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Kedoshim(Leviticus 19-20)

Hurting in Your Heart

We find an interesting mitzvah in this week's portion: "Don't hate your brother in your heart" (Leviticus 19:17). The Sages ask the obvious question: Why does the verse say "in your heart"? Where else does one hate?

The Sages explain that there are two ways of hating. You can feel animosity toward someone and not express it externally. You are very nice and very cordial - pleasant even. But deep down you feel anger and frustration at the person.

Alternatively you can express your hatred externally - through words and deeds. You can physically, verbally or emotionally abuse the person you do not like.

Most of us are not saints. When someone does something which hurts us - whether through negligence or with intent - it is hard for us not to feel upset and angry with that person. Perhaps we might even feel animosity. This is normal human emotion and there is nothing wrong with it. The question is how one deals with that emotion once one has it.

To repress the emotion and hate a person only "in your heart" is extremely unhealthy. Unexpressed animosity does not go away. If anything, it festers and grows. The Sages remind us of the story of Absalom who hated Amnon for raping his sister, Tamar. He did not express his hatred in any way and, after a period of time, he ended up killing Amnon.

So what do you do?

Juxtaposed to the command not to "hate in one's heart" is the command to rebuke others for wrongdoing. It's very simple. Tell the person you are upset. Don't abuse, express. Don't attack; explain the pain you're feeling.

When someone wrongs you, don't just let it go, telling yourself it is nothing. We are not that holy. You have to approach the person and talk through what happened. Express your anger and frustration. Make the person understand that you have been hurt, and that you are not trying to make him feel guilty. You merely want to get the emotion you are feeling out of your heart.

In England where I live, we're not so good at expressing emotions. But the alternative is repressed feelings of which we will eventually lose control. The idea of this commandment is to nip things in the bud. When you get the feeling out, it lessens it. When you express how you feel, it doesn't seem half as bad.

March 1, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 6

(5) Anonymous, April 30, 2015 1:00 PM

Really excellent one! Thanks for posting this!

(4) Anonymous, April 22, 2011 3:30 PM

What if the person is my boss?

How can I really express the hurt I feel if the person doing the hurting, even unwittingly, is my boss? I can't afford to lose my job, but the stress is making me sick.

AH, December 3, 2011 3:36 PM

so true!

Funny, that is exactly my question. Sometimes people could care less if they hurt you or worst yet, do it deliberately. When the power dynamics are unequal, like with a bad boss, speaking up is usually not wise, because it just gives them more leaverage over you which is what they want. Needing your job makes it even more unfeasible to express yourself to a tyrant.

(3) Anonymous, February 4, 2011 10:53 PM

what if they won't listen

Thank you, great commmentary. It is like drinking a poisen to hold it, and not healthy for either party. It does show up as passive aggressive if not shared. I have a neighbor who is not agreeable to talking. Ive tried , doesn't even make eye contact. I have a disdain for him, I know it would lessen if he was willing to talk. What would you do ? all my approaches were as kind as possible, even to bring gifts from my garden. thank you

(2) Leah, May 2, 2008 12:31 PM


I just don't have the corrouge to do that am afraid of the outcome or of them thinking how stupid i am how do you face that. it's hard to tel people how you feel.

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