The severity of baseless hatred

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Heichaltzu Meitchem…”

[Likkutei Torah p. 150]

This Mamar speaks about an episode in this Parsha that discusses the commandment of Hashem to Moshe to seek vengeance against the people of Midian who caused the Jews to stumble in promiscuity, as discussed at the end of Parshas Balak. The Mamar enters into a full treatise on the subject of Ahavas Yisrael and the meaning and damage caused by its opposite, which is Sinas Chinam, baseless hatred. This Mamar is the basis of the famous Mamar entitled Heichaltzu that was spoken and written by the Rebbe Rashab in the year 1898. [The Mamar of the Rebbe Rashab carries great elucidation on the Alter Rebbe’s Mamar, going into various details, split into over 30 chapters! The Mamar of the Rebbe Rashab can be downloaded in English at and is a suggested read for anyone who desires to gain a firm grasp on this Mamar of the Alter Rebbe.] This Mamar of the Alter Rebbe was the Mamar that he chose to repeat every two to three years in order to purify the air of the world, as was the case with every one of the Chabad Rebbes, who each chose a Mamar to repeat on occasion for this purpose.[1] The Mamar thus carries special importance and is to be studied appropriately. The content of this Mamar is especially pertinent to the time period when this Parsha is read, the period of the Three Weeks, when we continue to experience the destruction of the Temple due to the sin of baseless hatred. It is likewise especially pertinent to this generation, which is the generation of the coming of Moshiach, when it is upon us to fix the sin of baseless hatred and hence nullify the reason for the exile and destruction. An interesting introduction to this Mamar is brought by the Rebbe Rayatz in Sefer Hasichos 1945 p. 18-19, in which he states as follows: “This Mamar of the Alter Rebbe was first recited in the year 1768, during the lifetime of the Maggid of Mezritch. He was once passing through the town of Smorgon; a town that was suffering from internal conflict and disputes. The citizens of the town were mainly composed of young Torah scholars who married the daughters of the townspeople and moved there to live and be supported by their in-laws. They did not keep their scholarly knowledge to themselves and would constantly berate the Rabbi of the town with questions for the sake of ridicule and shame. When the Alter Rebbe passed through this town, he recited this Mamar of Heichaltzu, which explains the sin of baseless hatred.” The Mamar Heichaltzu that was recited by the Rebbe Rashab was also recited on occasions of discord amongst the Chassidic brethren. Various traditions have been recorded regarding this. However, when questioned, the Rebbe Rayatz answered, “I do not know if the Mamar was said as a result of some dispute, although I do know that it had a great effect”.


Explorations of the Mamar

1.      Why was it so important to seek vengeance against Midian? What does Midian represent that it holds such value?

2.      The difference between the sins that caused the destruction of the First and Second Temples, and why the sins of the Second Temple are taking longer to atone.

3.      Why is hatred between Jews so severe and damaging? How does it directly oppose the Divine name of G-d?

4.      What is defined as baseless hatred? As far as I know, everyone I hate or dislike is for a reason. I don’t dislike people without cause!


The Question:

The verse states: Heichaltzu Meitchem… which is a command from Moshe to conscript soldiers from amongst yourselves and implies that all of the Jewish people should go to war. However, since in truth only a select number waged the war, the term used should have been Yeichaltzu. Likewise, it remains to be understood the importance of the vengeance against Midian [to the point that Moshe’s passing away was contingent on the completion of this vengeance[2]].

Who is Midian and what do they represent?

The nation of Midian directly opposes the Divine name of Havayah. It is for this reason that prior to Matan Torah, the Kelipa of Midian had to be subjugated and subdued through the conversion of Yisro, who was a priest in Midian. This matter will be elaborated on shortly.

The reason for the destruction of the First and Second Temples and the difference between them:

The Sages[3] state that after the destruction of the First Temple, Hashem was able to forgive the acts of idolatry, adultery, and murder, although not the sin of Bittul Torah. The Second Temple, however, was destroyed only because of the sin of Sinas Chinam. If this is the only sin that caused the destruction of the Second Temple, why are we still in exile? If after the destruction of the First Temple, when there were the three cardinal sins of murder, idolatry, and immorality, we were able to receive atonement after a mere 70 years, certainly it should seem that we should have been redeemed a long time ago if the sin is simply Sinas Chinam.

