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The Music of Halacha: Learning How to Hate Part Two

We left off “The Music of Halacha: Learning How to Hate Part One,” with the following questions:


  • 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)?
  • 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?

We will begin by examining the obligation to, “Love another as we love ourselves.” Is that obligation based on the other being, “your friend;” because the other is a friend, we are obligated to love him. However, if the person has forfeit the status of “friend” there would be no obligation to love him. Or, perhaps, this mitzvah is independent of any qualification such as the other being in the category of friend.

If the mitzvah is dependent on the status of “friend,” we might assume that someone we are instructed to hate because of his destructive behavior, has forfeit his status as friend, and we are therefore free of the obligation to love him. However, if the obligation is a universal, independent of his status as “friend,” then, although we are instructed to hate this person, the practical obligations of the mitzvot to love others, would still apply, such as the mitzvah to help him load or unload a heavy burden.

There are many authorities who explain Hillel’s famous aphorism, “What is hateful to you, do not do to another,” as another way of stating the mitzvah of Loving Others. The Maharsha, bothered by Hillel’s emphasis on negative behavior, rather than positive actions, explains that since my consideration for my own life precedes any consideration for the life of others, such as when a companion and I are stuck in the desert with sufficient water only for one to survive, we focus on the fulfillment of this mitzvah by avoiding negative behaviors, such as revenge or bearing a grudge.

This presents its own problems: it certainly seems that all the obligations of kindness are derived from the obligation of Loving Others, meaning, as demanding positive action. Surely, the Maharsha does not intend to exclude these obligations.

Another issue is that the concept of concern for my life preceding any consideration for the life of others is actually the subject of a debate: Is it possible that Hillel’s aphorism was not meant as a universal idea, but only according to some opinions?

Are we to include this calculation in all our acts of kindness? Surely not!

If we take the approach that the obligation of Loving Others is a universal, independent of the status of the other person based on his behavior, we would infer that even in those situations when we are obligated to hate someone, we are also obligated to perform acts of kindness for him; nurturing a relationship that will develop into love, friendship, and the other person changing his behavior.

This would seem a good place to begin our study of the practical obligations included in the mitzvah to hate a blatant sinner.

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