On the eve of Tisha BeAv it is appropriate to remember the Gemara explaining the circumstances leading to the destruction and the long exile. We learn in (Tractate) Yoma (9,2):
אֲבָל מִקְדָּשׁ שֵׁנִי שֶׁהָיוּ עוֹסְקִין בְּתוֹרָה וּבְמִצְוֹת וּגְמִילוּת חֲסָדִים, מִפְּנֵי מָה חָרַב? מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָיְתָה בּוֹ שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם. לְלַמֶּדְךָ שֶׁשְּׁקוּלָה שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם כְּנֶגֶד שָׁלֹשׁ עֲבֵירוֹת: עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה, גִּלּוּי עֲרָיוֹת, וּשְׁפִיכוּת דָּמִים.
“However, considering that the people during the Second Temple period were engaged in Torah study, observance of mitzvot, and acts of kindness, and that they did not perform the sinful acts that were performed in the First Temple, why was the Second Temple destroyed? It was destroyed due to the fact that there was wanton hatred during that period. This comes to teach you that the sin of wanton hatred is equivalent to the three severe transgressions: Idol worship, forbidden sexual relations and bloodshed.”
So – over the generations, many scholars & Zadikim were very busy during this time of the year, attempting to “repair” this “national character” failure.
But how? First let’s see how LeHavdil, another religion… has unsuccessfully tried to implement a philosophy which never worked: they advocated, in case of a person being “slapped on the right cheek, offer him the other side”…
It is hard to imagine anyone achieving peace by implementing the above method. Lehavdil, we learn something about our own way of promoting interhuman relationships, from the following story in Baba Metzia (83,1)
רבה בר בר חנן תברו ליה הנהו שקולאי חביתא דחמרא שקל לגלימייהו אתו אמרו לרב אמר ליה הב להו גלימייהו אמר ליה דינא הכי אמר ליה אין (משלי ב, כ) למען תלך בדרך טובים יהיב להו גלימייהו אמרו ליה עניי אנן וטרחינן כולה יומא וכפינן ולית לן מידי אמר ליה זיל הב אגרייהו א”ל דינא הכי אמר ליה אין (משלי ב, כ) וארחות צדיקים תשמור
“The Gemara relates an incident involving Rabba bar bar Ḥanan: Certain porters broke his barrel of wine after he had hired them to transport the barrels. He took their cloaks as payment for the lost wine. They came and told Rav. Rav said to Rabba bar bar Ḥanan: Give them their cloaks. Rabba bar bar Ḥanan said to him: Is this the halakha? Rav said to him: Yes, as it is written ‘That you may walk in the way of good men’ (Proverbs 2:20). Rabba bar bar Ḥanan gave them their cloaks. The porters said to Rav: We are poor people and we toiled all day and we are hungry and we have nothing. Rav said to Rabba bar bar Ḥanan: Go and give them their wages. Rabba bar bar Ḥanan said to him: Is this the halakha? Rav said to him: Yes, as it is written: “And keep the paths of the righteous” (Proverbs 2:20).”
Initially, it looks similar to the “turn your other cheek” approach. However the difference is obvious and huge.
The porters and Raba Bar Bar Hanna had no grudge or spite against each other. They had an unfortunate accident, which could have “developed” into a personal dispute. Rav decided that as the case stood, it was the right thing to do a double act of kindness; Not charge them for the broken barrel, and moreover, pay them for their hard work, thus enabling them to survive. This – would certainly promote exceptional good relationship and kindness (He must have known that Raba Bar Bar Hanna – the client, had the means to pay and beyond)
“Turning the other cheek” to our attacker is unlikely to achieve much peace & love, but here again, we might look for a safer method…
We read in Shemot (23,5)
כִּֽי־תִרְאֶ֞ה חֲמ֣וֹר שֹׂנַאֲךָ֗ רֹבֵץ֙ תַּ֣חַת מַשָּׂא֔וֹ וְחָדַלְתָּ֖ מֵעֲזֹ֣ב ל֑וֹ עָזֹ֥ב תַּעֲזֹ֖ב עִמּֽוֹ׃
“When you see the donkey of your enemy lying under its burden and would refrain from raising it, you must nevertheless help raise it.”
So, the idea is to find a situation at which our “enemy” is stranded and needs help. There and then – step in and assist. It may not affect an immediate huge change, but it will eventually defuse the hostility and slowly improve the tense relationship…
Best regards, Chodesh tov and tsom kal
Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld