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The Sin that No One Ever Acnowledges Committing

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

Many years ago, I hear Rabbi Aaron Kreiser, a professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University, pose the following question: Why is it that the first Temple, which was destroyed for the most serious of sins, was rebuilt within seventy years, while the second Temple, destroyed for the seemingly smaller offense of groundless hatred, has still not been rebuilt?

He suggested the following answer: When people commit terrible offenses, and severe suffering befalls them, they sometimes step back, realize the evil they have done, and repent. Such was the case with many members of the Jewish community in the aftermath of the first Temple’s destruction. But people guilty of “groundless hatred” never repent because they never acknowledge their sin. Even at the very moment they might be quoting to you this Talmudic statement condemning “groundless hatred,” they will still justify their own personal hatreds, and can explain to you why their adversaries are worthy of being hated. Thus, although the sin of “groundless hatred” might seem to be less serious than sins such as murder and idolatry, no one repents of its commission, or roots it out of his or her heart. And that is why we are still not worthy of having the Temple rebult.

In an effort to remove “groundless hatred” from your heart, think of someone whom you dislike. Even if you can justify your dislike for this person, consider whether your negativism is disproportionate to the evil this person has committed. If it is, then that means that at least some of your hatred is groundless. Another method for rooting out groundless hatred: Try to learn something good about somebody you otherwise dislike, and let this knowledge inform your feelings. Force yourself to think of that good trait whenever you think of the person. Who knows how much good may be achieved by such an attitudinal change?

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935), THE Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Palestine, used to say, “The Talmud teaches that the Second Temple was destroyed because of causeless hatred. Perhaps the Third Temple will be built because of causeless love.”