Strengthening Our Nation: Overcoming Sinat Chinam
Updated: Aug 7, 2019
With your permission, I am going to stray from my usual real estate-related topics to make an appeal (don’t worry, it’s not for money).
We are fortunate to be living in a very special period in Jewish history: Jews in most parts of the world are able to practice their religion and live in relative comfort and security. And in Israel, this time period is downright miraculous. For the first time in over two thousand years we have been blessed with a Jewish state.
The Almighty has blessed Israel with economic success, spurred by its advances in many vital fields such as medicine, high-tech, energy and water technology. And despite our enemies surrounding us, the country’s army has consistently proven itself as a reliable and unswerving protector of the Jewish people.
From a religious perspective, there is an unprecedented amount of Torah that is being learned and religious growth that is occurring in Israel. There are literally thousands of Torah classes offered for people of all ages and all skill levels. The sheer number of people studying Judaic studies is astounding, and the level of learning is remarkable.
Notwithstanding all of these phenomenal achievements, one issue saddens my heart - and with Tisha B’Av upon us, perhaps it is timely to discuss this concern. The Gemara in Masechet Yoma (9b) relates that despite the Jews’ focus on holy pursuits such as learning Torah and keeping its commandments, and being immersed in acts of kindness, the Second Temple was destroyed due to Sinat Chinam, or baseless hatred. Sinat Chinam is so deplorable that the Gemorah equates it to the three cardinal sins that caused the First Temple’s destruction: idolatry, immorality and bloodshed.
When I see the current animosity between Jews, whether between the religious and secular populations or between religious camps, I shudder to think about the pain that we must be causing our Father in Heaven. (Please do not think that I exonerate myself; I too am guilty of this heinous sin.)
Let me share with you an intriguing thought from Reb Chaim Brisker. After the Lord quashed the rebellion of Korach, who wanted to usurp Moshe’s position and become the leader of the Jewish people, the Torah states that such an episode will never again occur (Numbers 17:5). Reb Chaim Brisker asked: How do we understand that verse – haven’t we unfortunately seen many instances of rebellion and infighting after Korach? He proceeded to offer the following fascinating explanation and wonderful life lesson: in Korach’s rebellion, God revealed Moshe and Aharon’s position to be 100% right and Korach’s position to be 100% wrong. Rav Chaim Soloveitchik suggested that this verse is a Divine guarantee that there will never again be a dispute in which one side is entirely correct and the other side is absolutely incorrect.
If we remember this guarantee, it may be easier for us to listen to the merits of the other side’s argument, which could hopefully lead to a peaceful resolution.
No one group has a monopoly on truth. We need to respect everyone’s contributions to society, whether their involvement is via Torah study, army service, or any other honest pursuit. Only when we stop demonizing those who don’t share our beliefs and start appreciating their contributions, will we overcome the divisive and debilitating effects of Sinat Chinam.
May the Almighty bless us with wisdom to see beyond ourselves and understand other viewpoints. With this appreciation and sensitivity, may we be worthy of seeing the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash, speedily in our days.
Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home, a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. To sign up for his monthly market updates, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.