Many of us are not quite sure how to react towards terrorists who have no qualms about killing huge numbers of people. Should we feel sorry for them because manipulative, demagogic religious leaders have indoctrinated them into these acts of killing? Or should we hate them for the terror, fear and chaos that they bring into our lives?

Hate is a very strong word, and there are those who maintain that eliminating hate will make the world a much better place. This could not be further from the truth. Any human attribute can be either good and bad. Indeed, inappropriate love is a destructive force: think of the woman who remains loyal to a child abuser and does not report him because she loves him. Yet when love is directed in the right direction it is one of the most powerfully positive and constructive forces known to humankind.

The same is true with hate. The Jewish people are intimately acquainted with the consequences of senseless hatred. We recently concluded three weeks of intensive mourning over the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the subsequent expulsion of Israel from its land nearly two thousand years ago. According to the Sages it was "senseless hate" (sin'at chinam) that caused the destruction of the Temple and initiated the current interminable galut (exile).1 Clearly irrational and pointless hatred is a detrimental and destructive force. However this does not mean that all hatred is bad. It can be wholly appropriate and there are some things that we are actually obligated to hate. Indeed King David said of evil people, "I hate them with a perfect hatred."2

The moment we begin to "understand" evil and its causes is the moment we become open to be influenced by it. The rationale behind this is a profound one. Since humans distance themselves from people and things that they hate, it follows that the surest way of keeping away from evil is to hate it. If one is ambivalent towards evil one can easily become sympathetic towards it. The minute we begin to "understand" evil and its causes is the minute we become open to be influenced by it.

However one must also realize that even "good" hate can be dangerous. Our hate must have a constructive rationale behind it that drives it and controls it. If we become consumed by our hate to the extent that it takes us over, then our hatred undergoes a metamorphosis from a valuable and constructive force to one that is senselessly destructive.

When hatred becomes all-consuming, it crosses the boundaries and becomes evil. This is where the terrorists have gone wrong. There are many destructive elements within Western society that one may despise, oppose, and endeavor to expose their destructive nature through communication with others. Such feelings of antipathy can fuel a passion to effectively oppose these negative traits. If, however, this hatred is allowed to become all-consuming—as the terrorists have done—then it crosses the boundaries and becomes evil.

Thus our response to the evil scourge of terrorism must be unrelenting. In order to successfully oppose it we must despise it and its perpetrators. Our challenge, however, is not to allow this legitimate antipathy to consume us to the extent that it becomes a force for destruction and evil.