What is Sinat Chinam?

Sinat chinam (see-NAHT hee-NAHM) is  usually translated “baseless hatred.” It has also been translated as “useless hatred.” We practice sinat chinom when we hate another person or group of persons without having a good reason.

The sages teach us that the Second Temple was destroyed on account of sinat chinam. Jews quarreled fiercely and allowed those quarrels to escalate to mistreatment of one another. They forgot to look for the image of God in one another.

Hatred can be subtle. We hate when we can no longer see the other person as having the spark of the Divine within them, as human as ourselves. We tend to say, “I don’t hate anyone” because we know it is an ugly thing, but the proof of hate is not in our perceived emotions but in our behavior. Do we speak ill of a group of people we do not actually know? Do we deny others basic courtesy or rights? Do we ignore them, failing to give them the courtesy of our attention? Do we fail to speak up when others mistreat them?

Racism is a form of sinat chinam. Antisemitism is another. Political and religious disagreement can escalate into sinat chinam if we allow it.

Let us search our hearts for sinat chinam, and cleanse ourselves of it with acts of love and compassion for those from whom we differ. Then perhaps we can begin to build a better world, healed and whole.

(Image: “Hatred” by Ben Slow, photographed by MsSaraKelly, used under a Creative Commons license.)

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at http://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

9 thoughts on “What is Sinat Chinam?”

  1. I sometimes think history teaches us nothing! How many holocausts does humanity have to experience before humanity realizes “hatred” achieves nothing! (By holocausts I am not exclusively referring to the one perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews in WWII. There have been many world wide since the beginning of man and time.) A child learns to walk by falling, not to touch something hot, but getting burned, etc. But some adults seem to learn nothing from hatred and in fact, seem to teach and learn hate generation after generation while others learn to love and admire peaceful acceptance of others. I am always amazed at the capacity of the human spirit, both loving and hateful. For me sinat chinom is a constant act throughout the year. Peace and harmony is my daily mitzvah. Amen.

  2. I figure that Rabbi Adar re-posts her pieces at times when they are especially fitting.

    If so, after Dir. Mueller’s testimony today, this article on “baseless hatred” offers lots for reflection.

    Thanks, Rabbi.

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