Pinny Arnon

The Cause of Our Destruction, and How We Can Rebuild

Photo by Yoav Aziz on Unsplash

We are now approaching Tisha B’Av, the day of the Temple’s destruction. The Sages teach that the cause of the churban was “Sinas Chinam,” causeless hatred. As anger, violence, and fierce political discord erupt throughout Israel, the United States, France, and much of the modern world, it seems that Sinas Chinam is threatening to tear down our most precious and precarious structures once again.

What is this concept of “causeless” hatred? Are there not “valid” reasons for our resentments and grudges? In the political arena, aren’t our foes dangerous and malicious? Isn’t our rage justified and even necessary in order to protect the liberties that we believe in? In the personal realm, was I not wronged by this one, and didn’t that one cheat me or treat me first with disrespect?

The Sages teach that causeless hatred does not mean that we don’t have valid complaints about one another. We are all imperfect. Our attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs vary widely and often clash. Whether it is intentional or unintentional, we all are guilty of slighting or insulting each other now and again. What renders our antipathy “causeless” is that we forget that in spite of our differences, we are all one being!

The Mystics explain that each of us is purely and simply a vessel for One unique and unified reality. We are the same stuff, expressed through various forms. We are one collective soul, known as “Knesset Yisrael,” that has been temporarily divided into “pieces” and dressed in different clothes, so to speak. In our deepest essence, there is no distinction between us – we are One. Imagine how different our lives would be if we lived with this awareness; if we could transcend our limited perspective of me and you and understand that you are simply another manifestation of what has manifested in me as me.

This concept has been described as water that has been poured into various containers, or light that shines through different shades of glass. Though it is the same water or the same light, it appears and exhibits differently depending on that which contains or conveys it. If we can understand each other this way, then would it not be foolish to resent one another, or envy one another, or harm one another? We would only be hating or hurting ourself. It would be as if one accidentally smashes his finger while hammering a nail, and then grabs the hammer with the injured hand and smashes the hand which held the hammer first.

Think of the person that you like least in the world, someone with whom you have had an ongoing feud or that person on the opposite side of the aisle whose ideological beliefs are diametrically opposed to your own. Now put yourself in her/his shoes, literally. Imagine that it is you in that body, the very same you that is in your body, but with a completely different set of traits and experiences. How did you become you and s/he become her/him? Is it possible that the identical essence, placed in a vastly different context and environment, could produce such distinct and conflicting individuals? It is not only possible, it is precisely what has happened! If we trace us both back to our beginning, prior to our lifetime of encounters and challenges, we will find that it is the same “Nitzotz Elokus/Spark of God” within each of us.

When I see the me in you and the you in me, I cannot hate you. Regardless of our differences, I can accustom myself to see what unites us rather than all of the surface elements that distinguish and divide us. Sinas chinam, we come to understand, is a recognition of the surface alone and not its inner reality. It is “causeless” hatred because it perceives the effect but not its cause. The antidote to this destructive condition is therefore to see the Godly source and vitality within everything. This may not resolve all of our issues immediately, but it will provide us the basis through which we can speak to one another respectfully and compassionately, and to work together to find solutions that are acceptable to all.

When we come to the awareness that we are all limbs of a single being, our feelings of resentment, competition, and antagonism fade away. What remains is a remarkable sense of consonance and cooperation that will radiate from us and ignite all of those with whom we come in contact. With this type of “ahavas chinam/causeless love,” we can bring an end to all of the conflict that we are currently experiencing and that we have experienced throughout this long exile.

– Excerpted from PNEI HASHEM, an introduction to the deepest depths of the human experience based on the esoteric teachings of Scripture.

About the Author
Pinny Arnon is an award-winning writer in the secular world who was introduced to the wellsprings of Torah as a young adult. After decades of study and frequent interaction with some of the most renowned Rabbis of the generation, Arnon has been encouraged to focus his clear and incisive writing style on the explication of the inner depths of Torah.
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