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In Duties of the Heart, Ibn Paquda writes in Shaar Habitachon (Treatise on Trust, Ch. 4):

אבל עניני אויביו וחומדיו ומבקשי רעתו יבטח בעניניהם על הבורא יתעלה ויסבל חרפתם ואל יגמל להם כפעלם אך יגמלם חסד ויעשה להם כל מה שיוכל לעשותו מן הטוב ויזכר בלבו שתועלתו ונזקו ביד הבורא יתעלה. ואם יהיו סבה להזיקו יחשב עליהם טוב ויחשד את עצמו ומעשיו ברע הקדמותיו אצל אלהיו ויתחנן אל האלהים ויבקש מלפניו לכפר עונותיו ואז ישובו אויביו לאהבתו כמו שאמר החכם (משלי טז ז) ברצות ה׳ ‎‎דרכי איש גם אויביו ישלים אתו.

But for one's enemies, those jealous of him, those who seek to harm him, he should trust in G-d regarding their matters. He should bear their contempt, and should not treat them back in the same way. Rather he should pay them back with kindness, and to try to benefit them as much as he possibly can, and to remember in his heart that only G-d has the ability to benefit or harm him. If his enemy becomes a means to harm him, he should judge them favorably and suspect that it is due to himself or his past deeds from his bad start in life towards G-d. He should plead to the Al-mighty and seek from Him to atone for his sins, and then his enemies will become his friends, as the wise man said "when G-d is pleased with a man's way, even his enemies will make peace with him" (Mishlei 16:7)

Is this halacha? Is this just referring to Jewish enemies, or is this how Israel should treat Hamas?

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  • I have assumed that this refers to interpersonal enemies (classically fellow Jews), not collective national enemies. I wonder if the original phrasing in Judeo-Arabic uses a term that makes the classification of אויביו clearer. Nov 29, 2023 at 16:33
  • @Deuteronomy Hmm. Ibn Tibbon was learned enough to pick the right word no? it might also be different with enemies we are at war with, or enemies trying to kill us. The focus on not stooping to their level might be the key point too.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Nov 29, 2023 at 16:38
  • I would like to offer two possible answers: 1) it refers to the animal soul. The Chovos HaLevavos in the introduction writes: "Every man's enemy is between his own ribs.". The Pat Lechem (ad loc.) explains that this refers to the animal soul. 2) it refers to phyisical enemies, in the plain meaning, meaning a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.
    – Shmuel
    Nov 29, 2023 at 16:41
  • All translation is commentary (I recall Ibn Tibbon commenting to such effect elsewhere, though I don't recall where right now). Sometimes there are nuances in the original that are not communicated in translation. That aside, intuitively my sense is that this is personal individual enemies (which IMHO seems to fit better with the general aims of the work). Nov 29, 2023 at 16:44
  • The bounty on your web cams question is about to expire. Mind giving it a review? @RabbiKaii
    – Kirk
    Dec 4, 2023 at 2:32

1 Answer 1

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Chovot Halevavot describes seven categories of bitachon (faith). Before getting to the discussion you quote on dealing with adversaries, he first establishes the basic obligations of man and describes man's obligations to protect his physical life (here)

Even though a human being's end and length of his days are determined by the Creator's decree, nevertheless, it is a man's duty to pursue means to survive such as food and drink, clothing, and shelter according to his needs [...]

Likewise, one should not put himself in danger while trusting on the decree of the Creator [that he will live a set time], [...] going to battle lions or other dangerous animals without necessity [...] or other similar things that a man is not sure of them and puts his life in danger.

Either he will die, and it will be considered as if he killed himself, and he will be held accountable for this just as if he had killed another man, despite that his death in this fashion was a decree of the Al-mighty and occurred with His permission.

One sees Chovot Halevavot prescribes man to do everything necessary to live and defend himself when required, especially against mortal enemies.

In the third category, when describing how to deal with adversaries, you quoted his moral prescriptions which are extensions of the commandments not to take revenge and not to insult Jews with words. His thesis is that one who has worked on his bitachon understands everything happens because God wants it, and therefore it doesn't help to take revenge or insult others - they are just messengers. A high level indeed.

See also Mesilat Yesharim who sees pardoning his enemies as an elevated sign of a chasid, placed in chapter 19, a very high level indeed.

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  • Nice take, +1. I never thought of this chapter as 7 "Levels", bli neder I will try and relearn with that in mind
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Nov 29, 2023 at 16:48
  • These 7 levels are described in the text, see 4:12ff
    – mbloch
    Nov 29, 2023 at 17:55
  • I am looking for any indication that they are levels, and not just categories. The chapter beings "אבל הדברים שחיב המאמין לבטח בהם על הבורא יתעלה"
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Nov 29, 2023 at 19:02
  • You are correct, these are not levels in the sense of the Mesilat Yesharim, that one elevates himself after mastering each level and progresses to the next one. These are equivalent categories. I edited accordingly to remove the misconception I introduced
    – mbloch
    Nov 30, 2023 at 13:56

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