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TALK AINíT CHEAP

by Rabbi Shmuel Weiss    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Many of us are familiar with the expression, "sinat chinam baseless hatred." The Talmud (Tractate Yoma) tells us that sinat chinam destroyed the Second Temple. It was, in effect, worse than the three cardinal sins of idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed which destroyed the First Temple.

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Many of us are familiar with the expression, "sinat chinam baseless hatred." The Talmud (Tractate Yoma) tells us that sinat chinam destroyed the Second Temple. It was, in effect, worse than the three cardinal sins of idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed which destroyed the First Temple. After all, we rebuilt the First Temple after just 70 years; we are still waiting to rebuild the second, 1,930 years after its fall.

Just what is sinat chinam, after all? I know that we cavalierly call it "baseless hatred," but that definition has always bothered me. Have you ever encountered someone who hated another person for no reason at all? Our reasons may be petty or trivial "he snubbed me; sheís too pretty, he parts his hair on the wrong side, etc." However, we always have some justification for our hatred, sensical or non.

I would suggest two interpretations of sinat chinam. The first relates to the well-known story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. It was Kamtza who was invited to a gala banquet; but by mistake the hostís enemy Bar Kamtza was brought. No amount of pleading helped; even Bar Kamtzaís offer to pay for the entire banquet was rejected by the stubborn host. Bar Kamtza was humiliated and evicted from the hall, in full view of seemingly complacent and uncaring rabbinical leaders. Bar Kamtzaís revenge led to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Now, "Kamtza" means "cheapskate" or "stingy." There is an obvious play on words at work here. Though stingy by nature, this uninvited guest was willing to pay and pay dearly in order not to be embarrassed publicly, and to be able to stay at the banquet. The host, who would have ended up throwing this magnificent party at no cost to himself, instead chose to make a spectacle of his adversary by throwing him out.

The sinah (hatred) in this case was truly worthless. It generated no profit, it brought in no revenue whatsoever. The love that might have been shown would not only have soothed hurt feelings, it would have earned the host a pretty penny. Still, hate prevailed. When "worthless" hate outweighs "valuable" love, then we have really reached rock bottom.

One more thought on the subject: The words, "sinat chinam" literally mean "the hate of their cheyn." Cheyn is a hard word to translate, but essentially it means grace, likeability, charm. It is the unique quality which every person possesses in different measure, that which makes us special, and validates our presence in the world. Sinat chinam is the denial of anotherís right to exist, the belief that he or she contributes nothing valuable to this earth. That attitude is an affront not only to the other person, but also to Hashem who made that individual. The antidote to sinat chinam, then, is not "free love," but rather the respect of every other personís unique place in Hashemís universe. May we see the fast of this Tishah BíAv become the joy of the complete redemption.

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Rabbi Shmuel Weiss, the director of the Jewish Outreach Center in Ranaana, Israel, is a close friend of the Torah from Dixie Family.

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