And let a man keep himself pure of hating his neighbor, as it is written: Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart.” [Leviticus 19:17]. And our masters, blessed be their memory, said: The second sanctuary–there were the Torah and good works, yet why was it destroyed? Because of the groundless hatred that was among men. [Yoma 9 b]. And groundless hatred brings a man within reach of many transgressions of the Torah. Our masters, blessed be their memory, said: “‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself’–that is the essence of the Torah.” [Midrash Genesis Rabbah XXIV, quoting Leviticus 19:18]. For through the love of one’s neighbor and through peace, Israel translates the Torah into reality.
Jonah ben Abraham Gerondi
Spain, 13th Century
As quoted at 160, In Time and Eternity: a Jewish Reader, edited by Nahum N Glatzer (Shocken Books: New York 1946).
The news from Turkey yesterday has me reeling again. More innocent blood shed.
And yet I know that the great men of the Rabbinic Assembly, the “masters” of whom Jonah spoke, were correct — Hate is not the answer. Hate begets more hate and will only continue the cycle of meaningless violence.
Neither must our answer be apathy, indifference, or acceptance of the status quo — because resigning ourselves to live in a world that includes continuing acts of terror is the equivalent of deciding not to create the love and peace commanded by Torah and desired by G-d.
The only road that truly might move us “forward” is a compassionate road. Our answer must be, always and only, to speak and act from a place of Love.
From where I live, I cannot literally repair damage done in other states or countries, but I can commit to repairing the world around me on behalf of those whose lives were shattered. I can show respect and compassion to every person I meet today. I can donate blood to save a life. I can look a homeless person in the eye and hand him (or her) a sandwich. I can be supportive of others trying to spread messages of hope, peace, and love. I can, in other words, make a conscious choice to reach for the “highest” version of myself that I can imagine.
For only when enough of us commit to being the highest versions of ourselves, so that as a large community we share unconditional love with all others and are at peace with all humankind, will we decrease groundless hatred and truly translate Torah into reality.
with prayers for peace, jen