In this Mishna, Rabbi Yehoshua lists three personality flaws which “remove a person from the world.” The implication is not simply that G-d will punish such a person, but that such behavior itself will actively “remove” him from the world. One who possesses these evil traits will make himself miserable, unable to enjoy the blessings he has been granted.
The commentators understand an “evil eye” to mean a jealous one. Rather than being happy with others’ good fortune and accomplishments, he begrudges them what is theirs. And such a jealous person pines away wishing he were someone else—that he had his fellow’s talents, success, popularity, or prestige. And one who wishes he were someone else will fail to live up to his own talents—or even recognize them. He will “remove” himself from the world, not living and enjoying the life G-d has granted him, but rather wasting away in his self-pity.
Likewise, one who is ruled by his “evil inclination,” his passions and lusts, will be consumed by his desires and will be unable to live his own life positively and productively. His life will be an endless drive to satisfy his insatiable appetites. Physical drives are an undeniable part of our humanity, but if we do not control them, they will control us.
The final negative trait Rabbi Yehoshua lists is hatred of others. We can perhaps contrast this to jealousy of others. The jealous person will waste away wishing he were someone else. One who hates others is also focused on the other person rather than himself. Rather than focusing on his own life, he eats himself up with his dislike of others. He’s more interested in his foe’s failure than his own success. And so, he too does not truly have a life.
Thus, there seems to be a close resemblance between jealousy of others and hatred of them. Whereas jealousy stems from competition, hatred is more destructive. It is more difficult, however, to understand the rationale behind it. What is its cause? The commentator Rashi explained, hatred of others is what the Sages call “sinas chinam” (baseless hatred). I hate others for no real reason—certainly no reason which justifies hatred. They are different, they have annoying habits, different religious practices or different outlooks on life. And so I find fault in their every action.
Why would one hate others because they are different? Isn’t tolerance a nicer way to live? We all become selfish, petty and immature now and then, but doesn’t any rational person realize it is better to love than to hate? The answer is, unfortunately, very simple and it provides us with a fundamental insight into the workings of the human mind.
It’s easier to hate the rest of the world than to like it. Why? Because it is the easy way of facing life. What should our attitude towards others be? That they are human beings in the image of G-d, that they are essentially good people, beloved to G-d and possessing Divine souls. We must see beyond our external differences and see the good inherent in them. We must learn from them. Their good behavior might obligate us to improve our ways.
We must look favorably upon the rest of mankind. Seeing a world of color and diversity must force us to see the myriad reflections of G-d contained in humankind. We must be open to new friendships, to new ways of life, and to new attitudes. Each person we encounter teaches us just a little bit more, reveals yet another angle of G-d’s divinity. We must grow from such encounters.
We’d much rather not see the positive in others. On one level, it’s so much easier to invalidate others—individuals, races, nations. Finding fault in others gives us a smug sense of superiority and saves us the inconvenience of having to search for faults within ourselves.
Even more fundamentally, however, by failing to see G-dliness in man, we become quite comfortable with our own mediocrity. If we see man as G-d’s magnificent handiwork, then we have much to learn from others and much growing to do. Seeing the negative in others is a wonderfully convenient manner of giving up on mankind—and most importantly, on ourselves.
Therefore, we must love others not because they are perfect or similar to us, but simply because they are G-d’s creations. If G-d created them—we must see the positive in them. We must be open to others and must admire them—and ultimately we will grow.
The preceding was adapted from Torah.org and written by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld.