Transforming Hate into Love
Rabbi Daniela Szuster
This week’s parashah, parashat K’doshim, deals with many rules related to ethical and good relationships with our fellows.
This is one of the precepts: “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD.” (Vayikra 19:17-18).
It is interesting to note that these verses start with the prohibition against hating our fellows and end with the commandment of loving our fellows as ourselves. How can we transform our hate into love? Is it possible?
The Talmudic commentary Avot d’Rabbi Natan (on Mishnah Avot 4:1) states that the really mighty person turns his enemy into his friend.
How does one turn an enemy into a friend? What is the process of moving from regarding someone negatively to regarding that person positively? Can this be possible?
To answer these questions, we should review the previous verses I quoted.
“You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart.” First of all, you should ask yourself why you really hate someone in your heart. What motivates you to feel this? Has that person behaved badly toward you or is this feeling related just to your prejudices or thoughts?
“Reprove your kinsman.” Now that you are clear about your feelings and thoughts, it is time to express your negative feelings to the right person in order to put an end to your bad feelings. By properly communicating one’s feelings to the right person, at the appropriate time and in a constructive way, you can free yourself from hatred and the other person can become aware of his or her wrong actions and the pain they cause. Communication is the beginning of healing and love.
Many times, we keep negative feelings towards other people only in our hearts, which causes our feelings to grow and become an obstacle to reconciliation and repairing relationships.
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen.” Definitely, vengeance doesn’t solve the problem in the relationship; it just makes it worst. Besides this, if you suppress your feelings, your resentment will grow without finding room for love.
“Love your fellow as yourself.” How can we love our fellow as ourselves? Hillel, in the Talmud, Masechet Shabbat 31a, understands this verse in this way:
“… that which is hateful to you do not do to another.” It means that we should treat our fellow the same way we would like to be treated. We should perceive others as if they were ourselves. Acting in this way, we may understand the other person better, and increase our love instead of our hate.
Perceiving others the way we perceive ourselves can help us to forgive, to understand, to have compassion and heal our relationships, and above all, to love our fellows.
Without a doubt, it is not easy to transform our negative feelings towards our fellows into positives. As the verses of this week’s parasha teach us, the key is being aware of our feelings, expressing and communicating them instead of keeping them a secret for years, and trying to be open to love, to understanding, to healing and to forgiveness.