Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • The Nation of Israel
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Refael ben Yosef

Loving Good, Fighting Evil

Jewish mysticism says that there is no complete evil in the world. Every evil contains a kernel of good. The early sages understood that nothing is wholly negative; however, in terms of revealed existence, we must do battle with evil.


Rabbi Dov Lior

Tevet 5676
1. Your Fellow as Yourself
2. Loving Good, Fighting Evil
3. Israel Today
4. Benefit of the Doubt

Your Fellow as Yourself
The concept of loving the nation of Israel ("Ahavat Yisrael") is without a doubt grounded in both Jewish faith and law. The Torah states, "Love your fellow as yourself," but the Torah does not command a person to love his fellow more than himself.

The legal definition of this command is, as Rabbi Akiva says in the negative: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow." The Talmud brings a case to demonstrate this law: If two people are walking in the desert and only one had water, the one with the water is not obligated to share his water with his fellow. Your life takes priority over your fellow's.

The "Yad Rama" says that the source of the prohibition against inflicting harm on one's fellow is the positive commandment to "love your fellow as yourself," i.e., what you would not like others to do to you, do not do to others. Yet the Torah does not command in the positive to help others in the same manner that one would help himself, for it is impossible to demand of somebody to love another person the way he loves himself. This goes against human nature. A person must only be careful not to do to others what he would not like others to do to him.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the command "Do not go around as a gossiper among your people" (Leviticus 19:16), the Chafetz Chaim says that it applies to one who is your companion in the Torah and its commandments. It does not, however, apply to a miscreant, for such a person does not perform the deeds of "your people." When the Torah demands a high ethical standard, it also permits certain things, such as publicizing information about a person who does not observe the Torah and its commandments so that the public will not be drawn after him.

Loving Good, Fighting Evil
The Talmud contains statements which evince fairly positive treatment of even the wicked: "Even the empty ones amongst you are full of virtuous deeds like a pomegranate" (Sanhedrin 37a, Megillah 6). The inhabitants of the land of Israel are described as righteous, for were this not so the land would vomit them out. On the other hand, it is written "I will hate those who hate You, God" (Psalms 139:21). How can these matters be resolved?

According to Jewish mysticism, there is no complete evil in the world. Every evil contains a kernel of good. The early sages understood that there is nothing which is wholly negative; however, in terms of revealed existence, we are obligated to do battle with evil. The Torah determines what is good and what is evil, and if a person sins we must express opposition. On a profoundly conceptual level we do not oppose the existence of evil as such, for it contains some good. However, it is inconceivable that this should influence our actual response to evil. An innate inner goodness need not hamper our opposition to the manifestation of evil.

A distinction must be drawn between the hatred of evil and the hatred of people. Rabbi Kook writes that when it comes to public counsel, we cannot make innate traits a consideration; this weakens our ability to oppose evil (Shemonah Kevatzim). It is difficult for a simple person to distinguish between good and evil. A person must be very great in order to make such distinctions. The general public must oppose evil, not cover it over.

These words of Rabbi Kook stem from an inner understanding that evil contains something good. There is an opinion that Esau kissed Jacob with his whole heart. Even Esau contains great things. Not everything is negative, but we must know how to define our enemies and do battle with them. Positive innate traits are good on a conceptual level, but they lack necessary practical application. And this does not contradict the good point that exists in all evil in the world. Amalek must be blotted out from "under the heavens." Above the heavens, however, there is good.

Both Rabbi Yehudah Gershoni (in his "Mishpat Hamelucha") and R' Chaim of Brisk explain that all of the nations that have tried to exterminate Israel have the status of Amalek. There is a course which our world follows on a revealed level, and at the same time there are points in the inner world which do not contradict this actual, revealed course of events.

Exaggerating these good points blurs opposition to evil. It is forbidden to let the course of the hidden world influence our revealed world. In the revealed world we must actively oppose evil. However, there are levels. We must strive to see the good in the Jewish people. They are subject to influences and they sometimes err.

Israel Today
At the time of the establishment of the state of Israel, a portion of the religious public cut itself off completely, but we claimed to share a common denominator with the general public - Aliya, the Land of Israel, settlement, the integrity of the nation of Israel and the land of Israel. To our great chagrin, a portion of the secular public has since then disengaged itself entirely from its Jewish heritage. It is not the same public today that existed seventy years ago, and this is what has lead to the disengagement from nationalism and the land of Israel.

Our beloved mentor, the late Rabbi A. I. Kook, writes that Judaism cannot be supported by grains of Jewish history and knowledge of the Hebrew language alone. An approach to Judaism which relies solely upon these elements will turn into a monster of hatred toward the Nation of Israel and the land of Israel.

There are people today who are very anxious to hand over parts of our land to the enemy, but God has made our adversaries obstinate. Were this not the case, these people would have handed over the land of Israel long ago. What common denominator do we have today with these people? What goal shall we pursue together? They even undermine national pride. After all, they seek to obscure our Jewish identity. True, the Jewish people as a whole is healthy - this can be seen by the high rate of enlistment in the recent war - but there is a group of people that has taken control over certain areas. With them there exists a dilemma in finding a common ground.

Benefit of the Doubt
And how am I supposed to treat an ordinary Jew who harms me? What if somebody harms me unintentionally?

First of all, I must attempt to reprimand him. Regarding this it is written, "Do not hate your fellow in your heart." If he refuses to listen, there is no obligation to love him. The sages say that the Torah only warns against hating somebody in one's heart, without reprimanding him. There is no prohibition, however, against hating somebody who refuses to accept reproach.

It is impossible to hate somebody who harms inadvertently. However, it goes without saying that one must oppose such behavior and attempt to prevent it. If possible, such a person must be given the benefit of the doubt. Yet, if despite the fact that he has been made aware of his transgression he refuses to change his ways, it is impossible to continue to defend his behavior.

The Apocrypha relates that the Maccabee priests, in their war with the Greeks, killed Hellenist Jews as well. Yet, how is this possible in light of the blessing that God bestowed upon the priests: "I hereby grant him my covenant of peace" (Numbers 25:12)?

If we go upon the assumption that what is written in the Apocrypha is true, there were Jews who became Hellenists and joined the Greeks in their battle against Israel. They were criminals, traitors, and the Torah says, "Purge the evil from your midst" (Deuteronomy 13:6). The Levites acted in accordance with this verse when they attacked those who worshiped the Golden Calf and those who tried to dishearten the people and return to Egypt.

At the time of the Maccabees, the Jewish people were in a state of war, and in a state of war there is no need for witnesses. These people were not merely were swept up in things. If the Hasmoneans, who were loyal to Torah law, targeted them, we can be sure that these Hellenists were acting against the Jewish people. True, inwardly, these Hellenists possessed an innate choseness, but because outwardly they waged war on Israel, they had to be purged.

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