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Baseless Hatred: The Great Tisha B'Av Crime
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When is the last time you were walking down the street, you saw somebody, ‘Oh, there’s Phil, I hate him.’ Just no reason, baseless. We don’t do that. I mean, are you like that? Is there anyone you know like that? Are we creating some kind of scarecrow with baseless hatred that just doesn’t exist and then, we congratulate ourselves that we don’t have this terrible sin. Wow! Great, you are not a psychopath. You should be proud of that, I mean what if every year we congratulate ourselves about how we have purged sinat chinam from our heart, we no longer hate people baselessly. As if you did in the first place? Sinat chinam. I mean, those are very strong words.
In real life, you know, many of us are no strangers to hatred, to anger, sometimes even to rage but usually, when we get really mad at somebody, we get mad at them for a reason. Somebody bullies me and I hate them; is that baseless hatred? It’s not baseless hatred, there is a reason I hate him. Who feels baseless hatred?
I think if we really want to experience Tisha B’Av like adults, we sort of owe it to ourselves to try to come to grips with the question of what baseless hatred is. What do we mean when we talk about sinat chinam, hatred for no reason? Because there is an insidious possibility that every year we congratulate ourselves for getting rid of sinat chinam but we don’t even know what it is. And maybe what it really is continues to lurk in our hearts, to poison our minds and our relationships. It turns out that there’s a fundamental piece of Talmud that exemplifies the idea of sinat chinam. Traditionally, we learn it on Tisha B’Av. In the Gemara, masechet Gittin deals with the famous apocryphal story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza.
What I want to do with you in this video series is to analyze that story, to read it through with you, and to try to figure out through looking at that story what sinat chinam really is. Because the strange thing is, that as you read the story it doesn’t seem to be about baseless hatred at all. I think that if we read that story with clear eyes, we will arrive at a surprising understanding of the nature of sinat chinam, of baseless hatred. It is not something that monsters feel, that psychopaths feel; hatred for no reason. Indeed, the kind of baseless hatred that the Gemara talks about, it’s uncomfortably close to home.
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