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The Music of Halacha: Learning How to Hate Part One

“There are three whom the Holy One, Blessed is He, hates: One who says one thing with his mouth while meaning another thing in his heart, one who knows testimony affecting his friend, but does not testify on his behalf, and one who sees his friend involved in a sexual transgression and testifies against him without a second witness (Pesachim 113b).”


The Talmud is introducing four issues that I wish to explore in this series: 1) Hate, 2) Saying something while feeling something else, 3) not advocating for someone, and 4) speaking of someone else who sins when our testimony will not be accepted in Beit Din.

  • When is it permitted to hate? What form does permitted hatred take? Does it apply to anyone, even a child or spouse?
  • May one spouse say something to the other to avoid conflict? May a man say, “I love you” to his wife when he hates her? May a woman tell her husband that she understands why he is so upset with his boss even as she feels that he is being an idiot?
  • Are we obligated to become involved in disputes when we know something that will benefit one of the parties?
  • Is the Penn State assistant coach permitted to speak publicly (not in court) of what he saw Mr Sandusky allegedly do to a young boy? Is a reporter allowed to write about something he saw a politician or celebrity do in public?


The Gemara in Pesachim continues: Rabbi Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak said in the name of Rav, “Although one who sees his friend commit an immoral act is prohibited to testify as a single witness against him, he is permitted to hate him. It is written, “If you see the donkey of the person you hate crouching under its burden you shall certainly help him (Exodus 23:5).” Who is “the person you hate?” How can it be permitted to hate when it is written, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart (Leviticus 19:17)?” The case is where he saw him involved in an immoral transgression.”

Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak said, “It is a Mitzvah to hate him, because it says, “Fear of God is hatred of evil (Proverbs 8:13).”

The Halachic authorities differentiate between different sins. Normally, one is obligated to reprove a transgressor, and see him reject the reproof, before one is permitted to hate him (Rambam, Hilchot Rotzei’ach 13:14; Sefer HaChinuch #80; Smag, Positive Commandments #9). However, this example of a sexual transgression is such a notorious and established transgression that it is not necessary to rebuke the sinner before hating him (Sefer Chafetz Chaim, Laws of Lishon haRah, Be’er Mayim Chaim 4:14)

  • Would this apply in our times when such transgressions are not considered by society as ‘notorious,’ and when they are more common?
  • Do we consider a sexual transgression in our very sexual society with more compassion?
  • Must I ask a Halachic question each time I observe someone sinning, whether I am permitted, or even obligated, to hate the sinner even before seeing him reject reproof?

The Michtav MeiEliyahu (Kuntress haChesed, Volume I, Chapter 4) explains this and another Gemara in Bava Metzia (32b) as teaching us that by choosing to help an enemy load and unload a donkey, the person wages war against his natural inclination to hate the other. It is more important to subdue one’s natural impulse to hate a sinner by unloading his enemy’s animal than to alleviate an animal’s pain.

  • Are the laws of helping an enemy load and unload an animal included in the Mitzvah to “Love a neighbor as he loves himself?”
  • Is the Mitzvah to love cancelled out when I am obligated to hate?
  • If there is no Mitzvah to love a person whom I am obligated to hate, why am I obligated to help him load and unload his beast of burden, which seems to be included in the Mitzvah to love (Rambam, Peirush al haMishnah Peiah 1:1)?

Tosafot (Pesachim 113b s.v. ‘He saw him commit an immoral act’) elaborates: In a relationship between two people, the sentiments of each are mirrored by the other, as the verse says, “As water reflects a face back to a face, so one’s heart is reflected back to him by another (Proverbs 27:19).” Therefore, if someone hates a sinner, the sinner will hate him back. Consequently, they will come to a point of full-fledged hatred. At that point, the hatred has become an expression of the Evil Inclination and must be subdued.

  • If my hatred fosters a responsive hatred, is that an indication that my hatred of the sinner is not for the proper reason? That I am not hating properly?
  • Is there a way to hate as a Mitzvah without engendering a responsive hatred?

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