We are all familiar with the sad reality that we are yet in exile because we are still guilty of ‘baseless hatred’.
Where does an attitude of baseless hatred stem from?
The Maharsha points to the verse where Moshe admonish the nation for their having accused G-d, as it were, for hating them.
You slandered in your tents and said, “Because of G-d’s hatred for us did He take us out of the land of Egypt...(דברים א כז)
It was this sinful and baseless allegation of hatred from G-d that engendered their future challenge with the struggles of baseless hatred that would plague their relationships, that would somehow rectify this original sin.
What connection is there between their frustration with G-d and the difficulties they would face among themselves?
In the original episode of the spies as it appears in Shelach this sentiment doesn’t appear.
Rashi here quotes a Midrash. His taking us out was due to hatred [they claimed]. This may be compared to a mortal king who had two sons and two fields, one well irrigated, the other dependent upon rain only. To the son he loved, he gave the well irrigated field, and to the one he hated, he gave the one dependent upon rain only. The land of Egypt is a well irrigated country, for the Nile rises and irrigates it, while the land of Canaan is dependent upon rain only. He took us out of [the irrigated] Egypt to give us the arid land of Canaan.
Hatred?! There are plenty of peoples who would gladly exchange their arid lands for that wonderful parcel of land called Israel. Is this their whole claim of an ‘animosity’ that G-d harbored against them? Mistreatment perhaps, but hatred?
Rashi also quotes from the Sifrei. Because the Lord hates us: Really, however, He loves you, but you hate Him. A common parable says: What is in your own heart about your friend, [you imagine] is in his heart about you. (Sifrei)
Rashi would seem to be implying that they were merely projecting their own misguided hatred towards G-d upon Him, when in truth He loved them.
Is this then the best they could come up with in lodging their own personal negative feelings upon G-d?
Even more intriguing is the choice of an irrigated land - Egypt with its mighty water source the Nile they drew from in created networks of channels to bring the water to their fields, in contrast to a naturally watered entity - the Land of Israel that is nourished in its rain seasons, as an example of being treated unfairly. Much arduous work was necessary in irrigating the Egyptian terrain, whereas rain comes naturally and without any effort or exertion. Did they really get such a bum deal?
There are many early sources that assert, that this adage, ‘what is in your own heart about your friend, is in his heart about you’, indeed creates that reality. We seed hatred in our opponents' heart by harboring resentment within our own. They take this even further in teaching that G-d indeed will deal with us exactly the way we act towards Him. If we love Him, he will love us in return. If we exhibit hatred to Him, He too will act with disdain in return. (של"ה ,רבי צדוק, הגר"א)
Rav Wolbe in Alei Shur explains that the people themselves were not aware of their ‘hatred’ to G-d. In fact, they considered themselves as loving devotees to His will. Moshe sought to magnify the seeds of hatred and frustration they harbored towards G-d that they weren’t even aware of. That would explain its not appearing earlier and only now where Moshe seeks to apprise them of their flaw before he departs.
Perhaps in the Midrash’s parable lays the core of the issue.
In agricultural societies one who lives near a endless source of water will be reasonably confident that his needs will always be met. Even if he acknowledges the beneficence of a Creator, and his need for His kindness, nevertheless it doesn’t necessitate a constant relationship, since the body of water is ample. On the other hand, a land that must count on unpredictable weather in maintaining healthy seasonal rains, would have to maintain a constant dialogue with the Provider of that gift - G-d.
One can attest with faith to a ‘need’ for G-d, accepting happily that reality, but not necessarily ‘want’ G-d in his life.
One who is satisfied to pay allegiance to G-d in order to continue to receive his needs, is someone who doesn’t actually love G-d, but merely appreciates Him.
One, though, who understands the love G-d has for him, a G-d who prods from him greatness and ultimately closeness, will desire circumstances in life that will bring him face to face with that Father, who so loves him.
One who lives merely in the realm of ‘need’ will begrudgingly pay his dues, ultimately getting frustrated when the going gets tough. However, one who seeks a relationship ‘wanting’ G-d in his life, will never be thwarted in that quest.
Do we simply ‘need’ G-d or do we genuinely ‘want’ him?
G-d, too, ‘needs’ humanity. The ultimate ‘Good’ needs to give. That giving though must be earned by its recipient otherwise it becomes ‘bread of shame’, and not purposeful.
If we only ‘need’ G-d, He too will ‘need’ us and demand fealty in maintaining that relationship.
If we truly love G-d, then He too will convey that warmth, in all our interface with Him.
The generation of the spies understood their relationship with G-d as one of need. When it is based on need then one often incriminates oneself that perhaps they are unworthy. The Seforno adds that in fact they felt undeserving of G-d’s benevolence since they had served idols in Egypt as well. A connection based on need alone often transforms into one of frustration, eventually leading to recriminations of unfairness. They failed in wanting and seeking closeness with G-d. Were they to have realized that G-d’s love peers through every encounter and challenge in life, things would have turned out quite differently. It is in seeing and sensing those loving eyes that encourage us and empower us to accept whatever may come our way, knowing He is there for our benefit.
In the course of our interpersonal relationships with one another the same equation is true.
We can perceive each other as merely needing one another, an expedient to communal living, or we can want a relationship with one another, knowing that G-d is looking at us through the eyes of our fellow man begging for connection.
When employees, congregants, neighbors or friends see each other as only needing each other, inevitably resentment will stir. But if we sincerely strive to want and cherish each other, we will generate a reciprocal love, overlooking personal defects.
On Tisha B’av we aren’t simply bemoaning our personal plight and the lack of what we think we ‘need’. What we express on Tisha B’Av is that we are lovesick and ‘want’ to sense the relationship with G-d that we have lost.
We hope to restore not it only to be blessed and protected but more so that, יאר ד' פניו, G-d should illuminate His loving countenance upon us.
The word יאר, enlighten, in its mirror image is ראי, just that a ‘mirror’.
When we want G-d, then He pines for us, overlooking our shortcomings and challenges. When we merely ‘need’ Him, He too will ‘need’ us making his blessing conditional on how well we have performed.
May we finally discover how much we truly ‘want’ Him in our lives, for only then can we be guaranteed that He will bring us desperately unto His abode, במהרה, speedily in our time.
צבי יהודה טייכמאן