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Kdoshim: the laws of hatred

You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart

The verse from our weekly portion (Leviticus 19:17) presents us a scholastic dilemma. Is there a person in this world who never hated in their heart? No doubt, there is no such person. But if everybody hated at least once, we have an unreasonable commandment – the one which is impossible to fulfill.

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Through the rabbinic perspective of amoraim it can be compared to the commandment to execute a rebellious son. As it is concluded at the end of a Sages’ discussion at tractate Sanhedrin, this commandment was never meant to be fulfilled, but to be “studied [by disciples in order] to be rewarded [for that study]” (BT, Sanhedrin 71a). Could it be more than one commandment that was not meant to be really kept but to be studied.

The difference is obvious – ben sorer u’more was a horrible practice, unimaginable even to the Sages, who lived in peace with many practices not acceptable in the modern world. The prohibition of hatred is one of the greatest moral statements given in the Pentateuch. It is even more acceptable today, than it was in the Ancient world.

It seems like the key words in the verse are not “you shall not hate” but “in your heart”. The Torah ultimately recognizes the fact that it is impossible not to hate at all. By the hatred kept in heart grows and eats its bearer from inside. First we have to recognize that we hate other people!

But could it be that outing the hatred legitimizes it? It does not. The second part of the verse and the next verse broaden the reality and draws it more complicated.

Reprove your kin but incur no guilt on their account. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against members of your people. Love your fellow as yourself
Leviticus 19:17-18

Feeling hatred is normal. Letting hatred turn us into monsters is not. We should recognize our ability to hate, but we have to hold it still, in place.

Shabbat Shalom!

About the Author
Rabbi Binyamin Daniel Minich leads Kehilat Daniel in Jaffa and works at the Daniel Centers for Progressive Judaism in Tel Aviv. He is a PhD student at the department of Jewish philosophy of Bar Ilan University and a rabbinic fellow of Beit Midrash Har'el in Jerusalem. Rabbi Minich is a proud member of the Israeli Council of Progressive Rabbis (MARAM) and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He also serves at the board of MARAM, at Limmud FSU Israel's organizational committee and at the board of the Israeli Association of Crimean Jews. Benny is married to Dr. Elena Minich and together they raise three children - Hadar Yosef, Levi Moshe and Haleli Yerushalaim.
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