It's not enough not to hurt people - we should try our best to like them, too. This week includes a very sad annual day of mourning and fasting called Tisha B'Av. On this day, about 2,000 years ago, our people suffered the tragedy of Judaism's holiest site - the Holy Temple - being plundered and destroyed, beginning a long exile that has been the source of all tragedies since. Our sages teach that the spiritual reason behind the tragedy was that people disliked and hated each other for no valid reason, and by making an effort to avoid that mistake today, we can do our part to bring great things to our people and the world.
In our story, some kids discover a new way of looking at others - and at themselves.
"Hey, Bob," said Steve to his bunkmate, as he climbed down off his top bunk bed, "I'm going over to trade comic books with Hal in the next cabin. Want to come?"
"What! To visit the enemy?" the boy sneered, "I wouldn't even give that guy the time of day!"
Steve didn't get it.
"What's this 'enemy' stuff? Hal's one of our best friends. Did you guys get into a fight or something?"
Bob rolled his eyes. "Get with it, man. Don't you know that Camp Mohawk is at war - color war? We're the Blue team and Hal's Red. Isn't that a good enough reason to hate his guts?"
Steve thought Bob was joking, but the anger in his eyes told him the kid meant it.
"But Bob, color war is just a way to have fun. You know, compete in sports and stuff. It's not a real war, and it's certainly not a reason to start hating people."
"Oh, yeah? I thought so too - until this morning, when I was minding my own business walking back from breakfast, and a couple of big guys from the Red Team grabbed me and gave me this!"
Bob rolled the sleeve of his blue color war t-shirt up over his bicep, revealing a nasty looking bruise. "They punched my arm real hard, and said 'that's what a Blue boy deserves - to be black and blue!' And from what kids tell me, I got off easy compared to some of the things those guys are doing to people. So from now on, if I get a chance to give it back to any of those rotten Reds, including the guys in this bunk and even Hal, you can bet I will!"
Steve was shocked. Not knowing what to say, he just nodded and walked away, getting ready to go visit his friend Hal alone.
"Better be careful out there. Those guys aren't a joke," Bob warned bitterly as he rolled back over to the magazine he was reading.
Steve didn't want to believe it was as bad as all that - kids who up until now had gotten along fine, hating and hurting each other for no good reason. But then again, that bruise on Bob's arm was no love tap. There had to be some way to get those guys to see how crazy it was. But how?
He walked past the big communal laundry pile, filled with both red and blue color war t-shirts waiting to be washed. Suddenly he got an idea. He ducked into the shower room and a minute later he was on his way.
It didn't take long before he ran into the bullies Bob had told him about.
"Hey, little boy Blue, what brings you to Red Team turf?" one of them said menacingly as he loomed closer.
Steve took a deep breath and pasted on a confident smile. "I'm no Blue Boy! This is just a disguise," he said, peeling off his blue t-shirt to show the red one underneath.
The big kids looked confused for a moment, then laughed.
"Hey, great trick, buddy!" one of them smiled "You must have done some heavy duty spying on the enemy in that disguise. Come join us, we're having some cold drinks and chips."
"Thanks!" Steve started walking their way, then stopped. "But wait a minute. How do you know I'm not really on the Blue team, spying on you?"
With that, he peeled off his red t-shirt and there was another blue one underneath that!
The big kids were really confused now. "Hey - what's going on? Are you one of us or one of them?"
Steve smiled. "What's the difference? I'm the same person either way, aren't I?"
"But if I'm wearing one color shirt, you'll like me and pour me a cold drink and if I'm wearing another, you'll hate me and give me a black eye - now, does that make sense to you?"
The big kids stood still as Steve went on.
"Kids are getting hurt and hurting back, for what? Look, I know it's color war, but can't we just all play hard and try to win, and still stay friendly with each other?"
One of the big kids spoke up. "Look, kid, you've got a lot of spunk - and you know, I think you've even got a point - but can't you just tell us what team you're really on? Eiither way, we stay friends, okay?"
Steve smiled. "No problem." he pulled off his t-shirt and underneath it was another one - red, white and blue!
"All for one and one for all! I'll see you on the soccer field this afternoon and then you'll find out, but until then, try to like everybody, okay?" Steve turned and walked away, leaving the big guys with a good laugh and even a better lesson.
Q. How did the guys feel before they talked with Steve?
A. They felt like it was okay to hate and hurt kids from the other team.
Q. How did they feel in the end?
A. They realized they shouldn't hate people for no good reason.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from the story?
A. It's very easy to start thinking of people as 'us' and 'them' and hating or even hurting others for no good reason. But God wants us to love (or at least like) each other and the Torah way is the way of people getting along.
Q. Do you think it is ever justified to hate someone?
A. When people act in seriously harmful ways or have genuinely destructive values, it might be appropriate to dislike or even hate what they're doing or saying (yet not to hate the person himself - as all of us are children of God). However, most of the time people fall into dislike or hate, it is for relatively petty reasons and we should try out best to avoid this.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages teach that God would rather have people be at harmony with each other even if they didn't acknowledge Him, than to acknowledge Him, yet be at odds with each other. How do you understand this?
A. True knowledge of God is to acknowledge the Oneness and harmony of all existence. When people are at harmony with each other, they are living this acknowledgment, which means far more than any words of acknowledgement that aren't backed up by living in harmony.
Q. What practical steps can someone take to remove unjustified dislike/hatred from his or her heart?
A. One way is always to attempt to see the other person's side of things. Then even if we don't agree, we are less likely to take it personally. Also, we should try to focus on what we have in common with others, rather than how we are different.