Causeless hatred is something other people do–because it’s something that is obviously wrong. And we aren’t people who would do something obviously wrong. We’re thoughtful most of the time. We have people in our lives that we love. But causeless hatred–hating someone else for no reason? That’s something other people do, people who are bigots, idiots, war criminals, or terrorists.
This is a convenient emotional shorthand that we all adopt from time to time: we assume, in the big scheme of things, that we are the “good guys.” I’m sure most of us are “good guys.” And I’m equally sure that we are all guilty of instances of causeless hatred.
Causeless hatred, after all, looks different through different eyes. The religious yeshiva boy who threw the egg at a woman whom he saw as defiling the sacred space in front of the Western Wall in Israel, for example? He doesn’t see his hatred as causeless at all–he sees himself as a Defender of Judaism as he believes God wants it to be practiced. The woman rabbi who was hit by the egg, understandably, feels differently: she feels that her way of worshipping God should be shown respect, and if not respect, at least no projectiles. And maybe she can’t help but generalize and think bad thoughts about “those people” when she passes someone–anyone–wearing the uniform of a particular sect of ultra-religious Jews like the one being worn by the person who threw the egg at her.
Or how about the woman who writes as a comment on Facebook, “I’m not a parent, but I am really sick to death of people substituting their lifestyle politics (“I bought overpriced kale at whole paycheck and saved the universe!”) for actual striving for social justice. These people aren’t liberals–they are just affluent hipsters who find ways to exclude others through the creation of their own socio-cultural ingroup devoted to the merits of organic applesauce. If they spent a little less time at mommy and me yoga, and a little more time teaching their children good values that include accepting people who are different from them, I think the planet would have a lot more to show for itself.” Is this righteous indignation, or causeless hatred?
Or how about a man who feels that African American males may constitute potential menaces to his safety–even if the one he sees, wearing a hoodie, is only carrying a bag of Skittles and an iced tea?
The fact is, no one thinks their hatred is causeless. Everyone feels they have good reasons –logical, truthful reasons–to feel the way they do, and that if those reasons come out as anger or vindictiveness or fury, then it is well-deserved on the part of the object of that fury.
And yet, on Tisha B’Av, we are cautioned against not just hatred, but causeless hatred. It was causeless hatred–infighting among different groups of Jews–that was the true root of the Temple’s destruction, according to both the Talmud and contemporary historian Josephus.
Causeless hatred is particularly insidious because what seems causeless to others may seem to be rooted in logic or reason to us. Causeless hatred–generalizing about a group as a whole, fighting rather than undertaking the more difficult work of listening, learning and changing–is like a cancer that eats from within and destroys all it touches. Sadly, this cancer is all the more evident in people who should stand together.
Standing together, however, doesn’t and can’t mean uniformity or conformity. Causeless hatred can only be fought with causeless love: listening to one another when we speak, even when it is painful to do so, and not generalizing one experience to an entire group of people. It means not using prejudice as an intellectual laziness, a shortcut preventing us from the harder work of truly attempting to understand people different from ourselves. Causeless love is a hell of a lot of hard work.
It’s not only a lesson for the Jews, but one for the whole world: causeless hatred will only cause death, destruction, and collapse. The much harder work of causeless love–listening to others with compassion, extending ourselves beyond our own experience–is the only way to build anything that will truly last.