Parashat Mishpatim, in its long discussion of civil law, states, “Ki Tireh Chamor Sonaacha Roveitz Tachat Masao VeChadalta MeiAzov Lo Azov Taazov Imo,” “When you see the donkey of your enemy crouching from the weight of its burden, shall you not unload it? You shall surely unload it” (Shemot 23:5). This Pasuk, while at first glance teaching a simple, straightforward law, is difficult. If there already is an established principle of refraining from hating another Jew and not acting differently as a result of this hatred (see Vayikra 19:17), what could this Pasuk be adding?
The Sefer Maayanah Shel Torah quotes Tosafot (commenting on Masechet Pesachim 113b s.v. She’ra’ah) who explain that this Pasuk sheds light on a different facet of hatred. Although the Torah gives permission to hate a Rasha for his wickedness, one still must be very careful not to allow this authorization to manipulate his mind to such an extent that he or she harbors a personal hatred for this fellow Jew. The Mitzvah of unloading protects a person against this forbidden hate for a Rasha by setting a boundary against reprisal.
Assuming this thesis, the Admor of Ostrovtza elucidates several Pesukim in Tehillim. After discussing how horrible the who hate Hashem are, the author of Tehillim writes, “Tachlit Sinah Sineitim LeOyvim Hayu Li,” “I hated them to the utmost extent; they were enemies to me” (Tehillim 139:21). Instead of simply reading the Pasuk as showing how the author of this particular Perek of Tehillim hated Reshaim, the Admor of Ostrovtza explains that the author was really saying that while he abhors those who hate Hashem, he is confessing that his hatred for a Rasha unfortunately turned into personal hatred. Thus, the meaning of last three words of the Pasuk, “LeOyvim Hayu Li” becomes extremely clear; the Rasha became the author’s enemy, not Hashem’s enemy. While one must hate enemies of Hashem, he should be careful to not let this become personal hatred, which is all too often the unfortunate reality. Rather, he should hate the Rasha’s evil aspects while still maintaining a love for him as a fellow Jew. This idea cohesively segues into the next Pasuk in that Perek of Tehillim, in which the author asks Hashem to look within his mind and heart and remove any incorrect thoughts. These prayers were a way of asking Hashem to keep the author’s hatred of Reshaim in check.
Hashem sets high, virtuous standards, which we should all strive to achieve. Although we are expected to go against our inner feelings and hate Reshaim, we must be careful to not let this Mitzvah overtake the fundamental Bein Adam LaChaveiro principle of “VeAhavta LeReiacha Kamocha,” “Love your neighbor like yourself” (Vayikra 19:18). We must be very circumspect in all of our actions and determine whether they are motivated by sincere concern for Hashem or by personal reasons. The second Beit HaMikdash was destroyed because of baseless hatred between Jews (Yoma 9a); may we merit the building of the third Beit HaMikdash through prudence in the realm of controlling hatred.