More and more displays of hatred seem to be proliferating in the world. Not only between warring nations is this evident, but even within sovereign nations where political factions vying for control spew angry words of hatred. The rising of ugly expressions of those who despise Israel and Jews is becoming more prevalent and more blatant. Unfortunately, even within our very own ranks, intolerance of one another has led to spiteful and very caustic public demonstrations of animosity.
We are taught that the very location we received the Torah, הר סיני — Mount Sinai, is thus named because of the similarity of the word סיני and the term שׂנאה — hate, since it was from this moment and on that 'hate descended upon the nations of the world'.
Why did this moment generate 'hatred' in the world? The emphasis on this unfortunate consequence would seem to promote this as a value. If it was just merely a sad consequence to the special selection of the Jewish nation from amongst the nations of the world, that fueled their resentment and hatred, why are we parading it by always referring to the glorious day we received the Torah on Mount Sinai — the mountain of hatred?
Truth be told, I believe there is no word in the Hebrew language for 'hate'.
A thorn bush is called a סנה because its thorns 'fend off' those who come near. The word שנאה intimates more a desire to keep far away as possible — from an individual or object — rather than 'hate'. (RSRH Bereishis 37 4)
King David summons אוהבי ד' שנאו רע — O lovers of G-d, despise evil! (תהלים צז י)
The great Rav A.Y. HaKohen Kook, contemplates the irony of how the most refined and purified souls are the ones entrusted to eradicate evil in this world. What greater paradigm of gentleness is there more than King David, yet he battled and defeated the enemies of G-d with brute force. It is precisely those who are lovers of G-d who are motivated in absolute purity of motive to eradicate those forces in the world who deny the sovereignty of G-d and His word in the world, not out of personal victory or sense of accomplishment. It is not driven by hatred, but rather by an intense love for G-d that instinctively rejects and distances as far away as possible from that which attempts to negate that bond.
The Midrash comments on the verse that tells of G-d's decision to have King David's son, King Solomon, build the Temple, rather than him, since David's hands had shed so much blood, that King David was taken aback. G-d explained that it wasn't that his hands were stained, for in G-d's eyes it was no different than the shedding of blood of a gazelle. It was rather testament to King David's purity of motive, in expressing an overwhelming love for G-d, not hatred per se for an enemy, that was so perfect in its mission that were King David to build the Temple, it could never have been destroyed. But G-d knew the nation would sin in the future, and He would have to take out His wrath on 'wood and stone' rather than destroying the people, and that reality compelled Him to have King Solomon build it so he could destroy it in the future for the people's sake.
The Torah we received at Mount Sinai, was the greatest expression of love exhibited by G-d in the history of mankind. We assert that each day twice, when before we pledge allegiance and express our reciprocal love by reciting the Shma, we extol the: אהבה רבה-אהבת עולם — 'abundant and eternal love' G-d displayed when He gave us the Torah.
When we experienced that emotion, we instinctively sensed a need to 'reject' the nations who represent a life void of true love, a life of material pursuits, indulgences, and expressions of independence from a higher truth. They too, reflexively fended off any notion of striving for a truth that would deny them their earthly pleasures.
This then is the deeper meaning of the mountain that instilled a sense — not of hate — but rejection and distance from all that is the antithesis to that love.
We represent in the eyes of the world an impossible love. They can only continue to exist calmly without pangs of their inner consciousness if they extinguish that pesky reality. But they will never succeed. For as long as there exists in the world the presence of the Jewish faithful whose unceasing love and appreciation for G-d and His word, it will remain a 'thorn' in their eyes.
The greater the intensity of their hatred the greater the evidence that we are still preserving embers of greatness that cause them distress.
During the early days of the Jewish state, secular Zionists sought to impose their notion of creating a mighty people who could attain nationhood through their sheer determination and strength, shirking the inspired ways of the 'meek' Jews from the shtetele, which they averred were no longer relevant. A battle for the soul of this new generation began, with many religionists valiantly fighting to keep the fires of Torah and its eternal values burning brightly.
Three of the greatest Roshei Yeshiva in America at that time dispatched their prize students to travel to Israel and attempt to overcome these dark forces of assimilation that was infiltrating a new generation of children.
Rav Aharon Kotler sent the young Elya Svei who would one day become an heir to his legacy of devotion to Torah. Rav Yitzchok Hutner dispatched his inspired and charismatic student, Shlomo Freifeld, who would become a legendary and innovative mechanech in the image of his great Rebbe. Rav Moshe Feinstein encouraged Nissan Alpert, a man who became a beacon of wisdom, warmth and diligence, the very personification of his teacher, to join this illustrious trio.
Evidently, they weren't very successful at that juncture in that mission, the resistance was great.
Rav Freifeld was frustrated and sought guidance from the greatest Gaon of that time, the Chazon Ish. He shared his feelings and added that what bothered him more than anything else was how it was possible that this generation of youths could be so far removed, apathetic and angry at tradition, yet hailed from parents and grandparents who adhered so lovingly to Torah and mitzvos.
The Chazon Ish responded that is precisely the point. The spirited devotion and prayers of those holy parents and their ancestors penetrated deeply into the souls and hearts of their alienated descendants, and that will never be erased. The pull of materialism seeks to bury those pangs of conscience deep in their hearts. But it will never be silenced, even in the face of their degenerate ways, and that is the inner tension that breeds their hatred.
We each have a burning love for G-d that cannot be extinguished. When we get frustrated, dejected, and disillusioned, we must remember that it is a tension that stems from a deep-seated desire to be close again.
We, the embers remaining from those fires of devotion, are the conscience of the universe. The greater our flames are stoked the more likely it will provoke an awakening within our people, with a contagion that will eventually inspire the world.
The very first use of the verb שׂנא — hate, is when Avimelech confronts Yitzchok after his having fled Gerar.
Yitzchok had achieved great material success there, discovering precious wellsprings and producing bountiful crops. The denizens envied him, contesting his rights to the water repeatedly, driving him further away, finally residing in Beer Sheva.
Avimelech travels with a contingent of friends and meets up with Yitzchok. Yitzchok says to him, "Why have you come to me? ואתם שנאתם — You hate me and drove me away from you!"
They respond, "We have indeed seen that G-d has been with you."
Perhaps within this exchange resides the profundity of this idea.
On the face of it Avimelech seems to be saying, rather selfishly, look we made a mistake, you seem to have the secret to success, and we might as well make a pact so that we may benefit from your 'Midas touch'. 'If you can't fight em, join em.'
Why would Yitzchok accede to this request enabling them in their narcissistic ways?
I would like to believe that Avimelech had an epiphany. He revealed to Yitzchok that he now fathomed the reason for their hatred. They were resisting the undeniable truth of a loving relationship with G-d that fueled Yitzchok's allegiance to His word. That compelling truth frightens those who fear commitment to a life of devotion.
It was only then that Yitzchok consented to make a pact in the hopes that this message of adherence to the benevolent word of G-d would elevate the world.
The Tur famously quotes his brother that each of the Holidays correspond to the Patriarchs. Pesach to Avraham, Shavuos to Yitzchok, and Sukkos to Yaakov. It was the left horn of the ram that was sacrificed in the place of Yitzchok, that was the קול שופר — that resounded at Mount Sinai.
Our actions reverberate more loudly than the Shofar.
It was Yitzchok, who is fondly described in the blessing we recite at every Bris Milah, as אשר קדש ידיד מבטן — Who sanctified the beloved one from the womb.
It was his awareness of G-d's love for him that empowered him to consistently forge forward never fearing death, either at the Akeidah, nor at the hands of his enemies. It was the pursuit of the loving relationship he merited with G-d that caused him to — not hate — but reject the evil ways of the deniers of G-d.
May we emulate the way of our patriarch, in relishing our relationship with Torah, which is the banner that declares before the world G-d's love for us, and may it awaken within all our people, the allegiance we all pledged at Mount Sinai.
May that ignite a brilliant light that will illuminate the world and herald the blowing of the right horn, the Shofar of Moshiach.
בברכת חג שמח,
צבי יהודה טייכמאן