I don’t want you to think I smile at everyone and have endless patience for even the biggest of fools. Far from it! But I do want to tell you why you will be happier when you love more and hate less.
The problem (a problem) with hate is that it requires judgement. To hate someone, you have to think you are better than them. In of itself, that might not seem unreasonable. Unless you are at the bottom of the moral ladder, I am sure there are many people over whom you possess moral superiority. Let’s use a simple sports analogy: You feel good being the best tennis player in your school; it makes you feel superior to think of everyone else as incompetent, and there is a pleasure (albeit immature) when your opponent misses an easy salvo and you can look down with disdain.
But how does it feel when you compete against people who are better than you? Even if you are the best, you can’t stay that way forever, and all that judgement comes back at you.
How you think about others will always come back to you. And what is worse, it will come back to you, by you! One day you will end up missing the easy salvo and you will remember your abusive thoughts. The opposite is also the case: The more you forgive others for their indiscretions, the more you can forgive yourself. It is simply not possible to have a balanced sense of your own weakness without viewing others the same way.
“Inclusion” is a big theme in the world these days. But where should people be included?
In the most important place of all. In our hearts.
My rabbi, Rav Noah Weinberg zt”l (of blessed memory), used to say: “If I grew up in the Gaza Strip, I too would be throwing stones at the Israelis.” Wow! It’s so easy to dismiss extremists, and so hard to understand them. Empathy is not feeling sorry for someone; it’s realizing I would be the same as them.
In this week’s parsha (Torah portion), the Torah says: “And I shall dwell amongst the Jewish people” (Exodus 29:45). The gap between G-d and me is greater than the gap between me and anyone I cannot abide. How does G-d abide me? Maybe, when I abide others.
Originally from London, Rabbi Stephen Baars resides in Rockville, Maryland, and serves as executive director of Aish Seminars. An educator and marriage counselor for the past 25 years, Rabbi Baars and his wife, Ruth, are blessed with seven children. Learn more about Rabbi Baars at www.getbliss.com and www.core9.live.