DO NOT TAKE REVENGE OR BEAR A GRUDGE Part 1
“Do not take revenge and do not bear a grudge against a member of your
It is inevitable in daily life that we sometimes feel slighted by other
people - how should we react to such incidents? The Torah tells us that
we may not take revenge or bear a grudge: The Talmud gives examples of
these transgressions: John asks Brian, “can you please lend me your
spade?” and Brian, for no apparent reason says “no”. The next day Brian
asks to lend him something and John replies, “Just like you did not lend
me what I asked for yesterday, so too I will not lend you what you want
Bearing a grudge is slightly different - after Brian refused to lend John
his spade, Brian asks John to lend him something the next day/ This time,
John says that “I will lend you it not like you who refused to lend me
what I asked for yesterday.” Taking revenge is reacting with actions to
our fellow\s refusal to help us. Bearing a grudge is merely feeling
resentful to the person for his actions even though we do not actively
The commentaries discuss whether the prohibitions of taking revenge and
bearing a grudge apply in all circumstances: Based on the case of the
Talmud, they all agree that the command applies with regard to property
and money - that is that it is forbidden to avenge a refusal to give or
lend items or money. It is less clear whether this command also applies
with regard to the realm of emotions, for example if someone caused us
emotional pain by embarrassing us or wronged us in some other way. Many
commentaries argue that there is no actual prohibition of avenging such
actions3 . Others claim that it is
forbidden to take revenge or bear a grudge even in these circumstances.
Since most commentaries take the lenient approach, the basic law is that
it is technically permissible to take revenge or bear a grudge when
someone genuinely wrongs us by hurting or feelings or causes us pain in
some other way unrelated to money or property. However, it is certainly
highly praiseworthy to strive to avoid taking revenge or bearing a grudge
in all instances4 .
What is the explanation for why it is only forbidden to take revenge or
bear a grudge when someone does not provide us with money or property?
When someone upsets us by embarrassing us or causes us pain in some other
way, there may be an element of justification in wanting to right an
obvious wrong that was done to us. However, when a person chooses not to
give or lend us something then we have no right to be upset with that
person - we may be tempted to feel that he should have lent us that item
and that he was wrong not to. The Torah tells us that this is an
erroneous attitude - we do not have a G-d given right to the use of other
people’s property and we must accept when a person does not want to
perform kindness with us then that is his prerogative.
1 Parshas Kedoshim, 19:18.
2 Yoma, 23a.
3 Of course, even according to these opinions, there are
significant limits to what form the revenge can take.
4 This ruling is based on the opinion of Rabbi Yitzchak
Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Yehonasan Gefen and Torah.org