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The Root of Baseless Hatred

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

Our sages teach us that the second temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred. Since baseless hatred was the cause of the destruction of the temple it behooves us to understand baseless hatred and avoid this catastrophic sin. Hatred is something very understandable and most of us have probably experienced an emotion which we would define as hatred at some point in our lives. The difficulty lies in understanding the notion of baseless hatred. When we feel threatened by another or if we are harmed or mistreated by another, we may feel hatred towards the perpetrator of the threat or the harm. Our hatred is ignited by a specific stimulus, a perceived threat or sustaining physical or emotional harm. Whether the reason is justified or unjustified there is a reason for hatred. What then is the meaning of baseless hatred?

We can better understand this with an enlightening, and in many ways frightening, statement of the Vilna Gaon, “Someone who’s heart is filled with the attribute of trust (in God), even though he transgresses severe transgressions, is better than one who is lacking trust (in God) because through this he comes to jealousy and hatred, even though he is involved in Torah and good deeds, because all this is just to boost his name.” It is true that when we believe that we have to get ahead of others in order to succeed in life, we will naturally feel jealousy and hatred toward those we perceive as our competitors. It is also true that when we are harmed by others, we feel hatred and resentment towards the perpetrator. Nonetheless this hatred is considered baseless. It is baseless because when we truly trust God we know that we get what is good for us. It is baseless because when we truly trust God, we will not feel threatened by any other human being. It is baseless because when we truly trust God, we realize that those harming us are merely the staff which God is using to teach us the life lessons we need to learn.

Our charge during this time period is to work on ways to increase our trust in God and free ourselves from baseless hatred. May we thus merit the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash soon in our days.