close
חזור
תכנים
שו"ת ברשת
מוצרים
תיבות דואר
הרשמה/ התחברות

Revenge - The Torah Perspective

הרב שי טחןטו אייר, תשפד23/05/2024

When we witness a profoundly distressing event, such as the one we have just experienced in Israel, it is natural to have mixed emotions

תגיות:
When we witness a profoundly distressing event, such as the one we have just experienced in Israel, it is natural to have mixed emotions... on one hand, we feel deep pain and concern for our brothers and sisters in the holy land, but on the other hand, there can be feelings
of anger and a desire for revenge. However, it's essential to consider whether these feelings of vengeance align with the teachings of the Torah.

The Torah Discourages Revenge:
The Torah commands us not to seek revenge, as it emphasizes the principle of "lo tikom" (לֹא תִקּוֹם), which means "you shall not take vengeance" (ויקרא יט,יח). This commandment underscores the idea that we should not retaliate or seek retribution against those who have wronged us.

Although the pasuk specifically speaks of avenging a Jew, as it is stated: "לֹֽא־תִ?ֹ?ם וְלֹֽא־תִ?ֹר? אֶת־?ְנֵ?י עַ?ֶ?ךָ" - you shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the one of your people, the reason mentioned in the Sefer Hachinuch (מצוה רמא) seems to apply universally to all. He explains that the reasoning behind this prohibition is rooted in the Torah's broader perspective on divine providence. The Torah teaches that everything that occurs in the world is ultimately under the guidance and control of Hashem. Seeking revenge can be viewed as contradicting this belief since it suggests that our experiences were caused not by Hashem, but by the individuals who wronged us. It also shows that we are taking matters into our own hands and not fully trusting in Hashem's ultimate plan.

The Torah endorses Revenge:
On the other hand, it is true that in various instances, the Torah does seem to endorse or acknowledge the concept of revenge, for instance, there are psukim in Tehilim that express the sentiment of seeking retribution : (עט, י)
“לָמָּה יֹאמְרוּ הַגּוֹיִם אַיֵּה אֱלֹהֵיהֶם יִוָּדַע בַּגּוֹיִם לְעֵינֵינוּ נִקְמַת דַּם עֲבָדֶיךָ הַשָּׁפוּךְ"- Why should the nations say, 'Where is their God?' Let it be known among the nations, before our eyes, the avenging of the spilled blood of Your servants." Or another pasuk (נח,יא): ישמח צדיק כי חזה נקם, which means that a righteous person rejoices when they witness retribution.

Before entering the Holy Land, Hashem commands Moshe to exact vengeance upon Midyan for their involvement in causing the Jewish men to sin with their women, which led to the plague of 24,000 Jews. Hashem first commands to treat them as an enemy, and then He asked Moshe to seek revenge for what they did(במדבר לא, ב) : "נקום נקמת בני ישראל מאת המדינים".

Another source for revenge can be found in what our sages share as a tradition that (סוטה יג,א) Chushim avenged his grandfather Yaakov's honor by killing Eisav, and upon hearing this, Yaakov Avinu smiled and felt a sense of satisfaction for this act of revenge.

Additionally, we find that before King David passed away, he instructed his son Shlomo to address the matter of Shimi ben Gera, who had cursed him while he was on the run. This raises the question of why David would advocate for revenge, considering that the Torah generally encourages forgiveness and forbearance.
We also see that the Jews at the time of Achashverosh took revenge against their enemies, as the pasuk says(אסתר ח, יג) : "that the Jews should be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies."
These sources may indeed appear to advocate for revenge in certain contexts, especially when it comes to seeking justice and retribution for wrongful actions or violence committed against the innocent. However, it's important to understand the nuances and limitations of this concept within the framework of Torah teachings.
But we may ask again, what is the purpose of revenge? What does it truly achieve? Isn't it sufficient to take the necessary actions to secure oneself without indulging in the gratification of revenge?

Understanding the Essence of Revenge:
The revered Rosh Yeshiva, Harav Chaim Shmuelevits of Mir, offers a perspective on this matter (שיחות מוסר תשל״ג, שמות). He suggests that those who question the concept of revenge may not fully grasp its essence. He explains that the feelings of revenge emanate from a deeply elevated place, as Hashem Himself is described seeking revenge in many verses, such as "El Nakamot Hashem" (אל נקמות השם).
The purpose of revenge extends beyond mere punishment for the wicked; it also serves to uphold justice in the world. When justice prevails, it brings honor to Hashem and sanctifies His name. This is because people observe the world and evaluate Hashem and His Torah message based on its perceptions. When they witness that the wicked are not held accountable for their evil deeds, they may perceive this as a contradiction to the Torah's teachings of rewards and punishments. However, when the wicked are duly punished, it aligns with the principles outlined in the Torah, ultimately bringing glory to Hashem.
For this reason, Pinchas took decisive action against those who openly violated the Torah and desecrated Hashem's name. As a result of his actions, Hashem rewarded him, affirming that he had exacted vengeance on Hashem's behalf. Pinchas effectively restored Hashem's honor and glory through his unwavering commitment to upholding divine principles.
The sense of justice is deeply ingrained in each and every one of us, often manifesting as a desire for personal revenge. When we witness revenge, it can help soothe the pain caused by the events we have experienced.
We observe that individuals who have been victimized often seek justice, either through legal channels or other means, as a way to alleviate their suffering. In the Torah, we find the concept of the "goel adam" (avenger of blood), who was permitted to seek retribution for the killing of a relative. The Torah acknowledges the emotional intensity of such situations and does not impose punishment on the avenger for seeking revenge.

Yosef's Response to His Brothers:
With the above explanation we can understand a fundamental question regarding Yosef's conduct toward his brothers. Why did he act with such severity? Couldn't he have overcome his past experiences and treated them with brotherly love without subjecting them to this ordeal? The Telz Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehudah Leib Bloch
("(שיעורי דעת", חלק ב', שיעור יא, עמוד צט dismisses the suggestion that Yosef wanted to punish his brothers to atone for their sin. Punishing wrongdoers is not the righteous person's role, especially when the righteous person is the victim of that sin.

Rabbi Bloch argues that even though Yosef forgave his brothers for their grave sin, he could not completely erase the deep-seated feelings of resentment from his heart. He understood that the hatred he bore towards them was an inherent part of his nature. Despite his internal struggle and sincere efforts to overcome these negative emotions, Yosef knew that he could not entirely remove the stain of what they had done to him. To fully cleanse himself of these negative feelings and be able to treat his brothers as true siblings, both in his time and for generations to come, he had no choice but to undergo such a process, even though it pained him deeply. In the Torah and our tradition, there is no criticism of Yosef's behavior towards his brothers, implying that he acted appropriately.

Final words:
In the midst of our profound pain and grief, it's essential to acknowledge that our desire to witness complete and thorough revenge against those who committed these heinous acts is both justified and understandable. We should not brush aside these feelings, as they play a role in the process of healing, even though it's important to recognize that the pain can never fully be eradicated.
הוסף תגובה
שם השולח
תוכן ההודעה