Rabbi Israel Chait
Transcribed by students
This Parsha contains many laws with respect to inter-personal relationships. We would like to analyze one of these laws, which can help us understand the Torah's perspective of a man's relationship with his fellow man.
The Torah states in Exodus Chapter 23 Verse 5, "If you see the donkey of him that hates you lying under its burden, and you shall forbear to help him, you shall surely help him." The language of the verse is difficult, “ve,chadalta me,azov”, “you will cease from helping him”. Onkelos explains, the verse should be understood literally. Leave what is in your heart and help him. Onkelos’ interpretation affords us a penetrating insight of the Torah’s perspective of human relations. The Torah demands that one reject his emotional response. When one sees the donkey of his enemy overburdened, his initial response is to refrain from helping his enemy. However, the Torah instructs us to the contrary. Leave what is in your heart; do not allow your emotions to dictate your actions. Act in accordance with justice and help your fellow man. The Torah is not telling one to deny his emotions. One must recognize his emotions and overcome them. To simply deny and obliterate ones emotional reaction is not the Torah's response. We must recognize and be cognizant of our emotions but realize that it stems from the lower part of human behavior. Accordingly, one must modify his ethical behavior and respond in conformance with the principles of justice.
The greatest danger facing an individual in his struggle for ethical perfection is the external influences exerted by the outside world. The gentile response would be to deny ones emotions. Such denials pose dangerous pratfalls. These denials become construed as virtuous because you are denying an evil emotion, which seems morally repugnant. However, this denial is causing the individual great personal harm. The person by denying any evil proclivities that he may possess is ultimately capable of perpetuating the greatest atrocities. This denial facilitates the performance of terrible cruelty as merely an expression of his G-d like qualities. The crusades perpetrated unspeakable human suffering in the glory of ostensibly virtuous missions, in the name of G-d. The part of man, which is inherently evil and unjust, stems from the corrupt and instinctual component of human nature.
When Jacob wrestled the angel the Torah tells us that he faced a powerful opponent. The struggle lasted late into the night. Chazal inform us that the angel appeared b,demus talmid chacham, the image of a scholar. The evil inclination poses the gravest dangers when disguising itself in the form of the religious emotion. Man must possess great intellectual fortitude and conviction to do battle with such a cunning opponent. Our father Jacob possessed such inner strength.
The Torah is teaching us, by utilizing this halacha as an illustration, that the greatest danger is denying one’s emotions. On the contrary, leave behind your emotions and act with righteousness based upon the ideals of justice. When a person is involved in the painstaking task of doing teshuva he must maintain intellectual integrity in encountering his emotions. The greatest deterrent in doing teshuva is when a person fails to recognize the sin because he denies his emotions. The Torah is not simply concerned with the mundane task of helping the individual get back on the road. The Torah is teaching us the essential elements of ethical perfection. One must recognize the influences of his emotions and the powerful exertion it asserts on his conduct. However, the Torah is teaching us that he must leave these emotions behind and act with justice in the face of such overwhelming emotions. A person can feel very comfortable in denying the wicked part of his personality. However, such a denial causes the person irreparable harm. He will profess himself to be virtuous and thus incapable of perceiving any of his foibles. The Nazi's professed themselves as very respectable cultured people, well educated and patrons of the arts. They were incapable of appreciating the depth of their corruption.
The system of halacha is a beautiful G-d given system, which helps man achieve moral perfection. If a person finds it difficult to perform a Mitzvah it is indicative of a flaw in his personality. The halachic system is a barometer whereby a difficulty in compliance, is a symptom of a weakness in the individual's personality. When a person encounters a difficulty in doing a Mitzvah or following a halacha, it reflects an underlying problem in his human psyche. A person must do teshuva which requires intensive introspection, and if successful can ameliorate the human condition.
Hillel, one of our greatest scholars, stated that the precept of loving your friend as yourself is a qualitatively important Torah concept. Hillel was not merely espousing the human emotion of fraternity. Every individual shares the very powerful emotion that he considers himself to be special. He thereby identifies with people who share common likes and dislikes. His closest clique of friends consists of individuals who share the same emotional attitudes. He thereby imagines that his friends are special and often views his friends as an extension of himself. Hillel was teaching us to guard against such false notions. The standard that a person utilizes when evaluating other people based upon his own emotions is superficial. One's sole criteria for evaluating another person should simply be the person's observance of the Mitzvahs. If an individual observes the Torah, then you have an obligation to love him, irrespective of your own personal feelings. Psychologically you may dislike him and share nothing in common with him, however halachically you must love him. One must elevate his self to live life based upon a higher sense of reality. One must view his fellow man based upon the ultimate reality, not predicated upon his personal and petty likes and dislikes.
A person's sense of pride emanates from the opinion one has of his self. The self is that part of the human psyche, which has likes and dislikes and its essence is molded by said likes and dislikes. Thus people who have similar values he likes because such persons partake of his reality. King Solomon, in Ecclesiastics Chapter 9 Verse 6, states with respect to previous generations that perished: “their love, their hate, their jealousy have already expired…” A persons selfish view of reality is temporal. Halacha demands that a person should function on a higher cognitive level. An individual must be aware that his true essence is a metaphysical essence based upon a system of objective reality. One cannot act upon a system of personal likes and dislikes, whereby his views the self as a personal, psychological essence. The Torah is a system of metaphysical reality. If a person observes the precepts of the Torah, you have an obligation to love him despite one’s personal sentiments. If a person's best friend violates the Torah and is defined halachically as wicked, then you have an obligation to hate him. It is not a personal hatred but a hatred, which demands that one despise falsehood.
These observations Hillel emphasized are basic to Judaism. A person's inter-personal relationships must be based upon metaphysical reality. If a person cannot be affable to a fellow man, it is symptomatic of a deficiency in his relationship to G-d. It reflects that the person cannot live his life in accordance with metaphysical reality. This idea is expressed in the prohibitions of revenge and of bearing a grudge. It is forbidden for a person not to lend his neighbor an object because his neighbor acted in a similar fashion. It is likewise forbidden to lend you neighbor an object and state: "I am lending you this object despite the fact that you refused me." Halacha demands that a person live a harmonious existence based upon metaphysical reality. Society cannot live harmoniously if people conduct themselves based upon a psychological reality. True kindness can only be achieved if one is capable of purging his subjective sense of reality, which is based upon identification emanating from his own psychological make up. The sole basis for an individual's conduct with his fellow man should be a metaphysical reality whereby identification stems from ones Torah observance and a sharing of common intellectual convictions. Identification is such a powerful emotion that if one’s criteria is a psychological reality, then invariable disharmony will ensue.
“Talmidei chachamim marbim shalom baolam”; “Scholars increase harmony in the world” because they function on the level of a metaphysical reality. Thus, one’s personal sentiments are irrelevant and insignificant.
A person that rejects the authenticity of the Torah or the oral tradition, one is obliged to hate him. This hatred is not a personal hatred but is based upon ones love of truth and his disdain for evil. However, that person’s children who are ignorant and are not educated in the principles of the Torah are considered pure and akin to those raised ignorantly. One must treat these people with kindness and vigorously attempt to teach them the true ideas. They are not culpable because of their upbringing and must be treated under the principles of loving your neighbor like yourself. The greatest kindness one can manifest to such individuals would be to teach them the true ideas of the Torah.