Like every characteristic which G-d placed in man, the characteristic called “love” also has boundaries and limits which is defined by the Torah. These boundaries cannot be crossed according to man’s personal liking. Therefore we find that in the mitzvah, “And you shall love your fellow man as yourself”, specific limits are set. As King Solomon says in Kohelet, there is a “time to love and a time to hate”. And behold, due to the widely held and mistaken approach which preaches boundless love without halachic limits or behavioral distinctions, there is a need to analyze and define the concepts of “love” and “hate”. Through this understanding, we will more easily comprehend the intention of the halachic commandments to love and tohate, the reasoning behind these commandments, and when to apply them.
The True Meaning of Love – Closeness
The meaning of “love” is closeness or cleaving. The foundation of the commandment to love all Jews is derived from the fact that all Jews are bound together as one nation, holy and virtuous. There is no significance to the existence of the individual Jew without his connection to the collective. The commandment to love Jews is intended to express this connection. This unique partnership where each Jew is a guarantor for one another determines that a good deed done by one Jew positively effects the entire nation, while a sin by one Jew hurts the collective.
The True Meaning of Hate – Distance
On the other hand, hate connotes distance and difference. With this in mind it is easy to understand why, as a rule, it is forbidden to hate a fellow Jew. The reason is that we are essentially connected and not distanced or cut off from one another. Having said that, the Torah sets forth that this connection only exists when he is “a brother in Torah and mitzvot”. That is, we love the Jew who shares our commitment to Torah and mitzvot. However, when he sins, he severs himself from the connection. And then, in specific instances determined by the halacha, the obligation arises to hate him and distance yourself from him. Not only because he distanced himself, but also because he hurt us with his evil deeds. Additionally, we distance ourselves from him for the practical purpose of not learning from his ways.
Let us sharpen the point. The Hebrew words for “hate” (Sone) and “difference” (Shoni) are derived from the same root. The commandment to hate is essentially a commandment to feel different from the sinners. In fact, upon further inspection, we will observe that distance and hate surface amongst those who are different from us (just as closeness and love develop amongst those who appear similar to us). So writes the Iben Ezra (Breishit,11:6): “Through the differences of beliefs, arises hatred and jealousy, and also with the change of languages. This is why the King of Persia commandedhis people to speak in the language of his nation (so that everyone wil lspeak the same language)” This said and done, pertaining to superficial differences that exist between Jews, the Jew is commanded to ignore these,and focus on the similarities in order to awaken the love and connection.However, when referring to one who has transgressed the Torah, thissignifies an internal difference, and in such a case the Torah commands that we do not ignore the difference, rather we awaken the hatred and differentiation.
Different Categories of “Hate”
At this point we must understand an additional fundamental matter. There exist different levels of “hatred”. For example, there is a great difference between the hate and distance one must feel towards a Jew that transgresses mitzvot, but still believes in the foundations of faith, and the disgust that one must feel towards a “heretic”. Concerning a Jew who”only” transgresses the mitzvot, the basic love which we must feel towardshim remains. In contrast, concerning a Jew who has removed himself from thenation, such as heretics and informers who cause damage to the Jewish People, the hatred is stronger, as manifested in the halacha, where it is set forth that “one must cast down, and not lift up” (Rambam, HilchotRotzeach, 4:10) Verily, even concerning them, the love has not been totally extinguished – for there is yet hope that they will repent. However inpractical application, this love finds very little expression. All the more so with those Jews who cause the masses to sin. Concerning them, there is no hope for them even to repent, and so the hate, distance and differentiationare even greater.
In other words, there is a ladder with many rungs. On one side is “love” and on the other side is “hate”. Someone who is not worthy of total love, is notnecessarily pushed down the bottom of the ladder, but rather a level exists appropriate for each situation. In our history, only a few individuals were totally removed from “Clal Yisrael”, left without hope.
Furthermore, on this ladder exists a special place for “tinokot shenisbu”(kidnapped children, that is, Jews who have been forcibly removed from their heritage). Here, there is an exception. Despite the fact that their connection to the Jewish People is not outwardly expressed, none the less,since they are not at fault for their situation, one should not mix hatred in his love for them. But this is the exception to the rule which we will expand upon at another time.
And so we have learned that feelings like “hate” and “love” are not blinde motions, but rather come to express halachic concepts of closeness and distance. They are behavioral characteristics which are first and foremost subjugated to the intellect.