Harbor No Enmity

   Many years ago the naval commander guarding a remote harbor found himself in a career destroying situation.  He had just received an ambiguous command to harbor no ships from a certain country.  Unfortunately, a ship from that country was just then spotted making way for his port.


   Could he obey the command without violating his own moral code?  He could erect a barrier to prevent entrance to the harbor.  Or he could inform the ship that it must leave and provide the minimum water, food and medicine needed to safely reach the next port.


   The 238th mitzvah is to harbor no enmity toward one’s fellow.  Why is the mitzvah “harbor no enmity toward one’s fellow” instead of “Do not harbor enmity toward one’s fellow?” To harbor bad feelings is to give them shelter so that they remain. Normally, emotions come and go.  Anger may swell up like storm but it will dissipate given time.  It takes energy and effort to retain negative feelings for any length of time.  It is a bitter plant that must be constantly tended otherwise it will wither.


   “Do not harbor enmity toward one’s fellow” implies that one must insure that the enmity does not get in at all.  In the analogy the commander would erect a fence or barrier across the mouth of the harbor to prevent the wrong ships from entering.  However, enmity is not like a physical ship that can be stopped by a barrier.  If enmity cannot enter in one form it will enter in another form.  Instead of a ship it will transform into a bird and fly over the barrier or into a fish and swim under.  While the commander is standing at the gate making sure no ships get in, it has already entered, in another form.  Since he does not know it is already there, the enmity is not addressed, it is not dealt with. As a result it is free to cause harm.


   For example, a person may get angry with their spouse for not putting gas in the car.  However, the real problem is hurt that the spouse is always putting friends first ahead of the marriage.  Not wanting to appear weak and drive him further away, the feelings of enmity are not allowed.  Instead, it takes the form of a gas tank and the spouse is left wondering what’s the big deal.


    “Harbor no enmity” has a different meaning.  The commander’s other choice was to withhold permission for the ship to remain in the safety of the harbor. At the reason for being there is acknowledges and addressed so that the ship could leave.  


   Once, I grew to dislike a man in my shul.  However, I realized that no matter what he may have done, I was wrong to harbor enmity toward him.  I took simple steps to repair the breach. I made the choice to help the enmity leave the harbor of my heart.  It was not the enmity finally being gone that allowed me to fulfill this mitzvah.  The entire process was an active performance of the mitzvah.


   It is important to acknowledge that there is a feeling of enmity and to deal with it.  After honestly identifying the cause there are numerous ways to deal with it so that the enmity can leave the harbor.  It may be anything from talking it over with the person or just choosing to let it go and make the first step to bridge the gap.






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