By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
Preservation of life and health is such a primary Jewish value that virtually all Commandments and religious obligations are thereby rendered secondary. The dangerously ill must eat on Yom Kippur. Emergency transportation and medical care must be provided on the Sabbath. The truly pious eagerly “violate” the Sabbath under such circumstances! (See O.H. 328.) The covenantal duty of circumcision on the eighth day must be delayed if timely observance of that Commandment is medically contraindicated… and so on. We are to “live by” the Commandments… not die because of them! (See Leviticus 18:5.)
There are three exceptions to this principle. The “cardinal sins” of murder, idolatry, and sexual immorality (incest, adultery) may not be committed even to save one’s life. These are non-negotiable moral absolutes.
How telling, therefore, that the Rabbis decry Sinat Chinam – wanton, baseless hatred – as the moral equivalent of all three cardinal sins combined: murder, idolatry, and sexual immorality (Yoma 9B). Indeed, it is to the grievous sin of wanton hate that some among the Sages attribute destruction of the second Temple and the loss of Israelite national sovereignty. Hate is self-destructive.
Elie Wiesel called hate “stupid and irrational.” He added: “Hate produces nothing, but more hate.” Jewish tradition deems hate a crime. A compound felony. An unspeakable sin.