Shabbat Parashat Vayakhel| 5766
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Question: Throughout the millennia, we have awaited the coming of Mashiach. Of late, people who are Torah observant are talking about hastening the geulah (redemption). I heard that Rav Kook z.t.l. wrote that this requires ahavat chinam (love without a specific reason) among all members of Klal Yisrael. The question Ihave is: how can each of us cultivate ahavat chinam? What will it take to love our fellow Jews? How will we learn to disagree as Hillel and Shamai did? Could you please publish your answer in your column? Perhaps it will help all of us.
Answer: We are happy to accede to your passionate and eloquent request. We are also glad it came from you, not from us, as we usually avoid preaching in this forum, even on important issues. Our inclination is to agree with you whole-heartedly and unconditionally. However, to be intellectually honest, we can only agree whole-heartedly, not unconditionally, as we will explain.
There is little question that ahavat chinam is a very, very important concept to implement. The phrase is really a borrowed term. The original term is “sinat chinam” (baseless hatred), which, according to the gemara in Yoma (9b), was responsible for the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash. Hatred of our brethren may be baseless. But love for our fellow is not baseless. It is required by the Torah (Vayikra 19:18) and it is logical to love one who shares with us history, destiny, and (hopefully) values. Rav Kook apparently (coined and/or) popularized the phrase, with his conviction that just as sinat chinam caused destruction, ahavat chinam is the antidote that will cause healing and rebuilding (see Orot Hakodesh, Derech Hakodesh 10). This forecast certainly gives impetus to display ahavat chinam. However, we hope that love and respect for other members of Klal Yisrael alsoexist for their own sake, as a mitzva and the natural feeling of one with the right mind-set, as Rav Kook certainly intended. Rav Kook engendered ahavat Yisrael, and showed much love even to his ideological opponents (to the “right” and the “left”) while many of his colleagues took a more combatant approach. However, we would be doing Rav Kook and ourselves a disservice if we thought that he never had a harsh word to say about a fellow Jew. As a leader, he at times spoke out harshly in public against those who had gone “over the line,” thus warranting such a response (see, for example, Otzrot Har’iyah, pg. 1137). He likely retained a love even as he rebuked (see the Ramban’s introduction to his commentary on the Torah). The same is true of Shamai, Hillel and their academies. The mishna (Yevamot 13b) tells that despite the far-reaching disagreements regarding family status, they worked things out so that their children would be permitted to marry those not in question within the other camp. The gemara (ibid.: 14b) attributes the pasuk of “the truth and the peace you shall love” (Zecharya 8:19) to the affection between the two. However, there are sources, including Yerushalmi, Shabbat 1:4, who speak about harsh tactics that one side took against the other when they thought the consequences were pressing.
How do we know which approach, the tolerant or the forceful, to employ when? We don’t fully know but allow us to share some guidelines. 1) One should not hypocritically take a harsh approach when it affects a personal interest and a soft one when it affects “only” Hashem’s interests or those of someone else (see the strong words of Sanhedrin 103b). 2) One should weigh the damage caused by machloket, which is usually far greater than the average person realizes. 3) One should take into consideration the possibility that his views are not always 100% correct, with the other side being 100% wrong. 4) As is attributed to Rav Kook, it is better to err on the side of ahavat chinam than on the side of sinat chinam. 5) Exhaust other options and pray before taking steps that can cause fights.
We hope that these words help (or at least not hurt) and that we will soon be able to hear Eliyahu Hanavi’s answer to this dilemma of balancing the need for peace with the need to fight for ideals.
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