SALT - Wednesday, 26 Nisan 5776, Omer 11 - May 4, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            The Torah in Parashat Kedoshim (19:17) commands, “Lo tisna et achikha bi-lvavekha” – “Do not despise your fellow in your heart.”

            Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev explained this command in light of the particular term “levavekha” used in this verse in reference to the heart.  The Mishna in Masekhet Berakhot (9:5) comments that when the Torah commands us to love the Almighty “be-khol levavekha” (“with all your heart” – Devarim 6:5), it means “with both your inclinations.”  We love God by following our positive inclinations and by subordinating our negative inclinations to His will.  Chazal inferred this concept from the term “levav,” a complex form of the word “lev” (“heart”), which connotes the complex nature of the human condition, our internal struggles and conflicting desires and interests.

            Rav Levi Yitzchak suggests applying the Mishna’s understanding of “levavekha” to the prohibition against hating one’s fellow “bi-lvavekha,” which the Torah introduces here in Parashat Kedoshim.  He explains that the Torah forbids despising one’s fellow “bi-shnei yetzarekha,” with both inclinations.  Of course, we must not hate people with our yetzer ha-ra, as a result of our natural negative tendencies such as arrogance, envy, pettiness and selfishness.  But in addition, we are to avoid hatred that originates from our yetzer ha-tov, from our inherently positive and admirable qualities.  We are oftentimes led to feel hostility towards people specifically because our moral and religious sensitivities are offended, because we observe them engaging in conduct which we rightfully find disdainful.  In a sense, this is the more dangerous form of hatred, as it can easily be misconstrued as a noble, altruistic feeling which we are required to act upon and express.  Even when we succumb to envy or pettiness and react angrily, we recognize deep down in our hearts, and generally acknowledge sometime later, that our response is inappropriate.  But anger and hatred borne out of our yetzer ha-tov, out of altruism and a genuine contempt for evil, can express itself without the normal constraints of conscience.  The Torah therefore warns us not to hate “bi-lvavekha,” even with our good inclination, out of genuine idealism.  Even when we see conduct that offends our ideals and principles, we must draw a clear distinction between the deed and the perpetrator, and ensure not to despise the latter even as we nobly detest the former.