Well, it's the "Nine Days" again, and again I am freaking confused about what I am supposed to be thinking and doing. I know that I am supposed to be feeling bad about the destructions of the First and Second Temples, as well as any number of other tragedies throughout Jewish history dated to 9 Av. Even though I am a total dorkmonger who actually finds some kinot (mournful hymns, recited on Tisha b'Av and other solemn occasions) meaningful, I find this really difficult. I do believe that the destructions of the Temples (the first, because it ended direct Divine revelation; the second, because it ended for good Judaism as it was originally practiced) were the greatest tragedies in Jewish history. But it's hard to hold onto that and make it meaningful in the twenty-first century. Even on Tisha b'Av itself, I have an easier time making myself feel depressed by reading first-person Holocaust accounts.
The community (read: Orthodox community, mainly) approach to the Nine Days is no help, really. It's all about things you are not supposed to do (eat meat, drink wine, bathe [don't worry, lukewarm showers are generally allowed, and I certainly take them], listen to live [some also add recorded] music, go to weddings, etc.). This is based on the principle "Mishenichnas Av, me'ma'atim b'simchah" (When Av begins, we diminish our joy), a deliberate parallel in the Gemara to "When Adar enters, we increase our joy." But, as often happens with me (I am SO Orthoprax, in addition to Conservadox and googleplex), I get caught up in the doing/not doing and the feeling guilty that I am not doing/refraining from doing enough. So I feel like crap a lot, but not for the right reasons.
What really pisses me off, though, is the traditional way of talking about "sinat chinam." According to the Gemara in somewhere, the Temple was destroyed because of "sinat chinam," which is usually translated as "baseless hatred." That we should all refrain from "baseless hatred" so that the third Temple can be rebuilt, or so that we can live in a redeemed world, or whatever, is held out as a goal for the Jewish people. Fights between and within different Jewish denominations are often given as examples of sinat chinam.
But what does that mean, exactly?
Don't the different denominations hate each other pretty much past the point of no return?
As someone who travels across the denominations, I have been surprised at the level of rancor between the Orthodox and the non-Orthodox. It comes from both sides. And blogging has introduced me to the Modern Orthodox--Chareidi smackdown (see especially the comment thread). Very admirable, guys.
Is it sinat chinam to hate the rabbis (including at least one rosh yeshivah) who got arrested today for money laundering (and, in one case, selling kidneys)?
Is it sinat chinam to hate the Israeli Chareidim who set their own neighborhoods on fire last week because the police arrested a Chareidi woman for starving her son? And what is the order of remove? Can I hate the bloggers who explain that the Israeli secular police are to blame; the Chareidim only riot because oppressive state policies make them feel "backed into a corner"?
Is it sinat chinam to hate American Jewish "leaders" (Chareidi, most often, but not only them) who are apologists for abusers of children and spouses?
Refraining from sinah (hate) doesn't seem to be an option in our messed-up Jewish world today. There seems to be so much on which to base the hatred.
Baseless hatred is one thing, but what about hatred with a basis? What to do about that during the nine days?
For reactions to the kind of pathetic/criminal/chillul Hashem behavior that our brethren have been engaging in recently, I turn, instead, to a verse in the Torah: Leviticus 19:17. In the King James Version, the first part of the verse says, "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart." In interpreting that part, Chazal (our Sages) look to the second half of the verse: "thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. " Chazal say that if one man sees another sinning, it does neither of them any good if the first man keeps silent. Silence leads to the continuation of the sin by the second person, and results in sin for the first one, who did not intervene. Instead, the first man should admonish his neighbor (in private, so as to avoid public embarrassment) and urge him not to continue to sin.
So, my fellow Jews, if we want to make the world a better place, a place worthy of being redeemed, then, during these nine days until Tisha b'Av, I propose that, rather than feel ashamed of our hatred, we should use it constructively. We should make it clear to the Jewish community and to the rest of the world that sinning--not only sins bein Adam la'Makom (between man and God), but also those bein Adam l'chaveiro (between people) is unacceptable. It does not represent the Jewish ideal, no matter what the dress or reputation of the sinner. We should rebuke not out of joy or a feeling of superiority. Our concern should be our survival as a "light unto the nations."