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There is a well known statement of Rav Kook that the destruction within Am Yisrael was the result of the "sinat chinam", the needless, undeserved hatred, and it will be rebuilt through "ahavat chinam" – undeserved, unconditional love. [Orot hakodesh; section 3, page 324]
What is the "mechanism" whereby we can move from the extreme of "sinat chinam" to the opposite extreme of "ahavat chinam"?
If an individual or a society is plagued by the scourge of resentment, how is one to overcome such hatred and come to a level, not only of "ahava" but even to "ahavat chinam"?
A definition of "Sinat Chinam"
Perhaps one can suggest an explanation by first dealing with the difficulty of the concept of "sinat chinam". Afterall, isn’t all hatred fueled by some cause or reason (legitimate or otherwise)?
The Gra [Megilat Esther 1; verse 6] explains that all manifestations of envy and hatred are rooted in the lack of "Bitachon" - trust in Hashem.
A person who firmly believes in the principles of Divine Providence and who trusts Hashem would know that: "the reign of one king does not encroach on the reign of another even to the extent of a hair breadth." [Berachot 48b]
Whatever is designated by our Creator to come our way will materialize. Consequently, it would follow that a potential competitor is a figment of the imagination
"Sinat Chinam" thus means that one resents the other because he is viewed as a potential competitor who is infringing on one's turf or even one's being. In truth, the other didn't do anything to warrant a reaction of "sinah". It is, in fact, the hater perceiving the other to be a potential threat to the former’s hegemony. [One of the reasons for this underlying hatred and tension is mentioned in tosefta end of menachot that during the era of the 2nd Temple "they loved money and hated each other." The drive to accumulate wealth caused people to see others as competitors.]
A definition of "Ahavat Chinam"
If "sinat chinam" is a symptom of lack of trust in Hashem then "ahavat chinam" must mean that there is not only a trust in Hashem but an exaggerated trust in Him. Yet how is this possible? How can one trust Hashem 'too much', that is, "chinam" and yet be commended for such a trust?
In fact, the Midrash [Yalkut Shimoni to Psalms 32;10] mentions such a scenario.
רבים מכאובים לרשע והבטח בה' חסד יסובבנו '' "
"Many are the sorrows of the wicked; but he that trusts in Hashem shall be surrounded by love.” Rabi Elazar states: Even the wicked, who has trust in Hashem, will be surrounded with love".
The Meshech Chochmah writes:[ Parshat Ekev 10; 20] that the above midrash is the source for the mitzvah of "bitachon" (trust in Hashem), which is applicable to everyone and not only to the spiritual elite.
Moving from "Sinat Chinam" to "Ahavat Chinam"
In light of the above definitions, perhaps Rav Kook's statement can be formulated as follows:
The 2nd Temple was destroyed as a result of resentment symptomatic of a lack of trust in Hashem [similar to the era of the meraglim] and it will be rebuilt when the Jewish people display an absolute trust in Hashem, even if they feel they are undeserving . They will merit redemption because "even the wicked who trusts Hashem will be surrounded by love!”
Trust in Hashem is the realization that it is Hashem who brings His plans to their ultimate fruition. We must never, in desperation, resort to "sinat chinam" to assist in bringing about the redemption.
1) Similarly, Tzofnat Paneach, the Rogachover, in his commentary to "Haftarat Chazon" defines the sins of the 2nd Temple period as "Sefeikot b'ikarei emuna" – doubts in the fundamentals of faith. Perhaps his intention is like the Beit Halevy [Parshat "Bo"] who defines "sinat chinam" as the "sinah" instigated and fermented by the deviant sects, such as the Sadducees. In any event, according to the above explanations the concept of "sinat chinam" is not a “straightforward” sin in the category of "bein adam lechaveiro".
2) The Chafetz Chayim [shemirat halashon acc' to parshiyot hashavua] explains that the meraglim felt undeserving of Eretz Yisrael due to their sins of idol worship during the Egyptian exile.