July 5, 2022

Yevamot 118

Today’s daf (Yevamot 118a), while discussing the laws of testimony about the death of a husband by co-wives where one co-wife testifies that he died and the other testified that he didn’t, considers a line of reasoning that: ‘it might enter your mind to say that this man did in fact die, and concerning what she testifies that:
“He did not die”, she intends to ruin her rival wife. And as for herself she says: “Let her die with the Philistines”’ [which is a shorthand expression of Shoftim 16:30 expressing the desire to hurt one’s enemies even if it means that the individual suffers the same fate themselves which, in this case, means that she is prepared to testify falsely that her husband did not die so as to ruin the life of her rival wife].
Reflecting on this statement, Rabbi Efraim Oved explains in his ‘Torat HaAggadah’ that this serves to remind us about the destructive nature of hatred – to the point that vindictive people are even prepared to harm themselves in the course of harming others.
Of course, there are always going to be people who annoy us and who frustrate us. But while there are ways to channel annoyance and frustration, the moment that such feelings mutate into hatred, and the moment that such hatred reaches a point of vindictiveness, then all that is left is a will, an energy and the desire for destructiveness – leading those who hate to seek to destroy the lives of others even if it means destroying aspects of their own life in the process.
Sadly, all too often we read stories – even from within different Jewish communities – of those who hate to such an extent that they go out of their way to do harm to others. In so doing, not only do they ignore a Torah law prohibiting hate (see Vayikra 19:17), but they also show the ugliest aspects of human behaviour.
Admittedly, once a person has reached a point of hatred with malice it is hard to bring them back – which is why we must all learn how to constructively cope with those who annoy us and who frustrate us, so that we stay far away from ever reaching that point.
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