The Rabbis teach us that the single sin that most stops Redemption from happening is baseless hatred between the Jews.
Baseless doesn’t mean that one hates the other for nothing; everyone has always an excuse. The only true groundless hatred for Jews is anti-Jewish sentiment. That is completely irrational and baseless.
Rather, baseless hatred is that you hate a fellow Jew while you should not. We are commanded to love each other. (Love for Gentiles is not obligatory but rather good manners. The Commandments are hard enough as they are, and a Jew who really manages to love all Jews, certainly will find it easy to love everyone else.)
Hatred between Jews is only allowed when it’s obligatory – there is no gray area. For instance, we must hate a Jew who purposely creates animosity among Gentile authorities against the Jews. However, if such a person still has one Jewish friend, he’s still a fellow Jew and are we not allowed to hate him. That includes Jews who say that they hate us.
Hatred is not only seething anger. The Torah treats any lack of love as hatred. If we love someone a little bit less than we could, we hate her. Food for thought!
What is the antidote against baseless hatred? Baseless love!
What is love? The Rabbis teach us that it is not a sentimental thing. That kind of love is often just self-love in disguise. I love fish. If you really loved fish, you would not eat it. You don’t like fish – you like the feeling that you get when you eat it. I love Jews – you feel so good around them. If you really loved them, would not try to convert them and assume that you are superior to them, but rather, you would ask them to teach you and start or join a mass movement against anti-Semitism.
The Rabbis teach us that real love more easily comes from giving than from receiving. Although most so-called love songs are about wanting to receive (and about erotics rather than love), help someone and you will start to feel for him.
Many grown-ups are love-impaired. They simply have forgotten how to do it. They may still love their partner and their own children, but from their inability to love others, one can see that this is still an egocentric sentimentality rather than love, connected to giving in order to receive. Good teachers show that grown-ups may love classrooms of children, not their own. It can be done.
If loving comes so difficult for you, you can start with respect. You cannot hate someone while you respect her. Start with respect – the feeling of love will follow. BTW: Falling in love does not obligate to become life-partners and/or have sex. For happiness, you should fall in love with everyone around you and yourself every day, but only seek to become one flesh with one person, hopefully for a lifetime.
Pity is also not love. It is showing that you care for someone’s misfortune but mixed with arrogance and self-love: look how caring I am. We can feel for others without pitying them. As someone remarked sharply: if you must pity, save it for the image you see in your mirror. Love must bring people closer. Often, admiration is not love, but creates distance. A surge to get close to an idol is often just from neediness. If we are close to someone and giving to them, then high esteem is OK.
In any case, as mentioned, love does not need to be a feeling. Love is, our holy teachers tell us, that you try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and ask yourself: if I were this person under his circumstances, what then would I like others to do, and to do that for him. Empathy in action. People who are weak in empathy can learn it and get good at it. Just like you can learn not to gossip. So when someone is drowning, you don’t shout: But I love you. You jump in and save him, or if you can’t swim, you quickly find someone who can, and push him in, if needed.
The Torah commands: Love your fellow like yourself, I am G-d. The Chassidic masters say: Love your fellow, like yourself I am, G-d. Like I give all there is, you can be like Me: a giver.
It is not true that you can only love others when you’re first loved yourself, by others and yourself. You may though learn to request and receive love, and seek out and surround you with non-selfish people. Loving doesn’t come from being loved, but everyone needs to receive love – though not just to give.
And what on earth is baseless love? First of all, some examples of what it is not. I love him because he is so nice. Rather, you love how you feel around him – that is not baseless. I hate him but I will not let him know. That is not love. That might be being considered or a hypocrite but not love. Love also does not equal with sex or romance.
There are many types of true baseless love:
1. The way you naturally feel about someone. You look a human being in the eyes and she looks back into your eyes and you both recognize a fellow human being. It does not obligate you to get married – especially not if she was just born – but it is love no less. When we love like that, we are not obligated in baseless love, because we do it already.
2. Between David and Jonathan. As the Mishnah teaches us, their love was not based on anything; not on beauty and not on wanting anything from each other. That soul-to-soul connection is the highest love there is. We are not obligated to feel this intensely about every fellow Jew. But baseless love it is. That, and not sex, should be the highlight of our most-intimate relationship.
3. For a random fellow Jew. You ask yourself (or ask her) what she needs and try to accommodate. It fosters more than love; it also turns you into a giver, a partner with G-d – Who is the ultimate giver, as mentioned above. Much strive comes from people wanting their different needs met at the same time, instead of taking turns.
4. For an unpleasant person. You can’t stand him. This is your chance! Instead of moping about having such a person around, this is your chance to give without any ulterior motive. You would not be generous for liking the person and you do not expect anything in return either. This may not feel sweet at all, but it is the sweetest. Think about what he needs. Have some empathy. Empathy for someone you like is easy. Try this one. Don’t pity him, because that hurts his respectability. If you went through what he went through, would you be any better? Be humble enough not to hold yourself as superior, and try. Some people would like a smile; but other might prefer more subtle consideration. Yet, if they have violent personalities or are con artists and you are a people pleaser, leave them to others – keep your distance.
5. Instead of revenge. He’s been so inconsiderate, but I, on the other hand, am going to take him into account, try to give although I feel that he should give or have given me. Also, don’t be generous to show that you are better than him – at least you give while he doesn’t. Such a competition is not giving but showing off – stealthily trying to receive admiration. He might reciprocate or he may not. Giving in order to receive is not giving. Giving in order to give – that’s the real thing. It makes a better world, but also that motive would color our altruism. The best attitudes are: 1. I give because others want to receive like I want to receive. 2. I give because that is a proper expression of who I am.
6. Request love. We may also request love for ourselves. Generally we can more easily strengthen a friendship by first giving. That may awaken in them the idea to do the same. Also, many people do not know how to ask for their needs and instead complain or try to force the other to give. That is detrimental for any desire to offer and any relationship. If you hold that someone must take care of you, you remove any opportunity from them to give you baseless love. To pay off a (made-up) debt is not free giving. But especially, if you are a generous person (according to your best friends), you may take the challenge to ask for support. Make sure your request is appropriate. Grown-ups don’t ask a six-year old to listen to the greatest suffering they went through. Don’t ask a Cohen or a person of color to mop your floor (unless he said he doesn’t mind or he needs the job). An able-bodied man doesn’t ask a woman to look after some of his needs unless he took care of some of hers first.