The Netziv (Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin 1816-1893, last Rosh Yeshiva at Volozhin) wrote a relatively famous piece in Meishiv Davar (1:44) that is quoted a lot this time of year. I thought I would translate a core section (pg 52, col 2, paragraph starting “Vehinei“). The context is that the Netziv just discussed the prohibition against going into business with minim (heretics) lest one get influenced.
The extremists ruled and came up with a plan to be guarded in this generation by separating one from the other altogether, the way Avraham separated from Lot. But with all due respect to the extremists this plan is hard to the body of the nation and its survival like swords.
For in time when we were in our Holy Land it was as if with our permission during the Second Temple that the land was conquered, the Temple destroyed and the Jews exiled because of the dispute of the Pharasees with the Sadducees and also caused by much pointless hatred which is not according to the law. That is, at the time that one Pharasees saw someone lenient in some matter, even if [the other] wasn’t a Sadducee at all, but was sinning, still because of pointless hatred they judged him to be a Sadducee and would attack him and from this bloodshed multiplied….
And all this isn’t unimaginable to Heaven forbid happen in our time as well! For my own eyes saw one of the Orthodox decide that another wasn’t acting according to his way in serving G-d, and ruled that he was a heretic and distanced himself from him. Now they chase after one another in a false illusion that it is permissible, and destroy the entire nation of G-d (Heaven forbid)….
Siimilarly the Netziv writes in his introduction to the Book of Bereishis (HaAmeq Davar, pesichah):
The subject is explained in the song of Ha’azinu on the words, “הצור תמים פעלו וגו’ צדיק וישר הוא — The Archetype Whose work is perfect… He is Righteous and Upright”. (Devarim 32:4) That is an upright praise to justify the Holy One’s Justice in the destruction of the Second Temple, which was “a warped and twisted generation” [c.f. Devarim v. 5]. For they were righteous, pious, and toiled in the Torah, but they weren’t upright in the ways of the worlds. Therefore, because of pointless hatred, because in their heart they accused anyone who they saw acting in a manner unlike their opinions in yir’as Hashem of being a Sadducee and a heretic. They came through this to bloodshed via internal divisions, and all the evils in the world until the Temple was destroyed.
On this was the justification of the Judgment. That the Holy One is upright and doesn’t pardon “righteous people” like these, only those who walk in the upright paths also in the ways of the world. And not through treachery even if were for the sake of heaven. For this causes the destruction of creation and the elimination of settlement of the land.
If I may add what I believe to be the real hard part… We have to read the Netziv’s words not as a description of those who demonize us and those like us, our way of serving G-d, but of our own “justified response”. The end of internal divisiveness in the Jewish community will not come through identifying another camp as guilty and separating ourselves from them!
But what if the “other” isn’t being demonized, but really is a threat? Didn’t our first citation from the Netziv open with an obligation that would keep us somewhat apart from the real heretics?
Tosafos (Pesachim 113b “shera’ah bo“) ask about the word “sonei“.
ואם תאמר דבאלו מציאות (ב”מ דף לב: ושם) אמרינן אוהב לפרוק ושונא לטעון מצוה בשונא כדי לכוף את יצרו והשתא מה כפיית יצר שייך כיון דמצוה לשנאתו וי”ל כיון שהוא שונאו גם חבירו שונא אותו דכתיב (משלי כז:יט) כַּמַּיִם, הַפָּנִים לַפָּנִים כֵּן לֵב הָאָדָם לָאָדָם ובאין מתוך כך. לידי שנאה גמורה ושייך כפיית יצר:
This requires a lot of explanation, so I won’t try a literal translation. The Gemara (BM 32b-33a) says that if someone has to choose between unloading a friend’s donkey, or loading that of someone he hates, one should choose helping the one he hates, because overcoming the yetzer hara is a mitzvah. (In other cases, unloading has priority over loading, because of the weight on the poor animal.)
But from the gemara the Tosafos are commenting on in Pesachim, we learn that this rule
applies to unloading an enemy’s donkey even where the enemy is a sinner of the sort that we’re supposed to and even obligated to hate him. So they ask, why then is there a mitzvah to overcome that hatred? Tosafos answer that the justified enmity can cause a cycle of hatred. As is says in Mishlei 27:19 “As with water, one surface (literally: “face”) answers another, so too the heart of a person to a person”. And so the measure of hatred one is supposed to have can grow, “uva’in mitokh kakh lidei sina’h gemurah“. And so, we must control the yeitzer even when hatred is appropriate, lest it grow to complete hatred.
To capture this latter thought, I originally named this post “Hatered”, intending to mean “Hater-ed”, but then realized it just looked like another instance of my bad spelling. But that’s really what we’re talking about more than the issue of avoiding hating. Since Tosafos discuss a case where hating is called for. Rather, they warn against turning into a hater, getting “hatered”.
“The end of internal divisiveness in the Jewish community will not come through identifying another camp as guilty and separating ourselves from them!”
I fail to understand how anyone who studies Jewish history cannot come to the conclusion the Machlokes in generic to Yahadus.
Bottom line “The end of internal divisiveness in the Jewish community will not come” period.