A Good Hearted Person Doesn't Hate

Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Parshas Mishpatim

Rav Yisroel Salanter, the great master of spiritual growth once said: “If I could give only one bit of advice to my students I would tell them that whenever they meet someone new, no matter who it is, they should try to find at least one thing that they like about that person.”

It’s amazing that the founder of the Mussar movement, a movement which lives and grows still today and the author of countless books finds this the most fundamental advice he could give his students.

It is my understanding that the master of ethics and Torah behavior was pointing to a problem which in fact can lead, and to a certain extent has led, to the crumbling of society.

In this week’s Parsha we find the verse “If you see the donkey of someone you hate crouching under its burden, would you refrain from helping him? You shall help repeatedly with him.”

Under ordinary circumstances, it is forbidden to hate a fellow Jew. Therefore the sages explain that the verse speaks about someone whom it is permitted to hate. If one finds both his good friend and this hated person in the same predicament, according to Halacha he must first go to the assistance of the hated one, in order to subdue his yetzer hara. The evil inclination within us gives us a spark of conscience or sub-conscience joy when we see someone we hate suffer. A little voice inside us says ‘he’s getting what he deserves. Why interfere with G-ds justice? He is a sinner!’ Comes the Torah and instructs us not to listen to that little voice. It is just the negativity within you that is speaking. Help the fellow out!

Of course the problem with this law is that we are talking about a person that it is a Mitzvah to hate! Where does yetzer hara come to play if I’m doing a mitzvah? The answer is, that the Mitzvah is to hate him or her for what he has done wrong. Human nature causes that hatefullness to spread until one can find nothing good about the person. Not even one redeeming factor. Everyone knows that if you don’t like someone that person can do no right. They walk wrong, they talk wrong, even the way they tilt their hat gets on your nerves. A little bit of justified hate can bring with it ten times as much causeless hate. This is the hate that the Torah deems as unacceptable and instructs us to resist in every way possible.

This was the advice of Reb Yisroel, don’t let people cancel themselves out. Look at the whole picture. And remember, there is always something good to see. Let that overtake you instead of the natural negativity that loves to spread.

There are so many problems. Problems with families, problems at work, problems in the community. There are partisan problems in Israel which have gotten way out of hand. We have developed an ‘us and them’ mentality where our right hand is competing against our left.

Imagine how much different things would be if we would try to notice one new nice thing about our spouse, our children or our parents everyday. Imagine how much different Klal Yisroel would look if we would recognize the wrong but not let the wrongfullness define the person. If I was giving a shiur and you would be my students I would recommend an exercise. Think of the person you deplore the most in this world. Remind yourself about why you hate him or her. Now think of something, anything nice about that person. You have just made a fundamental change in your Neshama.

I remember almost 20 years ago when I was newly married and living in Jerusalem . My wife and I hosted a sheva brachos for one of our friends. In his honor amongst the many guests was my Rebbe, Rav Scheinberg, one of the great poskim of Jerusalem . A discussion broke out at the table about why there seems to be so much mudslinging going on in the religious community. Some claimed that jealousy was the cause, another said that it was ignorance and yet another claimed it was financial. We looked toward the Rav as he said, “Ich mein as es felt in lev tov”. A good hearted person doesn’t hate.

Recently, I had a conversation with a member of the faculty of the Lakewood Yeshiva. The Yeshiva he told me wishes to get involved in outreach, they have an army of 2000! I asked what took so long and I proposed that Rav Aharon Kotler ZT”L was against it. But, I said, although I can’t prove it I believe that if Reb Aharon was alive today he would back the Kiruv movement 100%. The person I was talking to corrected me and said that he can prove it. Before Reb Aharon moved to the United States he was a Rosh Yeshiva in Kletzk. Reb Aharon at that time spent half of everyday knocking on the doors of Kletzk, the doors of the Bundistim and the Maskilim and begged them to send their children to a Yeshiva, or rather to his Yeshiva. None of us do that today.

Rav Nachman Breslover once asked if the right is so important in Jewish law why is our heart on our left side? Said Rav Nachman, if our heart is for ourselves than we have an excellent question. But if our heart is for the person that stands before me, than in fact it is on his right.

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