Sin’at Chinam, Selfish Hatred, - a Lesson for Jews first
According to tradition, the
First and Second Temples in Jerusalem were both destroyed on the Ninth day of
the Hebrew month of Av. The closer we get to this day of mourning the more we
hear about the need to eradicateSin’at Chinamand promote its antidote Ahavat
Chinam, Selfless Love. We hear of the need to love humanity, for we are all
G-d’s creatures. We witness calls for pluralism, the erosion of hatred and the
need to uphold and encourage harmonious relationships with each other
regardless of race, color or creed.
Before we go on with this
noble message of Kumbaya, let us clarify a few conceptions and remove
Firstly, the term, the
notion ofSinaat Chinamis associated with Jews and Am Yisrael
only. It is our legacy and its lesson is directed primarily at our process of
evolution as a nation.
It all started with a
mistake, a mistake that took place two thousand years ago. There was a wealthy
Jerusalemite who decided to host a party. He had a close friend by the name of
Kamtza and an enemy by the name of Bar - Kamtza. As it was an important event,
invitations were hand delivered by a messenger. Due to the similarities of the
names of foe and friend, the confused messenger erroneously delivered the
invitation to the wrong person.
Bar - Kamza must have
regarded the invitation as a goodwill gesture by the host and was happy to
receive it. He decided to respond in kind, put their past differences behind
and showed up at the party.
When the host realized who
his guest was, he became incensed. He ordered Bar - Kamza to leave the party.
The latter pleaded with him and ever offered to cover the costs of the party.
The host, however, clung to his hatred and refused. Some of those in attendance
were the sages of the generation. None of them came to Bar- Kamza’s defense
and, through their silence, even seemed to have sided with the host.
Consumed by pain, Bar -
Kamza went to the Romans and told them that the Jews were planning a rebellion
against them. In an effort to crush such an effort, the Romans destroyed
the Temple and banished the Jews from Eretz Yisrael.
To claim, as some do, that, he message of this sordid affair is a universal
one, is one misconception. Unfortunately, it was a lesson aimed only at the
Jewish people. It highlighted the lack of humanity of some Jews from their most
learned scholars to their common ones, towards their fellow Jews first and
foremost. Moreover, the only ones that paid dearly for that appalling experience
were the Jewish people with two thousand years of exile laced with affliction
As in other periods in the
history of Am Yisrael and the Jewish people, G-d put stumbling blocks on His
people’s path. It was part of their ongoing refinement process which is aimed
at abiding their special role in history, that of being a “Light to the
It is initially only for
us, Jews and members of Am Yisrael, to master the lesson of Kamza and Bar –
Kamza, for that lesson was designed for and is directed only at us. It is our
duty to show that we care enough about our fellow Jews first and make a
positive difference in the lives of our own people. We must show sensitivity to
their needs and treat them with dignity.
It is only after we have
reached that level of holiness and purification that we can take that lesson
outside and share it with the rest of the world.