The Four Cardinal Sins of sinat chinam.
Rav Ofer Erez’s recently gave an awesome shiur (click HERE to watch it, with full English subtitles) about how our sinat chinam, or baseless hatred, is delaying the geula, I thought it would be good to take a proper look at the four cardinal sins he described.
I know what you’re going to tell me: Hey, there’s only THREE cardinal sins, idiot!
(See, we all have some work to do on our compassion, victory-seeking tendencies and judgmental attitudes…)
While it’s true that the ‘cardinal sins’ usually refer to immorality, bloodshed and idol-worship, Rav Ofer pointed out that sinat chinam, or baseless hatred is worse than all three – and it can usually be divided up into four main areas, namely:
- Jealousy / envy
- Judging other people harshly (how I’m translating hakpada – I’m happy to hear any other suggestions for a better way of translating that word.)
Every time we’re indulging in one of these four cardinal sins against a fellow Jew, we’re delaying the geula, plain and simple.
And as Rav Ofer explained, Chazal teach us that even just feeling these emotions internally, without actually expressing them externally in specific words and action STILL COUNTS AS SINAT CHINAM.
And sinat chinam is what destroyed the second temple and let us into our current, millennia-long exile.
And sinat chinam is what’s delaying the geula, and is delaying the rebuilding of our third temple and the ushering in of true global peace and acknowledgment of Hashem.
Right, so now we have that clear, let’s take a look at what sorts of very common things (that we all do, including me, a lot) count as sinat chinam, so we can start to get a real grip on the problem:
- Bearing grudges
- Indulging in long, pointless rants about how ‘evil’ particular sections of the Jewish community are
- Judging people harshly over one ‘negative’ comment, or ill-thought-out response they might have made (especially online…)
- Judging people harshly because they disagree with us (even about really important things)
- Hating people in our hearts, which means we secretly want bad things to happen to them (like getting wiped out by an asteroid belt, or a forest fire, or an enormous tsunami etc), or for them get to in trouble with the IRS, or gloating or feeling secretly satisfied when ‘the truth comes out’
- Publicly pointing out other people’s flaws
- Preaching at other people about what THEY are doing wrong, instead of focusing on what THEY are doing right
- Preaching at other people about what THEY are doing wrong, instead of focusing on what WE are doing wrong
- Making trouble between different Jews, or different groups of Jews – and this includes stirring trouble in our families, or trying to get a parent, or a sibling, or an aunty, or whoever, to take sides in our arguments
- Calling other Jews ‘Erev Rav’
- Trying to take someone down, or take someone out, because we’re jealous of them (and as Rav Ofer pointed out, this one is particularly tricky to deal with as we often have NO IDEA just how jealous and envious we are of other people.)
Again, this is just stuff that I do myself, all the time, (or at least, have done a lot of in the past…), so feel free to flesh the ‘sinat chinam’ list out in the comments.
To stick with the jealousy thing for a moment, the first or second time I went to Uman, I had an immensely powerful dream where I realized for the first time in my life just how driven by jealousy I actually was.
And this was back when I had a nice house, my OK life, and everything was still running smoothly, at least on the outside.
But it was only when I had that dream that I actually got how envious I was of people who had more kids, or more money, or more success, or a nicer, bigger house. That’s one big reason why it’s good to go to Uman, because somehow the Tzaddikim there introduce you to your real self, and show you just how far from perfect you really are.
(And the opposite is also true: when you go to Uman feeling at the lowest rung of humanity, you get picked up off the floor and new life is breathed into you.)
So, whenever you find yourself competing or comparing, or feeling like a winner, or (more usually….) feeling like a loser in life, if you take a closer look at what’s really going on underneath, I’m pretty sure you’ll spot a fat wodge of jealousy, peeking out.
So our work for today is this:
JUST ACKNOWLEDGE THE PROBLEM
If you want to do this in a really serious way, (because heh, you REALLY want the third temple to be rebuilt already…) try the following:
- Take a piece of paper, and write down the four cardinal sins across the top of the page.
- Next time you’re doing your daily hour of talking to God, think back over the last 24 hours, and see how many of your interactions, conversations or thought processes was connected to one of these four cardinal sins, in some way.
When you got ANGRY at the checkout girl, that’s clearly ANGER.
If you got irritated with someone because of something they wrote or commented about online, that’s certainly JUDGING HARSHLY (and depending on how many Moroccan genes you possess, it could also come under HATRED and ANGER, too).
If you find yourself feeling sorry for yourself because Mrs Whatshername up the street just bought a new car, or went for a nice holiday or has great-looking hair in their thumbnail or [fill in the blank – anything else people like to post pictures up about on Facebook] – then that’s clearly JEALOUSY – but again, could fit into the other categories too, depending on where you take it.
If you’re like most people, the idea of doing this could actually be making you feel pretty uncomfortable.
It’s human nature to run away from, and whitewash our flaws and negative attitudes. But here’s what Rav Ofer had to say about this:
“The closer a person comes to Hashem, the more of their own flaws they own up to.”
So, it’s actually a good thing to admit to being a hate-filled, jealous, frothing-at-the-mouth, highly-critical crazy person!
(Hi five me! I’m finally doing something right…)
I’m planning on returning to this subject shortly, God willing, to share some more practical tools, tips and ideas for how we can really get geula going now, and the third temple rebuilt.
But let’s sum up where we’ve got to so far:
Criticising other Jews, even if they ARE evil / nasty / cowardly / immoral etc is ONLY DELAYING GEULA. Ditto, hating other Jews, ditto, raging against other Jews, ditto, being jealous of other Jews.
(Yes I know, pretty much the only safe thing to blog about is recipes.)
The only thing that’s going to speed geula up at this point is WORKING ON OURSELVES, and especially the four cardinal sins of:
- Harsh judgment (of PEOPLE, not of CHARACTER TRAITS or BEHAVIOURS).
All this stuff is so very hard, isn’t it?
I’m also feeling a little overwhelmed by the scope of the spiritual task we have to accomplish to get Moshiach the sweet way.
But even though maybe we can’t complete the job, we’re not free to ignore it, and pretend it’s everyone else’s problem, either.
(But sometimes, that sure does sound tempting.)
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