Project Genesis

The Jewish Legal System

Laws of Damages

Revenge and Restraint

My car was vandalized, and I’m extremely frustrated by the whole matter. I believe the perpetrator is a disgruntled neighbor of mine. I contacted the police, filed a report, but there were not witnesses to there’s not much that can be done. How do I get some closure on this? Is there any way to take revenge?

The Talmud writes that vengeance is great because it is placed between two names of G-d, as it says in Psalms “Kel Nekamos Hashem” – “The Almighty is the G-d of vengeance.” In other words, vengeance should be reserved for G-d, not for us, because He truly knows exactly how much someone should be punished and what the best way to punish that person would be.

It is hard to overlook hatred and wrongdoing, but you should confront the person in a way that is non confrontational and ask him/her why s/he did this. Ultimately, if s/he isn’t responsive, one should try to emulate King David. The Talmud relates how he was pelted with trash by one of his subjects while escaping Jerusalem from his attacking son Avshalom. He allowed himself to take the abuse without taking revenge. For that he became the fourth leg in the chariot of G-d, along with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It wasn’t all of the Torah that he learned or the Psalms that he sung, but the ability to remain humble, to accept hardship and not to react to another person’s wronging him. That is true greatness. The Talmud writes that the world is sustained by one who keeps his mouth closed in middle of a fight. May this hardship be an atonement and source of great merit for you.

Rabbi Meir Goldberg,
Maimonides Leaders Fellowship
Rutgers Jewish Xperience

1 Follow-up »

  1. When you turn away from taking revenge on someone who has wronged you and later you are in a position to prevent them from being wronged, what do you do? If you prevent them from being wronged, could you be interfering with G-ds revenge? If you do nothing, is that the same thing as taking revenge anyway?

    Vayikra 19:18 – “You shall not take revenge yourself nor bear a grudge…”

    Your example of not helping a person because he has wronged you may or may not escape the definition of taking revenge, but it won’t escape the definition of bearing a grudge. If one is concerned with following G-d’s laws, one need not be concerned that one is interfering with the way G-d is operating in this world.

    Regards, Eliahu Levenson

    Comment by ATR — June 5, 2007 @ 2:46 pm

We respond to every follow-up question submitted, but only publish selected ones. In order to be considered for publication, questions must be on-topic, polite, and address ideas rather than personalities.


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