INSIGHT

5757 - #22

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 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.

Rabbi Benjamin Hecht e-mail

Notes

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.


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