Is Hatred of Evil a Jewish Value?


President, Hebrew College
May 17, 2013

Copley MemorialLast week I was in Cleveland when the news broke about the young women who were rescued from captivity. The city of Cleveland was in shock as the details emerged that these innocent victims were held against their will for 10 years and suffered horrible abuse at the hands of their captor. The more we discovered about the cruel violence perpetrated against the three women, the more disgusted the nation became with the evil that was evident in this tragic situation.

I could not help but connect the Cleveland case with the Boston Marathon bombings that occurred just a few weeks earlier. The violent and murderous actions that killed and wounded innocent people in Boston were horrendous; the shockwaves from the explosions, the shootings and the subsequent search still reverberate in our city and throughout the country.

These evil individuals in Boston and Cleveland, acting with total disregard for human life and dignity, have damaged so many lives that it is hard not to feel hatred toward those who are responsible. Both of these recent tragedies force us to confront the question of whether hatred of evil is a Jewish value. Psalm 97, which we recite as part of the Friday evening Shabbat service, reminds us that “those who love the Lord, hate evil…”

Judaism calls upon us to forgive, but there are times when the evil is so destructive that hatred is the divinely ordained response. If we cannot allow ourselves to feel hatred toward such wanton acts of unprovoked violence, our own divinely derived dignity is undermined. Hatred against evil of this type expresses a commitment to righteousness and justice that we must nurture and preserve. Of course, that justified hatred must not devolve into lawless vengeance lest we recapitulate the evil we have come to hate.

Boston and Cleveland will never be the same. Having been in both cities as these tragedies unfolded, I have felt the moral ground upon which we stand quake as a result of the earthshaking evil. In the aftermath, we must carefully construct our response as we balance the requirement to hate evil with the value of forgiveness, recognizing that both are divine attributes we should emulate.

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