April 15, 2006


When it's OK to hate (SHMULEY BOTEACH, Dec. 1, 2004, THE JERUSALEM POST)

How many times have we heard that the problem with the world today is that there isn't enough love? In fact, precisely the opposite is true.

Evil currently stalks the earth because there isn't enough hate. Time was when moral people felt positively repulsed by evil and harnessed their energies to defeat it.

Indeed, the history of the modern world is a history of genocide and the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents. Historian Paul Johnson estimates that at least 100 million civilians were murdered in the 20th century alone by tyrants. All too many of the murderers, like Pol Pot and Idi Amin, died comfortably in their sleep rather than on the gallows, where they belonged.

The world could not summon enough hatred of these men or their actions to stop their killing and bring them to justice.

Hatred is only evil when it is directed at the good and at the innocent. It is positively Godly when it is directed at cold-blooded killers, motivating us to fight and eradicate them before more decent people die. Because Churchill hated Hitler, he inspired a nation to oppose him. Those French who did not hate Hitler collaborated with him instead.

Loving victims alone might generate compassion for their suffering. But hating their persecutors might generate action to stop an orgy of murder.
To people who say they consciously fight the tendency to hate murderers like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – "lest we become like him" – I have this question: What is more beneficial for mankind – to use your energy to fight your hatred or to use it to fight evil?

This, of course, presents a false dichotomy--we can, indeed are commanded to, both fight evil and not lapse into the same kind of hatreds that drive evil. In the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn:
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

There was an interesting recent reminder that even great moral heroes have the capacity for terrible evil, A Scholar's Book Adds Layers of Complexity to the Schindler Legend: An authoritative new biography of Oskar Schindler clashes sharply with his idealized portrayal in Steven Spielberg's 1993 movie "Schindler's List." (DINITIA SMITH, 11/24/04, NY Times)
"Schindler had almost nothing to do with the list," said David M. Crowe, a Holocaust historian and professor at Elon University in North Carolina, whose book, "Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account of His Life, Wartime Activities and the True Story Behind the List," was published this fall by Westview Press. [...]

Mr. Crowe said the legend of "the list" arose partly from Schindler himself, to embellish his heroism. He was trying to win reparations for his wartime losses, and Yad Vashem, the Jewish Holocaust memorial organization in Jerusalem, was considering naming him a "righteous gentile," an honor given to someone who risked death to save Jews.

Those he saved further enhanced the legend because "they adored him," Mr. Crowe said, "and they protected him."

No one doubts that Schindler, an ethnic German born in what was then Austria-Hungary, was a moral hero, but the revelations add deeper texture to his story.

It has long been known that Schindler was a spy for German counterintelligence in the late 1930's, but he played down those activities. Yet Mr. Crowe said that Czech secret police archives refer to Schindler as "a spy of big caliber and an especially dangerous type." Mr. Crowe also said that Schindler compromised Czechoslovak security before the Nazi invasion and was imprisoned. Later, the Czechoslovak government tried to prosecute him for war crimes. Schindler was also the de facto head of a unit that planned the Nazi invasion of Poland.

Schindler, a big, charming man, was a drinker and womanizer, as depicted in the novel and film. But Mr. Crowe said that he also had two illegitimate children whom he ignored.

There were also rumors, briefly mentioned in the book and film, that after Schindler moved to Krakow in 1939 as a carpetbagger following the Nazi invasion, he stole Jewish property and ordered Jews beaten. Although the charges were unproven, Mr. Crowe discovered that Yad Vashem was so concerned that it delayed designating Schindler a righteous gentile. The film's epilogue says Schindler was named in 1958, 16 years before his death in 1974. But Mr. Crowe found that he was officially named in 1993, after Yad Vashem learned that Schindler's widow, Emilie, who also behaved heroically, was coming to Jerusalem to participate in the film. Both received the honor, he posthumously. [...]

"Steve is a very wonderful, tender man," Mr. Crowe said of Mr. Spielberg, "but 'Schindler's List' was theater and not in an historically accurate way. The film simplifies the story almost to the point of ridiculousness." Mr. Crowe also said that he admired Mr. Keneally's novel.