The Kelipa of the seven nations versus the Kelipa of Midian, the source of all evil:

The seven Canaanite nations that were in Israel represent the seven evil Middos. The Jewish people were commanded to completely annihilate the seven Canaanite nations, hence obliterating the seven evil Middos from their midst. However, they did not do so and hence the seven evil Middos were able to infiltrate them and cause them to commit the most severe sins, as stated above. For this reason, the exile of the First Temple lasted exactly seventy years, ten years for each evil Middah in order to rectify it, as each Middah incorporates ten aspects, reaching a total of 70. However, at the time of the Second Temple, the sins involved were not with the seven evil Middos but rather with Sinas Chinam, the Kelipa of Midian, which is not included within the seven evil nations. This Middah of Midian is not completely evil when compared to the seven evil Middos, which include evil desires and immorality, as this Middah is simply the act of strife and discord. However, although it is not actual expressed evil, this Middah serves as the root and source of all the other evils and is the exact opposite of holiness. Holiness represents unity and incorporation, which are the foundation of the entire Torah, as said Hillel: “What you do not want your friend to do to you, do not do to others; this is the entire Torah and the rest is its explanation”. The reason that this Middah of discord is the antitheses of holiness is because Hashem, the name Havayah, is the epitome of unity; unity with the Sefiros, unity with the worlds, to the point that everything is nullified before Him. Thus separation and strife between people is the greatest opposition to the name of Havayah.


Q&A on the Mamar

How is Sinas Chinam the source and root of all the evil Middos?[4]

In the Mamar, it was stated that Midian, which is strife and discord, is the source of all evil. How is this true? Surely it is understood how strife and dispute can lead to murder, stealing, and other sins between man and one’s fellow, but how does it have any connection with sins between man and Hashem? The explanation is as follows: Strife and discord also have a root. This root is what is called the ego of the person, the strong self-perception and feeling of one’s existence, or in Chassidic terminology, Yeishus. From one’s ego’s perspective, he does not need anyone else or anything else to exist if it does not serve him any benefit or purpose. Furthermore, if the benefit or purpose opposes his ego, then he would rather it was destroyed than lose his dignity and respect. The ego of a person feels only himself and nothing else, and hence desires that everything surround him and evolve around him to serve him, or at least not get in his way. From his perspective, he is the king of the world and deserves that the world should satiate all his desires, wants, and wills, and have anything that opposes his way eradicated. It is only our human intellect and our education in morals and ethics that prevent this catastrophic way of life from finding actual expression. An example of an extreme scenario of the overtaking of one’s ego can be seen with world leaders of destruction, such as Napoleon, Stalin, and Hitler [may their names be obliterated]. Nonetheless, our ego finds smaller expressions in many different areas and is the source for all sin. Every sin that we do comes in order to satiate some desire that we have. This is called placing our ego, sense of self, before G-d and His will. The greater one’s ego and sense of self, the greater the battle will be for him to subdue his desire to sin in the face of G-d’s will. The same applies with matters between man and his fellow. The greater one’s ego and sense of self, the greater the challenge he will have in being able to look up to another, admit fault, negate feelings of jealousy, learn to lose a fight or argument, compromise with another, and learn to work together with another, which hence announces his need for the other person.



The Middos of Tohu versus Tikkun:

In the Biur of this Mamar, the Alter Rebbe gives further clarification of the difference between the seven Canaanite nations, Midian, and the side of Holiness. In the history of the spiritual worlds, there existed a world called Tohu. This world was made up of a similar dynamic found in the other spiritual worlds, only the Sefiros of this world did not act in unison. The reason for this is because the G-dliness that was found in these Sefiros was very intense and incapable of uniting with an opposite intensity Sefirah. Thus, Chesed of Tohu could not work together with Gevurah of Tohu. This intensity eventually caused a rupture of the vessels in Tohu, which became known as Sheviras Hakeilim. The rupture occurred in the seven Middos of Tohu, and the broken parts descended into the lower spiritual worlds of Beriyah, Yetzira, and Assiyah, hence creating the eventual source of absolute evil of these seven Middos, such as murder, adultery, and so forth. These were the source of the evil found within the seven Canaanite nations. However, it is understood that what caused the evil of these nations was the discord and disunity within the Sefiros that eventually caused their rupture. This disunity is the aspect of Midian and is hence clearly the root behind the creation of all the other evil nations. After the destruction of Tohu, Hashem created the world of Tikkun, otherwise known as the world of Atzilus, which included Sefiros of lesser intensity that work in cooperation and unison. This represents the side of Holiness. The reason for the unity in the world of Tikkun is due to it receiving a revelation of the name Havayah.



