Wednesday, August 10, 2005


By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

Throughout our history, the first week of Av has marked some of the most wrenching, catastrophic events for the Jewish people. That legacy of sorrow and disaster continues to hound us to the present day.

As we prepare for Tisha B’av and shed tears over the latest tragedies in our immediate environment and in Eretz Yisroel, we wonder what can we do to reverse this terrible cycle and when it will all end.

Our search for a ray of hope begins with the awareness that the root of all our sadness and misery is the churban bais hamikdosh, which we mourn during the Nine Days and Three Weeks. We reflect on the well-known Gemorah in Yomah [9b] that tells us that the first bais hamikdosh was destroyed because we did not observe the halachos of avodah zorah, gilui arayos and shefichas domim.

The Gemorah says that at the time of the destruction of the second bais hamikdosh, the Jews were proficient in Torah and gemilus chasodim. What brought about the churban was the sin of sinas chinom.

We are taught that the third bais hamikdosh will not be erected until sinas chinom is purged from the Jewish people.

The true nature of sinas chinom goes beyond the concept of senseless, baseless hatred. Its deeper dimensions are hinted at in the Gemorah in Maseches Shabbos that discusses kabolas haTorah.

The Gemorah states that har sinai was given its name because of the “sinah” that matan Torah triggered in the nations of the world toward klal Yisroel. Rashi explains that once the Torah became exclusively ours, we became universally hated. We had sole access to something of immeasurable value and the world could not forgive us for that.

Jealousy seems to be the underside of hatred. Sinas chinom is thus the animosity a person harbors toward one who possesses that which the hater lacks—something he is not willing to go the extra distance to attain for himself. That feeling of emptiness spawns an implacable hatred.

The nations of the world could be megayeir and accept the Torah upon themselves. But instead of giving up their carefree existence, they prefer to hate.

The Gemorah in Yomah quoted above states that the sin of sinas chinom is equal to the collective sins of avodah zorah, gilui arayos and shefichas domim. The reason for this is that sinas chinom is the polar opposite of ahavas yisroel, one of the Torah’s key mandates, derived from the posuk of V’ahavta lereyacha kamocha.

We are all familiar with the statement of Rabi Akiva in Pirkei Avos, V’ahavta lereyacha kamocha, zeh klal Gadol ba’Torah… The commandment to love your fellow Jew is the major rule of the Torah,” the rest is commentary.

We also recall the tale of the ger tzedek who asked Hillel to teach him the whole Torah on one leg. Hillel told him D’alach sani lechavercha lo sa’avid, zuhi kol haTorah, v’idach zil gemor, what is hateful to you do not do unto others.

If V’ahavta lereyacha kamocha is the most fundamental rule in the Torah, it stands to reason that sinas chinom, its diametrical opposite, is a most serious aveirah. What is so grievous about sinas chinom? Why was the punishment for sinas chinom equal to the punishment for the three cardinal sins? Why did it cause the destruction of the second bais hamikdosh and prevent the construction of the third?

Sinas chinom is derived from a feeling of inferiority and inadequacy. People suffering from these feelings can fill the vacuum by emulating others who lead exemplary lives. Or they can try to destroy those who do good by minimizing their accomplishments and destroying their reputations. This helps the inferiority-ridden person feel redeemed and guilt-free over his own lack of accomplishment.

Sinas chinom is the antithesis of positive involvement in the community. Sinas chinom is what prevents good people from constructive accomplishments. Sinas chinom is by no means a victimless crime. It actually prevents people from getting involved; it seeks to destroy those who do and belittles and undermines their undertakings.

If someone puts his heart into finding a remedy for a community problem and is met with nothing but snide remarks for his efforts, he will be discouraged from seeing his project through.

Poking fun at someone for having his name engraved on a building in tribute to his donation, will cause that person to reconsider the next time he is solicited for a contribution.

The same holds true for someone who participates in a worthy campaign and has his picture published in the newspaper. Finding himself the butt of thoughtless ribbing by baalei sinas chinom will induce the person to stay home next time.

How many people shy away from getting involved because they are aware of the negative feedback trailing them?

And why should it be that people who send in letters to the editor feel compelled to withhold their names so as not to face the scorn of their friends and neighbors?

Baalei sinas chinom compensate for their lack of accomplishments by knocking others and ripping down what they have done. They create a negative spirit that kills the desire of people to rise above the masses to enhance the lives of others and help prepare the world for Moshiach.

It may be that that is why sinas chinom has to be thoroughly uprooted in order for the redemption to arrive.

Good people need encouragement to succeed; good people need other people to work with; good people need to be surrounded by positive pro-active people in order to facilitate their accomplishments.

As long as sinas chinom breeds naysayers and cynics, too many noble but orphan causes will be left to peter out.

How many at-risk kids would be drawn closer if people would not hesitate to get involved? At- risk children need people to care for them, as do children who have been abused and harmed in different ways. Yeshivos need people to come to their aid. Mechanchim desperately seek saviors to help them make ends meet. How do we expect “umalah haaretz dei’ah es Hashem” if we don’t pay our teachers a living wage and don’t provide children the education and care they are entitled to?

People who raise money for good causes need people to answer their calls and let them in their homes. How many more volunteers would there be for worthy chesed organizations if people didn’t have to fear the ridicule of their neighbors?

There are too many people who are sick and need physical and emotional support; too many orphans who need a shoulder to cry on. How many of us are willing to be there for them?

I had the occasion to be in Detroit a while ago for a family simcha and met my dear friend, the noted askan, Gary Torgow. We caught up on old news and the conversation drifted to the many accomplishments of the late Detroit tzadik, Rav Avrohom Abba Freedman, and his wonderful family.

I made the comment that it is truly amazing to consider all that Rabbi Freedman accomplished—how many causes and people he helped, and how many individuals he was able to draw to Torah.

Gary told me that he had had a similar conversation with Rav Mattisyohu Solomon when he visited Detroit and that he asked the Lakewood mashgiach to what he attributed Rabbi Freedman’s success.

Rav Solomon’s response was penetrating. He said that the secret of Rabbi Freedman’s success was that no one was jealous of him.

Think about that.

Because no one was jealous of Rabbi Freedman, he was able to operate under the radar and not be destroyed by envious people out to undermine him. Because no one was jealous of him he was able to be wildly successful as he brought more and more people to the tent of Torah. He was able to lead “missions” to Torah centers and minister to dozens because no one tried to impugn his character.

Because no one was jealous of him he was able to convince hundreds of children to go to yeshiva. He was able to help so many and be the best friend of every good cause in town.

It may be that there are other people like Rabbi Freedman out there who have the ability to prepare the world for the coming of Moshiach, but we get in their way, we doubt their intentions, we play down what they have done and impede them from doing more.

If we’d banish sinas chinom, we’d permit more Rabbi Freedmans to flourish and prosper and we’d be closer to the place we need to get to in order to merit the geulah shlaimah. May Hashem wipe away all the sadness and tears and grant us the zechus of hearing Tisha B’Av proclaimed a holiday with the arrival of Moshiach, speedily in our day.


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