Mr. Keneally, who interviewed 50 survivors and used available archives for his novel, said it was understandable that Mr. Spielberg and the screenwriter Steven Zaillian would take dramatic license with some events. "I believe Steven behaved with integrity," he said. "And he does make Schindler ambiguous."

Mr. Spielberg is filming a movie and could not be reached for comment, but a spokesman, Marvin Levy, said in an e-mail message that "Schindler was such an enigmatic figure in life, it is not totally surprising that other information or alleged information could continue to surface in death." Michael Berenbaum, former president of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, established by Mr. Spielberg to record survivors' memories, made a distinction between the craft of the historian and the artist.

"It does neither an injustice to the novel, the film or to history to say that the story is more complex," he said.

Mr. Crowe "is not even altering the story," Elie Wiesel, the author and Holocaust survivor, said. "He's complicated it. He's made Schindler more human, and also more extraordinary."

Mr. Boteach's notion that evil exists because we don't hate it enough is especially dangerous. Evil exists because we are merely mortal and are incapable of summoning the will to overcome it: "I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. (Rom 7:18,19)" The great human drama is then the struggle against our own Fallen nature--it is the periodic victories in this struggle that make men at times "extraordinary."

-When hatred is necessary: Blessing the evildoer? (Jeff Jacoby, 11/22/04, Jewish World Review)

Of course, if hatred — even hatred of a Hitler or an Arafat — is a sin, then love — even love of such a monster — must be a moral duty. And that is indeed what many Christians believe. "I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," Jesus is quoted in Matthew, "so that you may be children of your Father in heaven." Catholics who pray the rosary implore G-d to "lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy" — especially, in other words, the most wicked. As another e-mailer assured me last week, "Any Christian would pray that the Lord would have mercy on someone's soul, even if he was a mass murderer. To do less would be contrary to Bush's faith."

I have great respect for that faith and a deep appreciation for the good that Christians and Christianity have accomplished in the world. But my faith, Judaism, teaches a fundamentally different lesson about evil and how to respond to it.

Jewish tradition holds, with Ecclesiastes, that there is a time to love and a time to hate. The Hebrew Bible enjoins us to love our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18) and to love the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19), but that love has its limits. We are not expected to love savage thugs or to ask G-d's mercy on them. On the contrary, we loathe the unrepentantly cruel because we believe G-d loathes them too.

It defies reason and upends morality to claim that G-d loves both Saddam Hussein and the innocent Kurds he gassed to death — that He bestows His love on Osama bin Laden no less than on the 3,000 souls he butchered on 9/11. Of course we should pray that an evildoer will realize the awfulness of his ways and atone for his crimes. But to love him even if he doesn't? To bless him when he dies? G-d forbid! To bless the Hitlers and the Arafats of this world is to betray their victims. That we must never do.

-The Virtue of Hate (Meir Y. Soloveichik, February 2003, First Things)
Some would seek to minimize this difference between our faiths. Eva Fleischner, a Catholic interfaith specialist and another Sunflower symposiast, argues that “Christians—and non–Christians in their wake—have misread, and continue to misread, [Christian texts] interpreting Jesus’ teaching to mean that we are to forgive anyone and everyone. . . . The element that is lost sight of is that Jesus challenges me to forgive evil done to me. . . . Nowhere does he tell us to forgive the wrong done to another.” Perhaps. But even so, a theological chasm remains between the Jewish and Christian viewpoints on the matter. As we can see from Samson’s rage, Judaism believes that while forgiveness is often a virtue, hate can be virtuous when one is dealing with the frightfully wicked. Rather than forgive, we can wish ill; rather than hope for repentance, we can instead hope that our enemies experience the wrath of God.

There is, in fact, no minimizing the difference between Judaism and Christianity on whether hate can be virtuous. Indeed, Christianity’s founder acknowledged his break with Jewish tradition on this matter from the very outset: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. . . . Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God, Jesus argues, loves the wicked, and so must we. In disagreeing, Judaism does not deny the importance of imitating God; Jews hate the wicked because they believe that God despises the wicked as well.

Among Orthodox Jews, there is an oft–used Hebrew phrase whose equivalent I have not found among Christians. The phrase is yemach shemo, which means, may his name be erased. It is used whenever a great enemy of the Jewish nation, of the past or present, is mentioned. For instance, one might very well say casually, in the course of conversation, “Thank God, my grandparents left Germany before Hitler, yemach shemo, came to power.” Or: “My parents were murdered by the Nazis, yemach shemam.” Can one imagine a Christian version of such a statement? Would anyone speak of the massacres wrought by “Pol Pot, may his name be erased”? Do any Christians speak in such a way? Has any seminary student ever attached a Latin equivalent of yemach shemo to the names “Pontius Pilate” or “Judas”? Surely not. Christians, I sense, would find the very notion repugnant, just as many Jews would gag upon reading the Catholic rosary: “O my Jesus . . . lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy.”

Why, then, this remarkable disagreement between faiths? Why do Jews and Christians respond so differently to wickedness? Why do Jews refuse at times to forgive? And if the Hebrew prophets and judges believed ardently in the “virtue of hate,” what about Christianity caused it to break with its Old Testament roots?

“More than a decade of weekly dialogue with Christians and intimate conversation with Christian friends,” writes Prager, “has convinced me that, aside from the divinity of Jesus, the greatest—and even more important—difference between Judaism and Christianity, or perhaps only between most Christians and Jews, is their different understanding of forgiveness and, ultimately, how to react to evil.” Here Prager takes one theological step too many and commits, in this single statement, two errors. The first is to deem the issue of forgiveness more important than that of Jesus’ identity. Such a statement, to my mind, sullies the memory of thousands of Jews who died rather than proclaim Jesus Lord. Yet Prager also misses the fact that these two issues, that of approaching Jesus and that of approaching our enemies, are essentially one and the same: that the very question of how to approach our enemies depends on whether one believes that Jesus was merely a misguided mortal, or the Son of God. Let us examine how each faith’s outlook on Jesus provides the theological underpinnings for its respective approach to hate.

The essence of a religion can be discovered by asking its adherents one question: What, to your mind, was the seminal moment in the history of the world? For Christians, the answer is easy: the passion of Jesus Christ, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God for the sins of the world. Or: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son” so that through his death the world would find salvation. Jews, on the other hand, see history’s focal moment as the Sinai revelation, the day the Decalogue was delivered. On this day, we believe, God formed an eternal covenant with the Jewish people and began to communicate to them His Torah, the Almighty’s moral and religious commandments. The most fascinating element of this event is that before forming this Covenant with the Hebrews, God first asked their permission to do so. England’s Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, describes the episode:

Before stating the terms of the covenant, God told Moses to speak to the people and determine whether or not they agreed to become a nation under the sovereignty of God. Only when “all the people responded together, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said’” did the revelation proceed. . . . The first–ever democratic mandate takes place, the idea that there can be no valid rule without the agreement of all those who are affected by it.

There is a wonderful bit of Jewish lore concerning the giving of God’s Torah, in which God is depicted as a merchant, proffering His Law to every nation on the planet. Each one considers God’s wares, and each then finds a flaw. One refuses to refrain from theft; another, from murder. Finally, God chances upon the Jewish people, who gravely agree to shoulder the responsibility of a moral life. The message of this midrash is that God’s covenant is one that anyone can join; God leaves it up to us.

Consider for a moment the extraordinary contrast. For Christians, God acted on humanity’s behalf, without its knowledge and without its consent. The crucifixion is a story of a loving God seeking humanity’s salvation, though it never requested it, though it scarcely deserved it. Jews, on the other hand, believe that God’s covenant was formed by the free consent of His people. The giving of the Torah is a story of God seeking to provide humanity with the opportunity to make moral decisions. To my knowledge, not a single Jewish source asserts that God deeply desires to save all humanity, nor that He loves every member of the human race. Rather, many a Jewish source maintains that God affords every human being the opportunity to choose his or her moral fate, and will then judge him or her, and choose whether to love him or her, on the basis of that decision. Christianity’s focus is on love and salvation; Judaism’s on decision and action.

