from hate to love in the Jewish calendar. 

Last Saturday night and Sunday, we gathered together at Shaarei Kodesh in mourning for the loss of our holy Temples, the destruction of Jerusalem, and a number of other tragedies that befell our people throughout history. We observed this holiday with the one of only two 25-hour fasts that occur in Judaism.  On Yom Kippur and on Tisha B’av, we abstain from food and drink, sexual relations, anointing ourselves, bathing, and wearing leather soled shoes.  Jewish tradition calls Yom Kippur the white fast and Tisha B'Av the black fast.  On the white fast when our sins are being forgiven, who needs to eat?  On the black fast when we remember the tragedies of our people, who can eat?    As I spoke about last Shabbat, Tisha B’av is a time when we allow ourselves to be sad as we remember a destructive past.  Our rabbis gave us reasons for the tragedies, and our rabbis said that the second Temple in particular was destroyed because of Sinat Chinam.  This term is usually translated as causeless hatred, but I like to translate it as unbridled or free hatred.  On Tisha B’Av, our rabbis urged us to reflect upon how we can be better as a nation and how we can banish hatred to prevent future destruction. 

Last night, Tu B’Av, the 15th of Av, began. The Mishnah tells us: “There were no better days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What they were saying: Young man, consider who you choose (to be your wife).” (Taanit 4:8). Tu B'Av is collective day of love, a contrast to the day of sadness, destruction, and the remembrance of hate, of Tisha B’Av.  Tu B'Av is a time for us to come together out of love.  How are these two seemingly contradictory emotions related to each other?  I read an interesting comment by a Rabbi Yochanan Zweig, a Miami based Orthodox rabbi on this dichotomy.  He states the following: 

Loving and hating someone is an expression of the same fundamental type of relationship. Loving someone means a desire to merge (emotionally) into another. Hating someone is a similar desire to merge, while at the same time preserving your identity. An improper hate situation is akin, in the corporate world, to a hostile takeover. With enemies and loved ones, you want the same thing: you want two entities to become one. In a love relationship, you are trying to gain a merged and new identity of yourself and your loved one. In an improper hate relationship, you are trying to take over your enemy. The hate/merger is an attempt to dominate the other, which is, in reality, a way of rejecting the other.

This week, we saw two horrific acts perpetrated by Jews in what they believed were in God’s name.  First, an Ultra-Orthodox man stabbed six people in a gay pride parade in Jerusalem, and the murder of a Palestinian baby in an arson attack by Jewish terrorists.  In both cases, it seems the perpetrators had a passion that overtook them and a hate that forced them to try and literally conquer their enemy.  Fortunately, these two incidences are not indicative of the vast majority of our people.  I believe they are outliers, but at the same time, these outliers feed off of our silence and indifference.  Thankfully, the government of Israel and Jewish leaders has come out against both of these horrific incidences.  We must state proudly that our faith is centered on loving our neighbor as ourselves, not hate and destruction.  The struggle against free and unbridled hatred, Sinat Chinam, our people faced 2,000 years ago as the second Temple was destroyed is still with us today.  We, the majority of Jews, must stand up against hatred and bigotry.  This is something I will discuss this Shabbat morning, and I hope you can join us. 

My question:  what can I do to combat Sinat Chinam?

On this Shabbat Nachamu, a Shabbat of Consolation, we offer our collective prayers of comfort to all of those who have suffered this week at the hands of unbridled hatred:  to the six victims of the stabbing in Jerusalem, and to the Dawabsha family. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi David Baum


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