The most frequently cited reason for the destruction of the Second Temple is Sin’at Chinam, best translated as senseless hatred. The in-fighting among the Jews of Judea, not only weakened their defenses against the Romans, but caused God to turn His favor from the Jewish people.
The mitzvot of the Torah are often divided into two categories: bein adam la’makom (between a person and God) and bein adam l’chavero (between one person and another). It is the Jewish understanding that while God can forgive a transgression against Himself, a person must appease his/her fellow to receive atonement.
One of the best ways to do battle with sin’at chinam is by performing chesed, acts of kindness. There are many ways in which chesed can be done: visiting the sick, giving charity and even helping to bury the dead. Volunteering one’s time to an organization that benefits the community is also an excellent means of performing acts of kindness, but one must always remember the ever-true statement that “kindness begins at home.”
In an interesting calendar coincidence, this year, today, just 5 days before Tisha B’Av, the anniversary of the Temple’s destruction) has been labeled “Cheer Up A Lonely Neighbor Day.” By its very name, this “holiday” promotes chesed.
Although there is no specific mitzvah to cheer up one’s lonely neighbor, one could easily connect it to the mitzvah of being kind to widows, orphans or converts. Not only are these three categories of people who might easily be taken advantage of, but they are also prototypes of people who may be missing vital links to the community around them.
In trying to do an act of kindness for someone, such as seeking out an elderly neighbor, one should make certain not to make the recipient of the kindness feel as if they are being sought out simply to fulfill another’s desire to do chesed.
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