We often hear how “John Doe” is a Rasha, an evil-doer, and that we should all therefore take actions X, Y, and Z against him. “Let’s beat him up or punch him” is a sentiment often heard. Many understand the verse in Tehillim (139:29), “Do I not hate them that hate You” that one should fully hate these evil doers.
The issue is particularly germane, of late. Why? Many in the Torah community are calling a number of the members of the Knesset “R’shaim.” This is on account of a constant barrage of recent legislation aimed at depriving financial benefits to the poorer members of the religious Jewish community. The label of “evil-doers” is generating a tangible antipathy toward these MKs.
What follows is not only a different perspective, but a perspective that many of the halachic sources indicate that we should, in fact, have toward our brethren who have, nebach, become evil-doers.
DEBATE IN THE TALMUD
No one argues that one should keep a distance from an evil-doer (See Rambam Hilchos Teshuva 4:5). But there is an argument about other aspects of evil-doers.
The verse in Dvarim (14:1) states, “Banim Atem Lashem Elokaichem – you are [all] sons to Hashem your G-d.” The Gemorah in Kiddushin (36a) cites a debate between Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Yehudah says that this verse applies only when we behave properly. Rav Meir understands this verse as applying at all times even when we do not perform the will of Hashem. Rav Meir’s understanding is that this verse applies not only at all times but also to everyone – even Rashaim. Furthermore, it seems from the Rashba (Responsa Vol. I #194) that the final halacha is like Rav Meir in this regard, and not like Rabbi Yehudah.
With this in mind, we can now better understand a fascinating Kol Bo (p.22) in the laws of Aveilus. The Kol Bo cites a ruling of the Maharshal on the following case:
A Rabbi is faced with two people who are on their deathbeds and both require the Rabbi to say Vidui with them. One of them is a righteous man. The other is an infamous evildoer. The Maharshal rules that the Rabbi should visit and tend to the needs of the evildoer. “Because he certainly needs the penance more.”
Both of the deathly ill patients are Hashem’s sons – even the evil one. Since they are Hashem’s children, and Hashem loves his children even if they do evil, it follows that we should also love them. If Hashem loves them and treats them as sons, shouldn’t we?
Indeed, the Chofetz Chaim cites Rabbi Yaakov Molin (Ahavas Chessed toward the end of the book subparagraph 28) that it is a Mitzvah to love the R’shaim – evil-doers. The Chofetz Chaim explains that when the Gemorah discusses hating evil-doers it is referring to only evil-doers who remain steadfast in their evil after having received proper rebuke. But nowadays no one knows how to give proper rebuke – therefore there is still a Mitzvah to love them.
The Chofetz Chaim brings proof to this position from a responsa of the Maharam Lublin (Siman 13). This is also the position of the Chazon Ish (Yore Deah 2:16, 28. See also Even HaEzer 118:6) who cites the Hagaos Maimanios to the same effect (Deyos chapter 6). The Binyan Tziyon (author of the Aruch haShulchan in a responsa) writes that in our times the entire issue of hating is not applicable because they should all be considered children who do not know otherwise.
Others suggest that the hating described in Tehillim is not a full hate, but rather a more subtle and partial emotion along those lines. They illustrate this understanding by citing other instances in the Talmud where that term is used more subtly.
HOW TO LOVE
In Sefer Orech L’Chaim (beginning of Parshas Noach) he writes as follows: “I had asked Rav Shmelka Nikolsberg how it is possible to love evil-doers. He responded that one must focus on the Neshama that lies within them, as it is a chailek elokah mimaal, a portion of the Divine from Above.”
Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l suggested that each individual employ “Tachbulos” mental tricks in order to fool himself into the proper method of thinking. “Tachbulos” work differently for different people. My Rosh yeshiva, Rav Henoch Liebowtz zt”l explained that since Tachbulos work so differently, Rav Salanter did not provide sample Tachbulos. Nonetheless, there is one that is enormously effective in developing a love for someone that may not have the most redeeming characteristics otherwise. Let us imagine that we are living in Nazi Germany chalilah. A Nazi is chasing you with a rifle in hand. If this person that we are having difficulty with were present – would he not save you and try to eliminate the Nazi? Of course he would. If this is the case, is it his fault that we are all not living in Nazi Germany? By the same token, if you were to have a flat tire in the middle of no where, would he not lend you ten dollars so that your flat can be changed? Of course he would. Is it then his fault that you, in fact, didn’t have a flat tire and din’t meet up with him?
The Tomer Dvorah (1:12) writes that it is proper to have mercy and compassion upon evil people and say, “At the end of it all he is a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob..” This too can be used as a tool to help eliminate our hate toward the evil-doer.
Rav Moshe Feinstein rules (Igros Moshe CM Vol. I #8) that even if someone is a Rasha it is still forbidden to sue him in a gentile court. Certainly it is clear from his writings that it would likewise be forbidden to damage him in other methods too. Thus, we should avoid incarcerating him (unless he is a clear and present danger to others), killing him or defacing or damaging hs property.
What about the concept of Arvus – that all members of Israel are responsible for one another? Does this apply to evil-doers? This happens to be a debate in Halacha, The Radbaz (Vol. I #187) and the Avnei Naizer (YD 126) write that there is no Arvus to an evil-doer. Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spector (Ein Yitzchok EH 1:10) writes that there is Arvus to an evil-doer.
There is also a Mitzvah of correcting one’s fellow man called “Tochacha.” There is a debate as to whether this Mitzvah applies to evil-doers too. The Mishna Brurah (OC 608 in BH “Aval”) indicates that there is no Mitzvah. Rav Yoseph Teumim author of the Pri Magadim (Kuntrus Matan Scharan Shel Mitzvos III Chakirah 4) holds that there is, as does the author of the Maalos HaMidos (tenth Maalah).
It is clear from the above sources that even in regard to evil-doers, we need to gain some perspective. Cooler heads must prevail. They are still people and we have to realize that they are still sons of Hashem and have a chailek elokah mimaal – a Divine spark from above. We should also pray for the opening of their eyes and ultimately having them see the truth.
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