What It Is and What You Can Do about It
By Rene H. Levy, PhD
Gefen Publishing House, 2011, 213 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - November 8, 2011
There is no one who has not become angry. Some people are angry for only a short while; others never get over their anger, even when, as often happens, they forget why they became angry. Many people become angry when they should have realized that there is no basis for their feelings. What causes anger? Is it something helpful in our DNA that aided early men and women to survive? Does it have a psychological underpinning? Does hate have any value today? Why do we hate when there is no foundation for the hate? Can we learn how to stop being angry? Is there a difference between anger and hate? Is there a special Jewish attitude toward hatred and baseless hatred? What is it?
Dr. Levy addresses the entire subject of anger from scientific, human, and religious angles, in clear easily understandable language, in an interesting and informative manner, with fascinating case studies. He writes that hatred serves "useful functions, such as helping us avoid threats to our survival. For example, we understand the purpose of hate that allows us to recognize an enemy or to fight a war." He enumerates and explains the cascade of triggers that produce normal, understandable hatred and irrational, baseless hatred. He introduces a subject that he calls "The Judah Principle," based on the unusual plea of the patriarch Judah, the fourth son of Jacob. Judah pleaded with the Vice-Pharaoh Joseph, his brother, who he did not recognize to release his brother Benjamin from slavery (a foreshadowing of Moses’ request of Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery). He examines the biblical episodes during the fetal period of the Jewish people, the fraternal hatred between Esau and Jacob and Joseph’s brothers against Joseph, Pharaoh against the Israelites, and what occurred in 1948 when the State of Israel was reestablished and the attitudes of people to the event. He looks at the "Palestinian Issue." Is it a land dispute or Islamic hatred? He tells readers how to prevent baseless hatred.
Hate is often baseless. It is baseless when it is a response to an act triggered by groundless generalizations, positive or negative, and confused associations with causality – just because something happened after the now-hated person said or did something doesn’t necessarily mean that the person caused what occurred. Thus the hatred is often unfair, excessive, and avoidable, leading to a revengeful attitude toward the hated person that is not easily extinguished.
Focusing on Jews, Levy points out that Jewish tradition placed the blame for the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70, and the subsequent close to 1900 years exile, on Jewish behavior, baseless hatred by one Jew for another. This baseless hatred made it impossible for the ancient Jews to unite to handle and resolve the situation with the Romans. Levy sees baseless hatred between Jews as a "contagious disease," as a "hatred (that) destroys the cement that has kept the Jewish people united as a nation, even when it did not live on its land: that cement is called (in Hebrew) areivut, which means "mutual responsibility." He points out that Jewish tradition characterizes the gravity of baseless hatred as "more serious than several other moral failures such as idolatry, (sexual) immorality, and bloodshed."
People will leave the reading of Levy’s book feeling that they now understand a subject that they should to know about.