Love, Hate and Holiness – Rav Yonatan Horovitz
The second of this week’s two parshiot, Kedoshim, lists a plethora of mitzvot. Many of these commandments deal with the realm of our interpersonal behavior. These include the prohibition against placing a stumbling block in front of a blind person, the requirement to rebuke one’s fellow Jew should he be committing a sin and the need for workers to be paid in a timely fashion. Towards the end of this section of mitzvot we encounter the following verse:
“You shall not avenge nor bear a grudge toward the members of your people, you should love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord.” (Vayikra 19:18)
The Gemara in Yoma (23a, also quoted by Rashi on this verse) explains the nature of the prohibition against taking revenge and bearing a grudge.
“For it has been taught: What is revenge and what is bearing a grudge? If one said to his fellow: “Lend me your sickle,” and he replied “No,” and tomorrow the second comes [to the first] and says: “Lend me your ax,” and he replies: “I will not lend it to you, just as you would not lend me your sickle” – that is revenge.
And what is bearing a grudge? If one says to his fellow: “Lend me your ax,” he replies “No,” and on the morrow the second asks: “Lend me your garment,” and he answers: “Here it is. I am not like you who would not lend me [what I asked for]” – that is bearing a grudge.”
Several questions arise from this definition of these negative precepts. We will suffice with a discussion of two aspects of these mitzvot.
Our first question relates to the definition of bearing a grudge. Based on the gemara cited above, it would appear that the problem occurs when the person who was refused the loan yesterday states that he will lend his tool to his friend despite the fact that his friend had not been amiable towards him just a day before. However, should the grudge remain a matter of thought only and is not expressed outwardly, is that still a transgression of this mitzvah?
The answer to this question may hinge on how we understand the nature of the prohibition against bearing a grudge. Do we consider this to be a way of avoiding our fellow Jew being hurt? Are we concerned that saying that we are unlike him and are prepared to lend our belongings will cause him to be upset? If so, the prohibition may only be to state the grudge out loud. What we keep to ourselves should not have the same affect. However, if the concern of the Torah is the attitude of the person who bears the grudge, then it would make no difference as to whether the matter was expressed or not, the grudge remains.
Rambam (Hilchot Deot 7:8) writes:
So too, one who bears a grudge against a fellow Jew violates a prohibition, as it is stated: “Nor bear any grudge against the children of your people”… One who acts thus, transgresses the commandment, “You shall not bear any grudge.” One should eradicate the thing from his heart, and not bear a grudge. For as long as one nurses a grievance and keeps it in mind, one may come to take vengeance. Therefore, the Torah emphatically warned us not to bear a grudge, so that the impression of the wrong shall be obliterated and no longer remembered.
Our conclusion from the Rambam would be that the prohibition is to bear a grudge whether it is stated outwardly or not. However, the words of the Rambam also suggest that even bearing the grudge inwardly could lead to a sin on an interpersonal level and therefore it is proscribed.
This leads us to our second question. The Torah seems most concerned with one who refuses to lend his objects to his fellow Jew or lends them but holds a grudge to one who earlier had not allowed him to borrow what he requested. Why does this merit a prohibition in the Torah, yet the person who blatantly refused to lend his possessions in the first place for no apparent reason is not reprimanded in any way?
This question is posed by the Chizkuni is his commentary to this passuk and he offers the following answer:
“The first person did not lend his sickle because it was particularly dear to him and the Almighty does not require one to lend his instruments against his will. But the second who, if not for his hate of the first person and his will to take revenge, would have lent his object, his motives are hate. Therefore Hashem said, let the love between you be victorious over the hate between you and him, and through this peace will come to the world – love your neighbor like yourself – if you do this you will come to love him.”
Chizkuni explains that the concern of the Torah in this passuk is not who lends who what, but rather the motives that govern our interpersonal relations. The Torah promotes a world where love thrives between man and his friend and therefore frowns upon actions which stem from hate rather than love. We can also see that the Chizkuni would agree with the Rambam cited above. Even if the grudge is born inwardly, it still creates a sense of animosity between these two people and, as the Chizkuni points out, the verse concludes with the ultimate goal – love your neighbor as yourself.
However, we find a possible question on the words of the Chizkuni based on an issue which emerges from last week’s parsha, Metzora. Chazal tell us that one of the causes of “tzara’at habayit” (leprosy affecting the house) is “tzarat ayin”, stinginess. If a person refuses to share his possessions with those around him his home will be inflicted with tzara’at. The process for dealing with such a situation involves, amongst other things, the removal of all the contents of the house into the public domain. At that point, state Chazal, this homeowner who until now had retorted to requests to borrow articles with statements such as “I only have one of those or I don’t own such a utensil” now has his entire household paraded in public for all to see. This is the consequence of his being stingy and his lesson for how to share his possessions with his fellow Jews. These words of Chazal seem to imply that the Torah does require us to lend our belongings to our neighbors as opposed to the claim of Chizkuni as discussed earlier.
In order to reconcile the commentary of Chizkuni with the words of Chazal about “tzara’at habayit” we suggest that the answer can be found in the opening commandment of Parshat Kedoshim and a similar mitzvah found in Sefer Devarim.
“Kedoshim tiheyu, you shall be holy”, states the Torah. Much has been written about this mitzvah in an attempt to define its parameters and guidelines. A similarly vague command is found in Devarim (6:18)
“And you shall do what is right and good (hayashar vehatov) in the eyes of the Lord..”
Ramban, commenting on this verse, quotes a Midrash which says that this mitzvah refers to the need to go further than the strict letter of the law (lifnim mishurat hadin) and the requirement to reach a compromise when needed. Ramban elaborates on this Midrash by explaining that the Torah could not include all aspects of our interpersonal relations and every form of expected practice between man and his neighbor. Therefore the Torah includes all manners of expected behavior under the title “yashar vetov”, that which is straight and good. We could suggest that the same definition could apply to the mitzvah “Kedoshim tiheyu”. It is a general mitzvah which requires us to act as members of the Am Kadosh of Hashem, the holy nation of the Almighty.
Let us return to the words of Chazal and the Chizkuni about the requirement to lend out our possessions. As Chizkuni states, the Torah does not command us to lend our utensils to anyone on all occasions. We may have good reason not to lend something of ours to someone else. We may need that very object later on in the day: it may be of particular nostalgic value to us. However, if all other factors are equal it would be the right and good thing to do to lend our possessions to our neighbors. This is the notion to which Chazal refer in their comments about tzara’at habayit. And if we look for the source for this kind of behavior it may be in the two general mitzvot which should govern how we lead our lives:
ועשית הישר והטוב בעיני ה’ אלוקיך AND קדושים תהיו