Hate thy Neighbor? by Shimmy Auman


In Parashat Mishpatim, the Torah states, “Ki Tireh Chamor Sonaacha Roveitz Tachat Masa’o VeChadalta MeiAzov Lo Azov TaAzov Imo,” “If you see the donkey of your enemy struggling under its burden, will you desist from helping him?  You shall repeatedly help him” (Shemot 23:5).

Two of the fifty three Mitzvot commanded in Parashat Mishpatim concern assisting the owner of an animal in distress.  These Mitzvot are Te’inah, loading, and Perikah, unloading.  Te’inah means assisting the owner of an animal in loading the animal if its load has fallen off its back.  Perikah means helping the owner unload his animal if it is under a heavy load and is unable to get up.  If one has the option of fulfilling either one of these Mitzvot, he first should fulfill Perikah by helping unload the cargo of the suffering animal and then fulfill Te’inah by helping the owner of an animal whose load has fallen off its back reload the animal.  This is because before performing Perikah, the animal is suffering, while in regard to Te’inah, one can wait to reload the animal.

The Gemara (Bava Metzia 32b) queries: if both the animal of one’s friend and the animal of one’s enemy are suffering under loads, which animal should take priority?  The Gemara answers that one first should help his enemy reload his animal and only then assist his friend in reloading.  This is in order to subdue one’s Yeitzer HaRa; overcoming his enmity takes much more effort and will contribute to eliminating the hatred.  The Ritva comments that stopping a Jew’s impulse to hate his fellow is of such importance that it takes precedence over helping one’s friend.

Does the Gemara’s mention of an “enemy” mean that it is permissible for one to hate a fellow member of Bnei Yisrael?  The Gemara (Pesachim 113b) explains that if one is the sole witness to a serious Aveirah, then he is not allowed to testify in court against the one who committed the Aveirah, as one witness’s testimony is not actionable.  However, the Gemara then states that he still is allowed, and in fact obligated, to hate his fellow Jew for committing the Aveirah.  This is the only instance where one is permitted to hate another Jew.

If one is allowed to hate another Jew in this case, why would the needs of an enemy’s animal always take precedence over those of a friend’s animal?  After all, if this hatred is commendable, why do we do our best to dissipate it?

Although a Jew is permitted to hate another Jew if he witnesses him committing an Aveirah, the Pasuk states, “KaMayim HaPanim LaPanim Kein Leiv HaAdam LaAdam,” “Just as water reflects a face back to a face, so is one’s heart reflected back to him by another” (Mishlei 27:19).  This means that even though a witness’s hatred is praiseworthy, if he were to demonstratively show that hatred, it would be reciprocated, thereby causing the sinner to hate the witness, which is not permitted.  So to subdue the Yeitzer HaRa of hatred, in order to prevent it from leading to a forbidden form of hatred, one should help his enemy’s animal first, so that any harsh feelings that his enemy may harbor against him will be diminished. From here we learn that the need to sustain Shalom between fellow members of Bnei Yisrael is of such importance it takes precedence over sustaining already established friendships.

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