bq. "In his classic Holocaust text, The Sunflower, Simon Wiesenthal recounts the following experience. As a concentration camp prisoner, the monotony of his work detail is suddenly broken when he is brought to the bedside of a dying Nazi. The German delineates the gruesome details of his career, describing how he participated in the murder and torture of hundreds of Jews. Exhibiting, or perhaps feigning, regret and remorse, he explains that he sought a Jew - any Jew - to whom to confess, and from whom to beseech forgiveness. Wiesenthal silently contemplates the wretched creature lying before him, and then, unable to comply but unable to condemn, walks out of the room." So begins Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik's "The Virtue of Hate", one of the most thought-provoking articles I've read in a long while. I've been wrestling with it for months now following Pejman's April 5 referral, waiting perhaps for the time to be right. That time has now come. Soloveichik offers a sharp and incisive article that recounts the differences between Jewish and Christian theological approaches to questions like the universailty of forgiveness, conduct toward enemies who have put themselves beyond the pale of humanity, and the question of whether hate is always wrong.
Explorations of different faiths' viewpoints can easily degenerate into caricuature, but Rabbi Soloveichik lets noted theological figures of different faiths speak for themselves on these subjects. The juxtapositions are fascinating. In Judaism, for instance, hatred can indeed be justified: bq. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.' God, Jesus argues, loves the wicked, and so must we. In disagreeing, Judaism does not deny the importance of imitating God; Jews hate the wicked because they believe that God despises the wicked as well.... 'Father, do not forgive them, for they know well what they do'." The questions he raises in this section of his article are worth the effort of every person to address. Especially in light of recent events and debates. How you see these questions will strongly affect your views on right and wrong, and how you judge others. That's something worth examining closely, especially here in the blogosphere. You may not even follow these religions, but they've been pondering these questions for thousands of years. It's worth your while to at least listen to their accumulated conclusions. Their answers aren't always simple, either. Rabbi Soloveichik, after affirming the justice of deserved hate, also has things this to say: bq. "The danger inherent in hatred is that it must be very limited, directed only at the most evil and unrepentant. According to the Talmud, the angels began singing a song of triumph upon the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt until God interrupted them: 'My creatures are drowning, and you wish to sing a song?' Yet the rabbis also state that God wreaked further vengeance upon Pharoah himself, ordering the sea to spit him out, so that he could return to Egypt alone, without his army. Apparently one must cross some terrible moral boundary in order to be a justified target of God�s hatred - and of ours. An Israeli mother is right to raise her child to hate Saddam Hussein, but she would fail as a parent if she taught him to despise every Arab. We who hate must be wary lest we, like Goldstein, become like those we are taught to despise." As I say, a complex and thought-provoking article. It may not resolve your own questions; then again, it might. Either way, you'll be a better person for considering the issues it raises. A better blogger, as well. UPDATE: My colleague Rev. Donald Sensing weighs in on this issue.