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It is well known that the great Rabbi Akiva was an ignorant shepherd until he was forty years old. Then, Rachel, the daughter of his fabulously wealthy employer, Kalba Savua, gave up all of her riches and married him on condition that he would go and learn Torah. The Gemara (Kesuvos 62b) explains that she recognized his potential from the fact that he was modest and had elite character straits. In later years, the Rabbi reminisced and told his students that when he was an ignoramus he hated the Torah Scholars so much that he would say, "Give me a Torah Scholar and I will bite him like a donkey." He explained that he chose to say "donkey" rather than 'dog" since a donkey also breaks the bone when he bites (Pesachim 49b).
The Tosefos ask that this revealing statement doesn't seem to indicate elite character straits. On the contrary, he appears to have been a bigot who was totally intolerant of Torah Scholars. The Rabbeinu Tam answers that really Akiva was a very nice fellow. However, he thought that the Torah Scholars were arrogant due to their Torah knowledge and hated those who were non-Torah-educated. Consequently, he hated them in return.
My Rebby, shlita, commented that we should learn a great lesson from this. Sometimes we notice that someone is far from the Torah way of life and we wonder why it is so, when actually it is we who are to blame for alienating him or her. Often our actions and way of life are such that mislead others to think that we hate them. Therefore, they hate us back.
How much more so, if it is true - that we do hold ourselves aloof of those who are less educated or religious than we are. Even if we do not show it overtly, they pick up the vibes and sense how we feel towards them. And this creates in them a defensive aversion to the Torah way of life.
What we must realize is that besides the fact that this attitude itself is a sin, and is the antithesis of the Torah's many commandments to love and understand every Jew unconditionally; in addition, we will be held responsible for those sins which they committed due to our negative relationship towards them. An observant Jew who approaches the Heavenly Court may be surprised to find himself being charged with sins which he never committed. He may want to argue that there is a "glitch in the Heavenly Computer," but he will quickly be shown that these are the sins of others which he is being held accountable for. For had he shown them the respect and affection they deserved, they would not have sinned at all or as much.
On Yom Kippur, we recite the Confession. Additionally, some say the Confession of the Chida, Rabbi Dovid Luria, which itemizes just about every sin one could have committed over the year. Some believe that they should not mention those sins which they know that they did not do. But according to the above, one should say everything; since he may be accountable for the sins of others which are his fault.
These are important reflections for atonement on Yom Kippur. When we consider repentance, we should include our attitude and relationship towards others, including the non-observant. Perhaps if we are nicer and more respectful to them, next Yom Kippur we will all have a lot less sins to ask forgiveness for.
May we all be zocheh to a gemar chasimah tovah and be blessed with a wonderful, healthy, happy and prosperous year, together with all of our Jewish brothers and sisters around the world, Amen.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network