Baseless Hatred

Image: A white wall with two angry men’s faces painted in black and shades of gray. Artwork: “Hatred” by Ben Slow, photographed by MsSaraKelly, used under a Creative Commons license.

However, considering that the people during the Second Temple period were engaged in Torah study, observance of mitzvot, and acts of kindness, why was the Second Temple destroyed? It was destroyed due to the fact that there was baseless hatred during that period. This comes to teach you that the sin of baseless hatred is equivalent to the three transgressions: Idol worship, forbidden sexual relations and bloodshed. – Yoma 9b  

The ancient rabbis tell us that the Second Temple was destroyed because of sinat chinam, baseless hatred. (Yoma 9b) We practice sinat chinom when we hate another person or group of persons without having a good reason.

The trouble is that people who are filled with hatred are always sure they have a very good reason. In fact, they are sure that what they feel is not really hatred – it’s just a reasonable dislike.

Let me rephrase that: When we are filled with hatred, we are sure we have a very good reason. We are sure that what we feel isn’t hatred – just a reasonable dislike.

I have heard otherwise good people express something that sure sounded like hatred for the following groups of people:

  • Christians
  • Muslims
  • Palestinians
  • Israelis
  • Jews
  • Zionists
  • Trump voters
  • African-Americans
  • Refugees
  • Liberals
  • Conservatives
  • Journalists
  • Rednecks
  • Fat people
  • Immigrants
  • Californians
  • People who believe in climate change
  • People who don’t believe in climate change

… and the beat goes on. I imagine you’ve heard it too.

So the place to start in weeding out sinat chinam from my own heart might be:

For whom do I have a perfectly reasonable dislike?

And then I can ask myself: why do I extend that dislike to an entire group of people?

And maybe: Is there any group I don’t dislike but I don’t particularly care about either? What’s going on with that?

These are hard questions.

Av is a hard month.



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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 and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

6 thoughts on “Baseless Hatred”

  1. thank you for this post, sent me on an enlightening search about baseless hatred; we can turn 180degrees and strive for baseless love.

    1. Beautiful! It seems to me that when Torah commands, over and over, that we “love the stranger” it is pointing towards baseless live.

  2. Good, thoughtful post, Rabbi. Yet I wonder, if you’ll forgive the pilpul, does adding the qualifier ‘baseless’ to hatred soften it’s effect by implying that hatred, no matter how loud or violent, should be justified to heighten that effect?

    1. Aha! That is a very good question. Now I shall go back to the text in Aramaic and read more closely. Is “baseless” the most precise translation? And if so, your question. Excellent!

  3. There are some people I disagree with regardless of what group they use to identify themselves. Earlier in my life an astronaut said: “I don’t see any borders as I circle planet Earth..” That is the way I feel about people. What is the point to “I swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth” when there is hatred in ones heart?

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