-The God Who is There (Francis A. Schaeffer)
The Christian is the real radical of our generation, for he stands against the monolithic, modern concept of truth as relative. But too often, instead of being the radical, standing against the shifting sands of relativism, he subsides into merely maintaing the status quo. If it is true that evil is evil, that God hates it to the point of the cross, and that there is a moral law fixed in what God is in Himself, then Christians should be the first into the field against what is wrong.

[Originally posted: December 5, 2004]

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 15, 2006 11:59 PM

The Christian believes that he might find Hitler or Stalin in Heaven, and the real Christian hopes that he does. That does not mean that you do not restrain evildoers, and it does not mean that you do not punish them, if you are responsible for weilding the civil sword.

You may kill your country's enemies and you may kill society's enemies, but you must do it misericorditer, with a merciful heart, because it is necessary to spare the evildoer's victims, to maintain civil law for the benefit of all, and to spare the evildoer from further guilt.

There is a modern tendency to parade a murder victim's survivors before death juries. under the guise of "victim impact statements." This is a grave occasion of sin and it is a truly vicious practice. Personally, I would be required to forgive a murderer, for all that I would be ready to double-tap him with my .45 to stop him and could cast a jury-vote for his death on a jury if the facts and law required it.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 5, 2004 12:21 PM

" Personally, I would be required to forgive a murderer"

Personally, I believe the only person who can forgive a murderer is his victim.

Posted by: Oswald Booth Czolgosz at December 5, 2004 1:08 PM

"To my knowledge, not a single Jewish source asserts that God deeply desires to save all humanity"

I thought immediately of G-d's word to Abram: "...in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 12:3) Sounds to me like all humanity is in view.

Posted by: Henry IX at December 5, 2004 4:02 PM

It defies reason and upends morality to claim that G-d loves both Saddam Hussein and the innocent Kurds he gassed to death that He bestows His love on Osama bin Laden no less than on the 3,000 souls he butchered on 9/11. Of course we should pray that an evildoer will realize the awfulness of his ways and atone for his crimes. But to love him even if he doesn't? To bless him when he dies? G-d forbid! To bless the Hitlers and the Arafats of this world is to betray their victims. That we must never do.


Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 6, 2004 12:38 AM

It certainly defies human reason and may well upend our sense of morality to imagine that God would love Hussein, bin Laden, Hitler, Stalin, etc. equally w/their victims, but do we (finite, mortal, and changeable creatures) have the right to dictate to God whom he should or shouldn't love and under what circumstances he ought to extend or withdraw that love from people? No we don't.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 6, 2004 2:23 AM

With mere hate and "erasing from memory," there could have been no Marshall Plan, no rebuilding of Japan, no rebuilding of Afghanistan, no hope for Iraq.

Posted by: JimGooding at December 6, 2004 10:16 AM

I'm trying to think of an historical example of any body of Christians who put into practice the concept of hating the sin, loving the sinner.

Help me out here, Christians. Can't think of a one.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 6, 2004 1:22 PM

All of them--witches, gays, etc.. Christians rarely stone or burn even those who deserve it anymore.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 1:26 PM

You wouldn't know any of them. Why bother naming them, you'd only dismiss them as insignificant.

Posted by: TM at December 6, 2004 5:21 PM

With mere hate and "erasing from memory," there could have been no Marshall Plan, no rebuilding of Japan, no rebuilding of Afghanistan, no hope for Iraq.

We didn't have to erase the German or Japanese people from memory, just their leaders.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 7, 2004 12:44 AM


Like Hirohito?

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 12:54 AM

Hirohito was a pawn of the military.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 8, 2004 5:51 AM

Hirohito was much more and much worse than a mere "pawn of the military." A minor tragedy of WWII was that he escaped justice. The American leadership had judged that it was the right thing to do, and they were probably right. The evil insanity of Japanese culture made it necessary, for the alternative was literal genocide. The Chinese and Australians were disappointed, but is was our call.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 8, 2004 12:07 PM