A parable:

Even slight contemplation of matters in this world brings a realization that everything works in unity and dependency on other factors, the lack of which thereof would capsize its capabilities. This is witnessed in the following matters: The atom, which is the basic makeup of all existing items, contains a nucleus and electrons that work in unity together. The human body contains many limbs and organs that must work in unity together. The continuity of creation is dependent on procreation, which comes through the unity of a father and mother. Society as a whole works as a huge corporation, each one giving to another. The common denominator of every job, profession, and business is providing a service for another person or many other people. Thus the entire world’s economy and work force is based on cooperation and unity. We hence see how everything in this world is dependent on unity with others. So why is it that we do not find any arguments or strife within the electrons of the atoms, or the limbs of the body? We could imagine the great catastrophe that would occur if the parts of the atom or limbs and organs of the body were capable of disliking the other parts and refusing to unite or work together with them. However, when it comes to humans, between one and another, we see division occurring in many areas. Family units break up due to quarrel; wars break out between countries, and infighting occurs within governments. This is because of the Middah of Midian, which is Yeishus. The ego and feeling of self are the sole cause of one’s refusal to unite or submit to another ego, despite the benefits that one will receive from that other person, and thus it is the cause of marital strife and war. Thanks to Hashem, the cells of the body and components of an atom do not have sense of self and hence do not feel any need to separate from another component or cell due to their offended ego.



Understanding the Divine name Havayah and how Sinas Chinam directly blemishes it:

The Divine name Havayah comes from the world of, “Creating ex-nihilo”, Yeish Meayin. It represents the G-dliness used to create all the creations. Why is this G-dliness considered Ayin/nothing? The reason for this is because the Name Havayah is made up of four letters: Yud-Kei-Vav-Kei. These letters represent a Tzimtzum, a contraction of the infinite light of G-d, in order for it to be on a limited and defined level that can serve as the source for creation. Since the level of G-dliness of Havayah is limited and defined, it is considered like Ayin, like naught, in comparison to the unlimited level of Or Ein Sof. In detail, each letter has a specific job within the process of revealing limited G-dliness to the creations. The Yud represents the contraction of the infinite light. The Hei represents the diffusion of this light to the creations. The Yud and Hei must be in constant unity in order for there to be creation. The last letters of Vav and Hei represent the Middos or attributes that are expressed within the world. If the Vav and Hei are not united, this causes Gevurah/severities and suffering to be diffused to the world. When they are united, the Gevuros, severities, are sweetened by Chasadim, kindness, and hence the expressions and direction of the world are all in a way of kindness. The purpose of the Torah and Mitzvos is to create this unity of the name of Havayah and cause a revelation of G-dliness and kindness to the creations. However, in particular this is accomplished by the unity of the Jewish people below, who also incorporate the name of Havayah within their souls. When there is hatred here below between man and his fellow, this causes separation in the name of Havayah above. Thus the Kelipa of Midian, which is strife and separation between man and his fellow, is the antithesis of the name of Havayah, which is unity. This is why the vengeance against Midian was referred to as the vengeance of Havayah. This is also why the verse states Heichaltzu in a plural form, as every Jew must fight this battle to achieve unity of the name Havayah through being one people without any discord, strife, and separation of hearts. It is specifically through this unity and brotherly love that we destroy the Kelipa of Midian. Based on the above, the great severity of Sinas Chinam is understood, as it causes separation of the name of Havayah.


Q&A on the Mamar

Doesn’t all sin cause a blemish in the name of Havayah? What is unique about Sinas Chinam?[5]

Although all sin causes a blemish in the name of Havayah, this blemish is specific to a particular letter of the Divine name and not to the name as a whole. However, the strife and discord of Sinas Chinam cause separation of the letters themselves, hence destroying the name.



Why is it taking so long to fix the sin of Sinas Chinam?

It is for this reason that this exile is taking so long, as the rectification of Sinas Chinam is more difficult to attain. This is the meaning of the Sages in their statement, “The earlier generations, which had their sins revealed, had the end of their exile also revealed; however, the later generations, in which their sins were not revealed, their end of exile was also not revealed.” In previous generations, the people knew the identity of their evil ways and sins, and thus knew how to stop them and rectify them, hence causing the exile to come to a close. However, in the later generations their sin was not revealed, as each person justifies his hatred and does not consider it Sinas Chinam. Each one convinces himself that this is not really a sin. For this reason, the end of the exile has not been revealed as they do not regret the Sinas Chinam properly.


