On Forgiveness

On Forgiveness

I read a curious sentence in Gary Rosenblatt’s column, “When To Forgive And When Not To” (Sept. 16): “While it is a Christian ideal to love and forgive the sinner, Judaism teaches, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” 

Does that idea really appear in Judaism? I indeed can find Jewish sources for hating the enemies of God (for example, Psalms 139:22,23), but I do not know any for hating my own enemies.  The category of “God’s enemies” may not happen to coincide with “my enemies.”

The only explicit source for the idea that I should hate my enemies that I know appears in Matthew (5:43): “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” This leads into Matthew’s claim that he has a new teaching that we should love our enemies. I do not think that Matthew, in this polemical context, necessarily counts as an accurate witness to Jewish teaching.

We certainly have an obligation to defend ourselves against our enemies; we even, as Rosenblatt notes in the next sentence of his article, may pray for the defeat of our enemies. But I do not think that Judaism calls upon us to hate our enemies.

Southfield, Mich.

Editor’s Note: Point well taken: it’s God’s enemies that tradition tells us we should hate.

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