Last week we began discussing the prohibitions of taking revenge and
bearing a grudge; when a person causes us pain we are prohibited from
actively taking revenge and even feeling enmity in our hearts. One could
ask, “what is wrong with taking revenge from someone who wronged us - does
he not deserve retribution for his actions?!” The Sefer HaChinuch1 answers this question by teaching us a
fundamental principle in Judaism: Everything that happens to us is a
result of Divine Providence. G-d did not just create the world and then
leave it to its own devices. G-d constantly oversees the world, directing
events and nothing happens without His awareness and intervention. There
is no such thing as ‘co-incidence‘. Consequently, if a person causes us
pain then it happened for a reason and it is futile, and indeed forbidden,
to feel resentful towards the guilty party.
One may ask that this seems to contradict another fundamental Jewish
concept; free will. We have the ability to choose between right and
wrong, consequently we are responsible for our actions. How can the Sefer
HaChinuch say that when a person causes us pain it was all from G-d - G-d
did not force that person to harm us, he had the ability to choose to act
however he pleased! The answer is that he did indeed have free will to do
the wrong thing, however if Hashem did not want that thing to happen to us
then He could have easily prevented it from actually taking place. The
fact that He allowed it to take place means that He wanted it to happen.
It is true that the aggressor will have to bear responsibility for his
actions, however that should not be our concern - what is relevant to us
is that G-d allowed this incident to occur - He is speaking to us through
The idea that Hashem sometimes deliberately places us in unpleasant
situation leads to another problem - G-d is all loving, why would He want
such things to happen to us? We are put on this world to grow as people -
to improve our character traits, develop healthy relationships with G-d
and His creations, and to fulfill our potential. Sometimes we stumble in
these tasks. In response, G-d sometimes deems it appropriate to send us
a ‘wake-up call’ - a message that is intended to cause us to introspect
and assess whether we could improve our behavior win some way.
If we can approach life with the attitude that everything that happens to
us, does so for a reason, then we can accept the tribulations that life
has to offer with far more equanimity and use them as opportunities to
grow into better people.
1 Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzva 241. He lived about 800 years ago
and wrote a book in which he discusses all the commandments in the Torah.