Practical applications of the Mamar

What is defined as baseless hatred?[6]

Most people will never admit to baseless hatred. Besides for it being a terrible fault in character that people do not want to admit that they have, it is also difficult to perceive even from an intellectual perspective. The reason for this is because most people will find that there is always a reason or cause that motivates the hate. Thus it remains to be understood: what is this baseless hatred that is the source of our exile? Based on the previous explanations, this matter becomes clear. Obviously, every person will find reason to justify his dislike for another, whether it be something they said to him, something they did to him, or simply a dislike of the other person’s character or ego. The common cause of most enmity that one has for another is because we feel the person overstepped our boundaries. This is precisely the definition of baseless hatred, a hatred that is rooted in one’s ego’s perspective that he is the sole king of the world and nothing can or should get in his way. Thus, as soon as someone steps on one’s ego, whether intentionally or not, whether consciously or not, whether for offensive purposes, or simply through him living, we get upset at them and feel dislike for that person. If we work on our ego and bring Bittul, calmness to our sense of self, we will be able to accept others and learn to forgive and respect the existence of another.


Are ideological arguments defined as baseless hatred? Can’t I argue with someone without hating them? What differentiates between having differences of opinions versus being opposed to them?[7]

Superficially, it seems that intellectual and ideological arguments are not connected at all with ego or baseless hatred, but are simply due to different viewpoints that our minds create for us. While this may be true in some cases, in many instances it is in truth the inability to accept a piece of knowledge or perspective or advice from another person. It is this inability that creates our opposing viewpoints. Likewise, even when the difference in perspective starts off purely as an intellectual difference, the ego can very quickly turn it into a full out battle surrounding simply being correct and trampling on the other person’s perspective. This damaging fault found amongst us hinders projects from progressing and injures our capability of working with another on joint goals, trying to understand their perspective. It even damages one’s own intellectual capabilities, as certainly one would only gain from hearing out the other person and his perspectives, or gaining from his knowledge. The Mamar of the Rebbe Rashab was in fact repeated by the Rebbe Rashab for the sake of a great Chassid and Rabbi, who was both G-d fearing and knowledgeable in Torah but was stiff-hearted and could not tolerate others. This caused great discord and dispute in his community. The inclusion of Bittul within our Divine service allows us to hear another, understand another, desire to work with another, respect another, and desire to gain from their knowledge and capabilities.   


Do we really stand a chance to fix the sin of Sinas Chinam after everything we see around us? How do we destroy Sinas Chinam and achieve Ahavas Yisrael to bring the Geula?

There are a number of points to this matter. Certainly we cannot expect to change overnight.  However, there are certain changes that we could do instantly. First is to understand the above definition of baseless hatred and understand that when we dislike someone due to a reason, it really is rooted in our ego and sense of self. The recognition of the problem with disliking, even due to reason, is the first step for self-improvement and betterment of the situation, and as the Sages teach us, when we open the doorway for self-improvement Hashem immediately helps us to fulfill it. We can at least eradicate the fact that until now we did not know of our sin and now our sin is revealed, “similar to the times of the First Temple”. Now, what is left is to place this new understanding into action. Although feelings of dislike are difficult to control, one can certainly control his actions. Understanding the evil involved in disliking someone and setting a resolution to act in a way of kindness towards another despite the dislike are the first steps towards eradicating the Sinas Chinam between us and eventually bringing even our hearts together.



Lessons of the Mamar:

1.      Contemplate the importance of Ahavas Yisrael and the damage caused by that which is defined as Sinas Chinam.

2.      If feelings of dislike arise towards another person, remind yourself that in truth it is the result of your feeling of ego and self and it is something that must be worked on.

3.      Be open-minded to hear from others and learn from others. Understand that we all complement each other and form one unit.

4.      Even if your feelings dictate dislike towards another, force yourself to act towards him in a kind way. Ask him how he is, do him a favor, ask him a question about something you want to know. Experience shows that when you speak to another and gain a little bit of his personality, the feelings of dislike begin to dissipate.



[1] Hayom Yom 28th Tammuz

[2] Heichaltzu, Rebbe Rashab

[3] Yuma 9b

[4] Heichaltzu of the Rebbe Rashab  chapters 4-8 and 16

[5] Heichaltzu of the Rebbe Rashab chapter 17

[6] See Heichaltzu of the Rebbe Rashab chapters 4-15

[7] See Heichaltzu of the Rebbe Rashab, chapters 4-15

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