by Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay, Director of Alumni and Community Engagement at AVODAH, and alumna of the JOIN’s Seminary Leadership Project. This article was originally posted on AVODAH: Jewish Voices Pursuing Peace.
Is there such a thing as sinat hinam –baseless hatred?
Usually when we hate something or someone, we believe we are justified–we have cause. Somebody slighted us, or even worse overtly harmed us. We disagree with their politics. We think they are disingenuous. I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone who hated someone or something and could declare that it was a baseless hatred.
So how do we understand our communal narrative that the Temples were destroyed because of sinat hinam? Every year we spend three weeks prior to Tisha B’Av preparing for “the big day.” On Tisha B’Av Jewish tradition teaches that we mourn the destruction of the Temples and several other Jewish catastrophes, attributing them all to sinat hinam. We lament. We fast. We don’t wear leather. We do whatever we can to create a solemn atmosphere. How wonderful to be part of a community that annually pauses to mourn destruction and attribute it to our inability to get along.
And yet. And yet, as we march up to this day, the global Jewish community seems enmeshed in baseless hatred. The American political scene is also rife with hatred- whether its gun control, reproductive rights, school closings, health care, immigration or the sequester, we seem to be smoldering just under the surface, demonizing whomever holds beliefs different from our own, and creating a more divided country.
This year I invite you to imbue Tisha B’Av with different meaning. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Who or what do I hate, for which I believe I have reason, but perhaps the reason is questionable?
2. What is one thing I can do to address this hatred and stop it?
3. What do I want to be able to say about the way I addressed this hatred when I stand before God on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?