For everything there is a season and a time for
every matter under heaven. A time to love and a time to hate; a time for
war and a time for peace (Eccl. 3).
One of the most frequent themes of my writings is how we - a generation
with a fifty percent divorce rate and a professional singles scene - have
forgotten how to love. Today I will surprise you by complaining about
how we have forgotten how to hate.
The proper response to the cowardly brutes who perpetrated the horrific
attacks against America is to hate them with every fiber of our being
and purge ourselves of any morsel of sympathy which might seek to understand
Forgetting how to hate can be just as damaging as forgetting how to love.
I realize that, immersed as we are in a Christian culture that exhorts
us to "turn the other cheek," this can sound quite absurd. Little
do we remember, it seems, the aphorism that those who are kind to the
cruel end up being cruel to the kind.
Indeed, exhortations to hate all manner of evil abound in the Bible and
God Himself hates every form of immorality because of its harm to mankind.
Thus the book of Proverbs declares, "The fear of the Lord is to hate
evil." Likewise, King David declares regarding the cruel: "I
have hated them with a deep loathing. They are as enemies to me."
Hatred is a valid emotion - an appropriate response - when directed at
the truly evil: those who have gone beyond the pale of human decency by
committing acts which unweave the basic fabric of civilized living. Contrary
to Christianity, which advocates turning the other cheek to belligerence
and loving the wicked, Judaism obligates us to despise and resist the wicked
at all costs.
About two years ago, I was on the BBC discussing the tragic bombing of
a gay pub that left three dead. I referred to the bomber as an abomination,
to which Pastor Tony Campalo, President Clinton's spiritual advisor, replied
that we had to love the bomber in the spirit of compassion and forgiveness.
Similarly, in my years in Britain I was used to hearing victims of IRA
terrorist attacks, after having lost fathers or brothers or sons, immediately
announce on air their forgiveness and love for the murderers, in the spirit
of Christian love. I disagree vehemently. The individual who, motivated
by irrational hatred, chooses to murder innocent victims is irretrievably
wicked. He or she has cast off the image of G-d that entitles them to
love and has forfeited their place in the human community.
Amid my deep and abiding respect for the Christian faith, I state unequivocally
that to love the terrorist who flies a civilian plane into a civilian
building or a white supremacist who drags a black man three miles while
tied to the back of a car is not just insane, it is deeply sinful. To
love evil is itself evil and constitutes a passive form of complicity.
Contrary to those religious figures who deny Solomon's proverb and preach
that religion is about unconditional love and forgiveness for all, I believe
there is a point of no return for the mass-murderers of this world. The
Talmud certainly teaches that the true object of proper hatred is the
sin, not the sinner, whose life must be respected and whose repentance
effected. The Talmud also teaches that it is forbidden to rejoice at the
downfall of even those sinners whom it is proper to hate: "Rejoice
not when thine enemy falleth." However, this attitude does not apply
to impenitent and hardened monsters who pay no heed to correction. For
us to extend forgiveness and compassion to them in the name of religion
is not just insidious, it is an act of mocking G-d, who has mercy for
all, yet demands justice for the innocent.
I have an a typical Christian artist friend who showed me a picture he
painted of Jesus embracing Hitler. I felt the picture to be obscene, "How
can you have Jesus holding Hitler?" I objected.
"That's the whole point. That's how far Jesus' love extends."
"But that's not love," I corrected him, "it's disgust. It's
like saying that Jesus loves cancerous cells. If you love Hitler, than
you are showing contempt for the good and decent people whom he turned
into ash and lampshades. The only response to Hitler is utter contempt
and violent hatred. The only way to react to incorrigible evil is to wage
an incessant war against it until it is utterly eradicated from the earth."
I maintain that any culture that does not hate Hitler and his ilk is a
non-compassionate society. Indeed, to show kindness to the murderer is
to violate the victim yet again. Thus, in the interest of justice, the
appropriate response to the evil person is to hate him with every fiber
of our being and to hope they find no rest, neither in this world nor
in the next.
The pacifist will respond that fighting hatred with hatred accomplishes
nothing, that, as in the old Bob Dylan song, "if we take an eye for
an eye we all just end up blind." This is poppycock because the purpose
of our hatred is not revenge, but preservation of justice. To this end
I wholeheartedly embrace the example of Simon Wiesenthal, one of the most
inspirational men of the twentieth century, who has devoted his life to
the pursuit of justice by not allowing Nazi murderers go to their graves
in peace. We do not hunt Nazis in order to take revenge. We Jews have
better things to do with our time than chase a bunch of pathetic, murderous
thugs. Besides, our Torah prevents us from taking retribution. Rather,
we track them down because G-d at Sinai entrusted us with the promotion
of justice, turning the jungle into a civilized society. We seek them
out on behalf of all humanity so that all of the world may know that for
genocide there is no apology. In the words of Aristotle, "All virtue
is summed up in dealing justly."
Justice is not a cultural construct. Neither is it a human invention imposed
upon the members of society in order that they treat each other with decency
and respect. Justice was not created for some utilitarian end. Rather,
justice is intrinsic to human nature. We do not teach our children to
refrain from stealing because they might get caught. Rather, we teach
them that theft is intrinsically wrong, even if they could get away with
In the Hebrew language there are three words for forgiveness: selicha,
mechila and kapparah. The essence of the forgiveness is that an individual
is so valuable that we allow them the opportunity to start afresh after
error. But since repentance is based on recognizing the infinite value
of human life, its premise cannot be simultaneously undermined by offering
it to those who have irretrievably debased human life. For a murderer
to cry in public and achieve instant absolution is an affront to everything
forgiveness stands for and that's why we should feel no guilt for our
feelings of revulsion and hatred toward these terrorists.
The bottom line is that there are some offenses for which there is no forgiveness,
some borders whose transgression society cannot tolerate under any circumstances,
and mass murder is foremost among them.
Only if we hate the truly evil passionately will we summon the determination
to fight them fervently. Odd and uncomfortable as it may seem, hatred
has its place. Although they referred to a different era in history, the
words of Martin Luther King, Jr., still ring true today: "We will
have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and
actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people."
Let us make sure, therefore, that we never make the mistake of forgiving
those whose sin is so inextricably woven with their rotten character that
the two can never be separate. Let us love the righteous and fight the
Rabbi Boteach, formerly the Chabad Rabbi at Oxford University, is a well-known
author and lecturer on Judaism. http://www.arutzsheva.org/