Eliminating Jewish Hatred and Rebuilding the Temple
By Amos Ben Ami
During the period of time between the seventeenth of Tamuz and the ninth of Av, which comes out around June and July, we commemorate the destruction of the Temple. We do this by giving more thought to the causes of its destruction and through the associated customary fasts.
During this period we try to make amends for those iniquities that caused the destruction of our holy temple. If we can understand the reasons that caused G-d to permit His holy temple destroyed by our enemies and to have us, His children exiled, then perhaps we can make amends. Hopefully, then G-d will permit us to have the Temple back again.
The Talmud relates that the causes of the destruction of the Temple were the baseless hatred between Jews and the speaking despairingly of a fellow Jew. In reality, these two reasons are the same. The reason one Jew speaks against a fellow Jew is because within him is hatred. If a Jew were to love his fellow Jew, as the Torah requires him, he would have no reason to say anything improper about him.
Therefore, as these most tragic times approach, we are required to reflect on these two things, baseless hatred and speaking evil about another Jew.
First let us realize that there is a difference between baseless hatred and hatred that is based upon something. Hatred that is based upon something is a hatred that is caused by an external cause. An example, a man insists on playing his radio so loud that it disturbs his neighbor. If upon request of the neighbor, he refuses to turn down the volume, that hatred, which is a direct result from the inconsideration and aggravation, is the direct outcome of a specific act. If the man were to respect the neighbor's needs and lower the volume, then the hatred would dissipate. Since this hatred is based on something, it is not baseless. Cancel the basis, and the hatred is cancelled.
Baseless hatred is different. It is not caused by an external event triggered by another person. It is caused by the person himself. As an example, Paul considered himself to be the smartest person in his shul. When Sam, who was an obvious genius, moved in to the area and became a member of the shul, Paul felt that Sam's mental capabilities were robbing him of his spotlight in the shul. Paul began to belittle Sam. This hatred is baseless. Sam did nothing to cause Paul to feel less about himself; Sam just existed. It was Paul's own inner self that felt threatened and therefore sought to defend itself through malicious speech trying to degrade Sam.
To eliminate baseless hatred, we all must be on constant guard. It is very difficult to identify since it lies in the subconscious of all people. We create justification why the other person is not correct. However, just by accepting our own personal limitations and realizing that, yes, there are others who have qualities superior to our own, we can diminish the inroads of this evil inclination into our daily lives.
Yet, none of us are totally capable of extracting this evil inclination from our heart. Therefore it is important that we should familiarize ourselves with the basic rules of kosher speech that we may not allow our evil inclination to push us over the line of kosher behavior in speech.
First, we must realize that the concept of free speech does not extend to degrading a fellow Jew. We are not permitted to say any disparaging remarks about another Jew for the purpose of belittling him. Often in the seemingly innocent conversations of many people, references to others are made in a manner to discredit a third party. This type of speech is clearly forbidden.
If the knowledge about another person is for reasons of business or making a marriage, we are permitted to relate those particular aspects that are negative as long as there is a positive purpose. But to relate something negative about another for no apparent reason not only spreads the cancerous hatred, but also is clearly forbidden.
It makes no difference if you are speaking to your friends, family members, work associates, or strangers, speaking despairingly is forbidden. Not only is speaking forbidden, but also listening is forbidden. A person who is being told something derogatory about a third person should tell the person that this is improper talk. If the speaker does not heed, either try changing the topic or walk away. Listening to slander is forbidden just as speaking it is.
It makes no difference if the topic spoken about is true. Just the opposite, if it is not true, it is a lie and obviously it is forbidden to say. Evil speech is that which is true. Yet is it just this that we should not relate. We must give the benefit of the doubt to the person about whom we desire to slur.
Perhaps one of the worst examples today of slander and slurring people comes from our radios and newspapers. Someone is "alleged" to have committed a crime. We hear this every day, yet, we must be careful not to include this in our own behavior patterns. We must realize that to speak about another Jew in a blithely manner is not just forbidden, but causes the exile to continue.
The topic of "clean speech" is one which is studied by many G-d fearing people each day. It is through our holding ourselves back from this malicious speech that will bring us back to respecting our fellow Jews. And it is through this respect that each Jew will have for the other, that G-d will give us back the Holy Temple.
from the July 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine