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How hatred over past grievances keeps us enslaved

שנאה היא לא תכנית עבודה

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

I once knew a couple that got divorced and then invested all their time and energy in plotting revenge on one another. In a certain sense, they did not separate. They got up each morning and obsessed about how they could cause each other harm.

I once worked with someone who was consumed with hatred for her former boss. Everything she did was meant as a response to the hurt that she had suffered in her previous workplace.

In contrast to the above, in this week's Torah portion we read: "Do not despise the Egyptian." But just a moment, you might think. Didn't the Egyptians do horrible things to us that deserve our hatred? Why not despise those responsible for our barbaric treatment?

Our commentators explain the Torah's admonition as follows: First of all, look at the big picture. Initially, we were welcomed into the land of Egypt and, in the end, the Egyptians did receive punishment for how they treated us. Thus, there is no reason to build our lives on hatred for them and to perpetuate the trauma that we suffered.

If you will persist in despising the Egyptians, if you will live with uninterrupted anger and constant rage -- you will remain enslaved. Slaves not in your bodies, but in your minds. All of this is not to say we need to love our former tormentors. But it is in our best interest to leave past grievances behind and, as free individuals, build our lives anew.

The month of Elul presents us with an opportunity to check that we are not enslaved by such hatred and vow to remain liberated from it all our lives.


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