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Baseless Hatred: The Great Tisha B'Av Crime
Video 4 of 5
The feast maker is making this huge party. It’s his first daughter’s wedding, he has invited the whole town, he has invited all the authorities, the political figures, the Rabbis. Everybody is there, all of his buddies, and as the guests are happily clinking their glasses, drinking champaign under the sparkling chandeliers, and as the feast maker is graciously making his way through the guests, greeting everyone, he spies, of all people, his sworn enemy Bar Kamtza. This is the guy who cheated him out of a business deal 20 years ago. He is a schnuck. They haven’t spoken in the last 20 years, what’s he doing here?
Now, freeze that frame; put yourself in the shoes of the feast maker and ask yourself, What is the story he is telling himself now? He does not yet know that the servant has made a mistake. So why in his mind is Bar Kamtza there? Who invited him? He knows we are enemies, he knows he wasn’t invited, he is crashing my party; why? There could be only one reason, he is here deliberately to ruin everything for me. He knows that the second I see his face I am going to be consumed with anger, it’s going to ruin my special night. Is it not bad enough that he is my enemy from 20 years ago? But he has to have the gull to show up here tonight knowing the kind of effect it’s going to have no me?
Now, stop right there. If you are feast maker right now, what’s your level of anger against Bar Kamtza? On a scale from 0 to 10, what is the feast maker feeling right now? About a 9.2. He is really angry. Now, ask yourself this, if the story that he was telling himself is true, is he justified in being that angry?
Let’s say that’s why Bar Kamtza was there. He is there just to come and provoke him. Yeah, I mean that’s a really serious provocation. Now, you might say it’s not so nice to get that angry, but is the feast maker’s reaction thermostat functioning? Yeah. It was a serious provocation met by serious anger and response. Given the narrative that he is telling himself, it’s a normal reaction.
What happens next? 15 minutes later, the feast maker figures out what really happened. As he looks around the room, he realizes that his best friend Kamtza is missing. How come Kamtza didn’t show up? He asks around, seems like he wasn’t invited. He wasn’t invited! Of course I invited him. And then, it dawns on him. There must have been a mistake, his servant messed this up. Stop! At that moment, the feast maker realizes that yeah, it was the servant that messed the things up. If the feast maker’s rational mind was working, let’s ask, who should he be angry at, and how angry should he be at them? Well, he should be angry at his servant. How angry should he be at his servant on a scale of 0 to 10? Well, realizing that the servant is not trying to create a provocation, it was an honest mistake. I mean it’s kind of pain in the neck to have his enemy here, he should be at a 5 level anger at his servant.
Now, this is the tricky part, should he be angry at Bar Kamtza? Now your first instinct might be to say, no, what did Bar Kamtza do, he shouldn’t be angry at him at all. But is that correct? Should he be at a 0 level of anger at Bar Kamtza? No, that’s not correct, think rationally. Bar Kamtza has always been the feast maker’s enemy, so if the feast maker’s mind is working rationally, he is as angry at Bar Kamtza as he would have been had Bar Kamtza never showed up at this feast. He is at 5, regular garden variety mid-level anger. That’s how he should feel about Bar Kamtza but that’s not how he actually feels about him. What actually happens is he launches into Bar Kamtza with a fury that can only be described as a 9. He ignores Bar Kamtza’s desperate plead to stay. He throws him out. He seems like a monster. Both of those fail safe mechanisms have been evaded. Safety mechanism number one: We called that Reaction Thermostat. The feast maker gets to his initial anger level, more or less reasonably. He thinks that he was provoked in a terrible way. Bar Kamtza maliciously came to ruin his one special day. If that were true, it wasn’t an overreaction. Once the feast maker comes to realize the real story, here is the chance for safety valve number two, the Fact Checker. Am I justified in being angry at this person? And, unfortunately, in this case the answer is yes. I am justified in being angry at Bar Kamtza. He was the schnuck who did me in in a business deal 20 years ago. I should be angry at him.
Both safety valves are evaded, and now, righteous anger will have its way. How angry is he feeling? He is feeling a 9. Alright, so it’s complicated, he should be 5 angry at Bar Kamtza, he should be 4 angry at his servant, but he sees Bar Kamtza and what does he do? He dumps all of his anger on him, he transfers what ever anger he is feeling at his servant, just adds it with the anger of Bar Kamtza. Righteous anger is a dangerous, contagious beast. Once you evade its fail safe mechanisms, it’s like fire; it spreads, it can burn out of control without you even knowing it.
And now, let’s pickup our story and look at the next episode. There’s Bar Kamtza, thrown out of the party, sitting there on the asphalt, listening from outside the wedding hall as the band strikes up a new tune. You are in Bar Kamtza’s shoes, what level of anger do you feel now? Why did you come to that party when you suddenly got that invitation from the feast maker? You haven’t talked him for 20 years. It wasn’t easy to show up there. In the interest of peace, you are willing to extend your hand and then that monster comes and starts yelling at you? And even once he understands the real story he rejects all of your pleads and throws you out of his hall? He is a monster. Now, stop right there. What’s your level of anger? It’s a 9.2, but now, ask yourself this question, if Bar Kamtza’s mind was working rationally, who would he be angry at? Well, his natural target of anger is the feast maker, he is the one who threw him out. But then Bar Kamtza starts to think about the Rabbis, too. Now, should he be angry at the Rabbis? They were silent, they didn’t protest. They ought to have protested, wasn’t right. But ask yourself this. How angry should he be at the Rabbis? What would be the appropriate level of anger? The same level of anger he feels at Bar Kamtza? No, not really; less. Well, they weren’t direct perpetrator of this terrible affront, they were caught unawares. They were sitting there, they didn’t protest. There are all sorts of reasons why they might not have protested. It all might have happened too quickly, they might have been afraid of making an even a bigger scene. Should they have protested? Yeah, they should have protested. How angry should you be at them? A 5. How angry is he at them? He takes the 9.2 anger that he feels at Bar Kamtza and dumps it all on the Rabbis. Why? Because both fail safe mechanisms have been evaded.
The initial thermostat, mechanism number one, how did he get into 9.2? Was that understandable? Yes. You have suffered a huge provocation, a huge provocation meets with a huge sense of anger. His thermostat was functioning properly. And now, the second fail safe. When he looks at the Rabbis and asks himself, am I justified at being angry at them? What is his response? His response is, yes! He doesn’t ask himself how angry should I be, he asks himself, should I be angry. And now, having concluded the answer is yes, I should be, he takes out all of his rage and unleashes it against them. Mardu bach Yehudai, the Jews are rebelling against you, Rome.
Fascinating. Bar Kamtza, the victim of baseless rage has now, victimized others with baseless rage of his own. Sinat chinam is a very insidious thing. It can create chain reactions and the chain reactions can spin out of control.
When we come back in our next video, I want to show you that the next two episodes show you the exact same dynamic, spinning more and more out of control until finally, it is stopped. Let’s come back and take a look.
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