• Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-1983) was one of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the 20th century.  We believe that his thought may be even more important in the 21st century.

Sinai and Hatred

Tue, 01/19/2016 - 9:19pm -- Mel Scult

In the Book of Shemot [Exodus], Sinai is central.  In the story of Burning Bush, where Moses experiences his first revelation, the mountain is called har horev.  The Midrash tells us that this mountain had many names.  In the words of the Midrash it was also appropriately called “the mountain of God” because there “the people of Israel received the Godliness of the Holy One ….”
 
Anyone who knows Kaplanian theology recognizes in these words of the Midrash that an adjectival form [Godliness -- elohut] is used, not the noun "God".  It was the “Godliness” that was received by Israel, the Midrash tells us.  Predicate theology [using adjectives for the divine, not nouns] emphasizes not God as person but God as quality, i.e. not God but the divine, not God but Godliness.  And so we might say not that God was compassionate but that compassion is divine, as we must attempt to incorporate it into our lives and into the world. 
 
The Midrash goes on to discuss the other names for the mountain.  It explains that the word horev is related to the word for sword.  We are told that the idolatrous nations will be destroyed by the sword.  The Midrash quite amazingly relates the word "Sinai" to the Hebrew word “sinah,​” which means hate.  Now of course “sinah“ is spelled differently than Sinai, but this did not bother the rabbis of the Midrash.  So the mountain of the divine is also called the mountain of hate.  From this mountain,  we are told,  “there descended hatred toward the idolatrous nations.”  Thus we are counseled to hate the idolaters. 
 
The central question then is, is hate Godly?  Does hate come from the divine?
 
Of course, in our day as before, hatred in many forms is widespread, and it is important to consider the sources of hatred so we can work to reduce them.  There are unfortunately many people who consider hatred to be a divine obligation.
 
All of us are continually faced with the choice when we feel threatened -- to react with Godliness or with hate.  How do we deal  with those who hate us?
 
Most of us categorically reject hate as an ideal and as a modus vivendi.  We reject the hatred of those who hate us and we try not to react with hatred. 
 
Our religion tells us that we must look forward to the ideal of unity, which will mean in that one day “ the Lord shall be one and His name one.”
 
We must therefore reconstruct the text of this Midrash so it leads us away from hate toward understanding and Godliness.  
 
[The Midrash discussed here is found in Midrash RabbahShemot section bet, part daled.]   

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