Sinas Chinum

The sin of sinas chinum, (translated as “baseless hatred,” “needless hatred,” and “unwarranted hatred”) was given by our sages as the root cause for the destruction of the second temple.  It is frequently invoked as an admonishment for how we treat our fellow Jew.
But common attempts to explain this term as strictly referring to Jewish divisiveness and lashon hora (evil speech) specifically during the second commonwealth do not add up historically.
During the first commonwealth, there was idol worship and murder, a split in the kingdom, and a civil war.  Do we really believe there was less divisiveness and evil speech than in the second commonwealth? 
Even during Moshe’s reign, there were detractors and even a full scale attempt at rebellion.   
What was unique during the second commonwealth was not signature Jewish divisiveness, but rather, striking Jewish unity and unchecked power during the peak of the fundamentalist Hasmonean regime. And it was their sinas chinum, and the sinas chinum of zealous Jews in subsequent generations, that led to a continued deteriorating situation with Rome, and the subsequent destruction of the second commonwealth, in varying and increasingly severe stages.
The Hasmoneans sure did hate the Greeks.  And there were certainly good reasons to hold a grudge.  But the Greeks were defeated, even if only to the point the Americans were defeated in our conflict with Cuba.  Even today, the U.S. military base remains.  But unlike Castro, who continues to accept Guantanamo Bay as a reality he must swallow, the Hasmoneans were blinded by their hatred, and invited Rome in to drive out the Greeks, even though the Greeks were no longer the threat they once were, nor did they have the designs for us they once did. 
And Roman intervention was (surprise, surprise) not for free.  The Greek base was merely replaced with a Roman one.  And we were now on the expansive Roman map. 
Even the pro-Roman King Herod can be traced to Hasmonean sinas chinum, as he was a paternal descendent of Hasmonean conversions by sword.   So too, after eventually being conquered by the Romans, many Jews continued to resist out of bitter rage, consistently rejecting realpolitik.  It had all the success of pulling on a slip knot.  The destruction only increased in severity with each ill-fated rebellion. 
As we look with anger towards Lebanon, Syria, and Iran, it is important that we do not emotionally focus on the wrongs that are being done to us, or even the wrongs that are intended for us. 
It is simply not a luxury that a small civilization with one tiny country can afford.  We always have to think rationally, and not set policy out of anger. 
It is not enough to condemn sinas chinum towards each other.  We must not have sinas chinum towards others.  Even towards our enemies.

15 thoughts on “Sinas Chinum

  1. I don’t baselessly hate them. I just hate them. Drop bombs on them now. Let’s get rid of them now.

  2. To the comment above: um, yeah. Do you actually agree with DK, or is it ironic that you’re making his point for him? I really hope it’s the former…

  3. respectfully, mr kelsey, you should read your history better, i recomment Imperialism and Jewish Civilization, by seth schwartz
    the hasmoneans never defeated the Greeks. to suggest a nation as beleaguerd and small as judaea could do such a thing is prepsterous. nor were they “fundamentalist,” a presentistic term, they were like any other vassal kingdom on the outskirts of the seleucid empire: grabbing up as much land and power as they could without the big boys noticing.

  4. History aside, I can’t speak to either or any path, I would like to note something I heard in a Rabbi Zweig tape. He discussed a distinction between a Sonay which will destroy itself in order to also finish the target of its hate, canceling both out, and an Oyev whose purpose is gain. Of course there is a lot of both going on here on many levels. ANd I just want to offer a Yasher Koach to the author for this message of maintenance davka it all.
    Walking home from Shacharis this morning, I caught a dirty look from a woman in a headdress. For someone who is as of recently toying with wearing a kippah in public as an expression of love and thankfulness for Hashem’s creation, I was deeply moved with confusion. May all our tears merit some resolution and blessings between brothers and cousins.

  5. Invisible Hand,
    The Maccabees were fundamentalists for their era.
    I am not sure which of Dr. Schwartz’s theories you are referring to, as I have not yet read the book you mentioned, but my goal was to explain the language of “sinas chinum” within the classic narrative in a way that makes more sense to me than the interpretations (repent, do tshuvah, be nicer to Jews, stuff that is really more appropriate for Elul and the period of mourning during the Omer, etc.) I generally read. To fit sinas chinum into a modern interpretation — one which I am guessing from your brief attack is an assertion that a military conflict with the Greeks in its entirety never took place — was not my goal.

  6. DK inverts recorded Jewish history – and the intent of our sages. Only ignorant, axe-grinding Jews could treat this thesis seriously.
    The only consistent thread in this mish-mash is the attempts by assimiliated, culturally compromised Jews to undermine their faithful brethren – and their willingness to leverage Gentile force to do so.
    That is the main narrative trajectory of the First Temple conflict between the Northern Kingdom and Judea.
    It’s also the story of the end of the 2nd Temple – garbled and compressed by DK – in which Hellenized Israelis invited the Romans in to clobber their Torah-true brethren (several centuries after the Hasmonean dynasty had faded – in fact it was ultimately co-opted by the hellenized branches of the priesthood).
    The (homiletical/rhetorical) Rabbinic mention of unity during the 1st Temple refers to the fact that even the idolatrous Northern kingdom under intermarried King Ahab was victorious in its defense of Israel – because they had a highly civil society, even though they were off the mark theologically.
    But DK is right – history does repeat itself. In this case, DK is continuing a long tradition of self-hatred and attack of their fellows by know-it-all assimilated Jews…

  7. Ben-David,
    There is no discussion that isn’t debased by the mere fact of your participation in it, nor is it possible that I could make it through the entirety of one of your polemics without experiencing a sensation of real disgust. Admittedly, you’ve made some progress, since while this comment contains an abundance of your signature sneering and lifeless jargon, it eschews the punctuation – the italics, capitals, and acronyms – you typically use as a substitute for logic and facts. Nonetheless, you’ve still retained every ounce of the intellectual dishonesty and stylistic monotony that renders every comment you submit uniformly tendentious and mind-numbingly dull. As always, there isn’t the slightest possibility that one might learn something new as a result of exposure to your comments, or that any genuine exchange of ideas might take place.

  8. oi Mr Smith, you have to argue ben-david’s points, not his person.
    “I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it.”

  9. Ben-David,
    Herod was less Hellenized than Hasmoneanized — in the manner other gentile victims of Maccabean intolerance were Hasmoneanized — by his paternal ancestors’ forced conversion.
    Is it any wonder he had issues with the Jews?
    Oh right, I forgot — right-wing Zionists believe the Maccabees were perfect at the start.
    Go clobber ’em all, Ben-David.
    Either one is with us, or against us, right?

  10. hugh,
    There have to be “points” in order to argue them; that is precisely what I was saying. My criticism may seem abusive and inappropriate if you’re unfamiliar with context, but it reflects my frustration with the fact not a single topic is ever raised on this blog in which Ben-David’s comments doesn’t smear his opponents, rather than argue with them. Assuming I share Kelsey’s position, which I do in this instance, I’m not about to “argue” that I’m not an “axe-grinding, assimilated, culturally compromised Jew seeking to undermine my faithful brethren” or that I’m not a “know-it-all assimilated Jew” engaging in a “long tradition of self-hatred and attack of [my] fellows…” Those are not debatable points; neither are they intended to be. What really set me off was a discussion from several posts down, Rabbinical Student Reports from Palestine. Here’s the essence of what a woman named Rebecca had to say:
    the point isn’t whether or not Israel may defend itself. The point is A) the human price resulting from said actions, which is very important to acknowledge, even if unavoidable. B) that it happens sometimes that Israel causes needless suffering. it hurt to write that last sentence, but that’s just the way it is.
    Whether or not you agree with her, it’s hardly conceivable that her observation could have been any more reasonable or innocuous. Ben’s David response started: “Rebecca whimpered…” Rebecca didn’t whimper a fucking thing; she SAID it, and characterizing it in that manner is a dishonest, obnoxious, and disrespectful way to respond to somebody’s opinion. The rest of Ben-David’s comment said, in part:
    Sorry, folks – reality has taken the Leftist mantra of Pali victimhood and shredded it. The Rest of Us . . . . are neither fools so easily duped by your obvious propaganda ploy.”
    Once again, this is nothing but a personal smear, WITH NO POINTS TO ARGUE ABOUT. The post contains an opinion, not a mantra or a propaganda ploy; the subject is Palestinians, not “Palis” (unless, of course, nobody here would object to the use of “Jew bellyaching” in place of “Jewish opinion”). Finally, I have no idea how to “argue” the constantly repeated Rush Limbaugh-esque assertion that those who agree with Ben-David is part of some mysterious silent majority called The Rest of Us.
    I don’t know Ben-David and have nothing personal against him. But this sneering contempt is what drags discussions on Jewschool into the goddamn toilet, and is precisely the type of conduct referenced in the profoundly worthwhile Soloveitchik quotation you cite. It is one that Ben-David blatantly disregards with every comment he submits, and it is wrong that he does so with impunity. If I’m accused of refusing to go along with that crap and asking him nicely to stop, I stand guilty. I’m just damn tired of it.

  11. DK:
    Herod was less Hellenized than Hasmoneanized — in the manner other gentile victims of Maccabean intolerance were Hasmoneanized — by his paternal ancestors’ forced conversion.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Herod appears on the scene several centuries after the Hasmoneans ceased to be in any way recognizable as a “fundamentalist” force , having been co-opted by the intermaried, hellenized branches of the priesthood.
    You admit as much with your vague reference to “his paternal ancestors” – thereby gutting the notion that Herod had a beef with Hasmonean “fundamentalism”, which was the odd compression of history you made in your original axe-grinding post.
    Herod was one of a host of such Idumeans who – together with intermarried/hellenized Jews, wielded considerable power in Judea’s final years. He tormented the faithful Jews of his own age for his own reasons – often political more than theological – not out of some mis-imagined, schematic payback for Hasmonean “fundamentalism”.
    You also wrote:
    Oh right, I forgot — right-wing Zionists believe the Maccabees were perfect at the start.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Actually the official “Pharisaic” take on the Maccabees is mixed – the Talmud pointedly observes that it was wrong of priests to claim the kingship (and to forcibly convert/circumcise Herod’s grampa and other conquered populations), and that is why their dynasty withered into apostasy.
    Perhaps you are confusing the “right wing Zionists” with secular Zionism’s heavy use of the Maccabee story as a model for modern Jewish self-defense….
    You wrote:
    Go clobber ‘em all, Ben-David.
    Either one is with us, or against us, right?
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Always a pleasure, DK…

  12. mr kelsey,
    you are correct in that both herod and the hasmoneans were hellenized, but if you look at the theories of schwartz, tcherikover and bickerman, one realizes that the central conflict of the hannukah narrative was not between jews and greeks but rather hellenized jews and REALLY Hellenized jews.
    you are correct in asserting the nasty wuality of hasmonean rule. after all queen salome crucified 100 saducees in a day! however, my argument (i am sorry that it was received as an attack, my sincerest apologies) was that they were a product of their time and not any more “fundamentalist” than any other backwater ruling dynasty in the seleucid empire. in fact, in other judaized areas, they were most assuredly less trident in forcing judaic religion down others’ throats. i really recommend IMPERIALISM AND JEWISH CIVILIZATION by seth schwartz. also: Ben Sasson’s history (until 70 CE)
    take care,

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