Naphtali Perlberger

Sinas Chinam in Chanukah 2021

The Second Bais HaMikdash was destroyed because of Sinas Chinam (“baseless hatred”). This aveirah was considered so severe that it appears to have been of sufficient cause to destroy the Temple after the First, which had been due to three cardinal sins (murder, adultery and idolatry). The first time around Israel was exiled for 70 years before being permitted to return to Yerushalayim to rebuild. The second time around it has been over 2000 years and, while Israel has been returned to its ancestral homeland, only the Western Wall (“Kotel”) of the Temple stands, with a mosque built on the Temple Mount.

While baseless hatred raises its ugly head in all corners of the world, it is the lack of unity and pernicious in-fighting among Jews themselves that delays the Third Temple, which will be, according to our Torah, the harbinger of the World-To-Come. The fact that antisemitism is on the rise again, for many obliterating the Holocaust from the minds and hearts of a world more than 75 years past the ashes created by the Final Solution, is evidence of our failure to replace Sinas Chinam with Ahavas Chinam (unconditional love). As we are all Jewish neshamos, all connected and a piece of Hashem, redemption seeks only the recognition and practice of love for our fellows. As both Hillel and Rabbi Akiva declared, v’achavta l’rayecha chmocha (“love your fellow as yourself’), this is the principal mitzvah of the Torah, and the rest is but commentary.

The holiday of Chanukah is celebrated worldwide, but most secular Jews see it as nothing more than lighting a menorah, spinning dreidels, eating latkes, and exchanging gifts. In America, many Jews express gratitude that they have something that takes the pain away of not having Xmas! What seems buried in their collective memories is that Chanukah was really a civil war, which arose when it was clear that too many Jews were embracing Hellenism with its attendant polytheism. Torah Jews fought to restore Torah observance, Jewish identity. While the Greeks did not physically destroy the Temple, as had the Babylonians and later the Romans, the Greek occupation and influence is known as the Exile of Darkness.

Jews outside of Israel, because of the success of mass media and propaganda, especially affecting the generations post-World War II, do not easily equate hatred of Israel with antisemitism, although a recent poll by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that on the question of what types of expressions are antisemitic, two-thirds or more of American Jews considered the following to be definitely or probably antisemitic: Saying that Israel should not exist as a Jewish state (75%); comparing Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis (70%); protesting Israeli actions outside an American synagogue (67%); calling Zionism “racist” (61%); and, calling for companies and organizations to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel (56%); or calling Israel an apartheid state (55%). The ADL’s survey was conducted because of an increase in violence, vandalism and other conduct that has plagued the United States (and every corner of the world) in the last decade. What is evident, however, is that Jews vs. Jews is as much a cancer as are hate crimes by non-Jews. This sinas chinam that still pervades our People dims the lights of Chanukah.

Jews need to understand, know and integrate the reality that anti-Zionism IS antisemitism. It is too naive – a fatal mistake by European Jewry less than a century ago – to believe that what happens in Israel does not affect American Jewry. Two despicable events occurred in the last few days, ironically at the commencement of Chanukah, that highlight the danger in believing that what happens “over there” does not matter.

My parents and I came to the United States in 1950, survivors of the extermination of most of our families. We believed that the Statute of Liberty we saw as our ship sailed into NY harbor was a beacon of freedom, equality and opportunity. We ultimately settled in Philadelphia, known as the “City of Brotherly Love”.  It was also at one time, as declared by the then Mayor Tate, a sister city to Tel Aviv.

On November 29th, Mayor Kenney and other governmental and civil dignitaries participated in and lauded an “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.”  The speeches, posts and articles that flowed from that horrendous event illustrated the Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitism, desecrating the name of the city and paying homage to the counterfeit group of terrorists, calling themselves Palestinians, who unwaveringly call for the annihilation of the State of Israel and its Jewish population. Although the Islamic nations have sought to destroy Israel and drive Jews into the sea in the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, the relentless attacks, both by military and propaganda means, have never stopped.

Yesterday, the United Nations passed a resolution by a vote of 129-11 (one of three votes directed against Israel on December 1st). In it, the UN General Assembly re-stated that the Temple Mount is “Haram al‑Sharif”, a Moslem name, refusing to even recognize it as the holiest site in Israel and for all Jews worldwide for over 3,000 years. Rarely condemning deliberate, targeted terrorism directed against civilian Israeli citizens, the United Nations   has added this injurious official act to countless such prior resolutions. The fact that the international body of nations, supposedly bastions of freedom and human rights, condemns Israel and validates terrorist groups, even giving ambassador status to the so-called Palestinians, reflects the dark chapter of the 21st Century in which we find ourselves, here and abroad.

Let us hope and pray that from this Chanukah on we will open our eyes, speak out and engage in peaceful activism at all levels, achieving finally at the very least the Ahavas Chinam needed to nullify the consequences of Sinas Chinam, and as its optimal goal the “Brotherly Love” that remains the central theme of Torah Judaism. Only then, may we achieve our mission of being a “Light Unto the Nations”.

About the Author
Naphtali Perlberger is a senior lecturer for AISH HaTorah and gives weekly shiurim at Chabad of Golden Beach and Aish Chaim of the Main Line. He is one of the founders and a past president of the Philadelphia Community Kollel. He is Founder & President of Philadelphia Chapter of Children of the Holocaust, and past FJA Chairman of Men's Organizations; past President of Kosloff Torah Academy; and, talk show host for a radio show, "G-d is Listening".