Dear B’nai Shalom members, families, and friends:
It is possible, even LIKELY that, when one reads the daily newspapers, or listens to the radio news, or watches the television broadcast news, one becomes upset, depressed, morose, or filled with a feeling of defeat. The acrimonious, ugly atmosphere in which our government leaders, national legislators, and spokespeople for all levels of authority conduct and present themselves are discouraging and deflating.
At a time when the world is so filled with hated, betrayal, violence, and blind impulsivity, we turn to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, (Almighty G-d) for help, solutions, and an end to the increasingly maddening chaos. We take stock of ourselves, reviewing those deeds worthy of reexamination, and repairing that which needs our immediate attention. We can recall a time in our history when our own Jewish people are remembered as having had our own struggles with issues of performing mitzvot, remaining kind and good, and dealing with our own fellow Jews with compassion and understanding.
In the period of the 2nd Temple, the Jews, we learn, were involved in the study of and practice of Torah as well as performing acts of Gemilut Chasadim, notable kindness, but we note that they also had issues with Sinas Chinam, baseless hatred and resentment. How can this go together?
The Jewish commentator, the Maharal said that, in his opinion, “acts of Chesed (kindness) are even greater than giving tzedakah (charity).” He believed that giving tzedakah could have its doubts. On the other hand, he believed doing chesed is a certainty.
With tzedakah, one gives when presented with an opportunity to give. With doing acts of Chesed, one goes out of his way to do good. With tzedakah, there may be a doubt where the money may go. Doing Chesed is clear and immediate.
The Torah commentator Ramban (Nachmanides) explains that with the mitzvah of “Vahavta L’Rayacha Kamoha,” (“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”), we tend to “hold back” some part of what we give to others: money, knowledge, etc. He believed that subconsciously and likely inadvertently, we do not always give our all to others even if we had intended and desired to do so.
To better understand Ramban’s position, we turn to the Ethical Jewish guidebook of Mesillas Yesharim, written by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto. There we learn that in the world, we believe there are two types of jealousy: the first type manifesting itself by: a.) “you have something I don’t want you to have,” and the second type: b.) Someone has something you’d like to have.
The Torah commentator HaRav Dessler says that each person, everyone of us has what we need according to the plan of Hashem. It is our goal and mission to learn to be happy with our lot in life.
In this light, doing real Chesed is to see someone else happy and successful. Just as a loving, devoted parent wants his/her child to exceed his/her own success, it should be the same way with others. This is not always so easy.
The Torah sage and commentator The Vilna Gaon says in order to combat having envy of others, we must fortify our own faith in Hashem. He asks which sins leading to the destruction of both Holy Temples were worse? He says one can measure the severity of the sins causing each destruction by the length of time we went without each Temple. The first Temple remained in ruins and unbuilt for seventy years. However, the continuing count for the rebuilding of (what we hope to be the third and FINAL Bayt HaMikdash, Holy Temple) the destruction of the second Temple is two thousand year and continuing on, as of this count. The Vilna Gaon says, as a result of this type of examination, that the sins of the second Temple were worse.
We believe that the first Temple was destroyed for reasons of idolatry and immorality while the reason for the destruction of the second Temple is Sinas Chinam, baseless hatred and resentment. Clearly according to the opinion of the Vilna Gaon, the sin of Sinas Chinam, baseless hatred and resentment, is a far greater sin. To combat this, we must make every effort to make ourselves smaller and Hashem larger in our lives.
The act and sin of Sinas Chinam, of hating someone with an irrational hatred is seen as being so extreme that such a hatred will cause us to hurt our enemy EVEN IF it hurts us as well. This reminds of immediately of the situation in Eretz Yisrael where our enemies hate our Jewish people and the fact of our simple existence so much that they would reject peace, calm and tranquility, benefitting themselves and all their people in favor or hating us and desiring to destroy us.
There is much to be learned from our own spotted past as well as the emotional positions taken by our enemies. With Hashem’s help, may we work and succeed at replacing our frequent envy, likely resentment, and possible Sinas Chinam with full and genuine love and concern for one another. And may the world take note and follow our example.
With Torah blessings,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin