Let us assume for a moment that the other side is wrong. Is it a sin that they are wrong?
The disagreement I would like to focus on is the rift between Zionists and the Israeli Ultra-Orthodox, known as Haredim, those who “shudder” before God. Haredim, as is well known, generally do not serve in the army or contribute to Israel’s economy. Taking money from the state, they are a burden on the people and Israel’s resources. Not only this, but they sometimes actively oppose the state and its activities.
Understandably, many have become angry with this situation and even with the Haredim themselves. Fellow citizens do not want to risk their lives and their children’s lives for those who will not protect or help them in return, and those who have experienced great personal loss may angrily see Haredim as failing a most basic moral and religious test. The Haredim are wrong.
However, to change perspectives for a moment, we also know that Haredim have their own views and theology to which they adhere as faithfully as any group of people can. I do not want to generalize too much, but we may say that many in this group think that secular society threatens Judaism, or that learning Torah is the best way to protect the state, which is a religious aberration anyway. After all, was the state not founded mostly by anti-religious atheists and imbued with their spirit?
Haredim have their own reasons for not taking part in general society. I don’t want to write about whether or not it is the right of the state to force a group of people against their will to change their lives radically and join in the Zionist enterprise. That is far beyond me. I would like to point out that if we are honest, we will see that those who disagree with us are honest as well, and they have their reasons for living the way they do.
You may say that they are wrong (I am not prepared to pass this judgment myself, as I am not a prophet or a sage), so I would simply like to ask: if they are wrong, is it a sin? If it is a sin, is it against God or also against man? Finally, if it is a sin, even a grave one against man, is this good enough reason to hate them?
We should not deny that there is too much hatred. I am not out to blame for this, as again, it’s understandable, especially on the part of those who sacrificed their own time, family, and blood for what others will not.
But do we really hate people for being wrong? Is being wrong even a sin?
The answer may be yes for some; after all, Rambam writes that someone who mistakenly thinks God has a body should be hated, so this is certainly his opinion in a limited case. But if people think they must leave society and that studying our tradition is the only way to serve God properly, do we hate them because we believe they are mistaken, and because their mistake costs us (even dearly)?
The answer for so many is yes, but I’m skeptical whether this question is actually being considered.
We find in opposition to Rambam the opinion of Rabbi Yosef Albo, who writes that if someone truly believes in a heresy, God does not find it a punishable offense, because what choice does a person have but to believe what he thinks to be true and right?
Where do we stand on this issue? Let us at least be honest and accept the ramifications. Perhaps we may start to dislike those who are wrong about anything that is serious in nature. We might hate our former friend for giving us bad advice on a large investment, or we might dislike the person who, in contrast to us, does not recycle or care about the environment at all.
If we do hate others for our important disagreements, we won’t be inventing anything new; this can of worms has long been open. But faced with the ever present alternative of being the first people to not hate others for being on the other side of incredibly important issues, are we readily and consciously going to choose to continue this hatred?