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Thought for the Day: Revenge Means Refusing to Perform a Kindness Because of Past Behavior

Please sit down before you read this.  No, really; I am still reeling from this realization that I heard in a shiur from R' Simcha Feuerman, shlita.

The Torah forbids both נקמה/taking revenge and נטירה/holding a grudge.  These are among the mostly clearly and unequivocally stated prohibitions in the Torah, Vayikra 19:18:
לֹא-תִקֹּם וְלֹא-תִטֹּר אֶת-בְּנֵי עַמֶּךָ, וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָDon't take revenge, don't hold a grudge; you shall love your friend as yourself.
Pretty darn clear, no?  No searching for hidden meanings, no tricky context.  Just straight up, "don't do that".  Chazal do define the terms for us, of course, with examples.  Reuvein comes to borrow a hammer from his friend, Shimon, who refuses.  No good reason; just refuses.  The next week Shimon comes to borrow Reuvein's screwdriver.  If Reuvein refuses because Shimon didn't lend his hammer, then Reuvein has transgressed the prohibition of taking revenge.  If Reuvein demures, but as he is handing the screwdriver to Shimon, he notes, "See?  I am not like you; I am happy to help a friend", then Reuvein has transgressed the prohibition of holding a grudge.

Most of the discussion about these prohibitions revolve around how hard it is to not hold a grudge, what you can do to remove ill feelings, etc, etc.  All true.  R' Feuerman, though, said we should look a little more carefully at the example Chazal give for נקמה/vengeance.  Reuvein didn't attack Shimon; not physically, not monetarily.  Reuvein did nothing more then refuse to do a simple act of kindness for Shimon, simply because of Shimon's past behaviour.

The simple meaning of נקמה/vengeance, is nothing more than withholding kindness.  Reuvein leaves for work one morning and sees the neighborhood cats have knocked over the garbage can.  Reuvein looks down and thinks, "You know, she didn't even make my coffee this morning; why should I help her out by picking up the garbage?  Maybe she'll think twice about the way she treats me now."  Besides the obvious fact that no man should ever let his wife deal with the garbage, he just transgressed the איסור דאורייתא/Torah prohibition of לֹא תִקֹּם/don't take revenge.

He would have been better off with ham sandwich. Then he would just need to make up with HaShem.  Now he needs to make up with his wife and also HaShem.  No amount of t'shuva, fasting, prayer -- not even Yom Kippur -- can do anything for him until he apologizes to and appeases his wife.  He didn't, chas v'shalom, hit her.  He didn't take anything (physically) away from her.  He just withheld a simple act of kindness.  I would not want to be in his shoes; in fact, I keep trying to get those horrid things off.


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