acharai mos kedoshim

The Parshos this week is Parshas Acharai Mos and Kedoshim. Our Sages tell us that in Parshas Kedoshim most of the basic principles of the Torah are contained. One of the most famous ones is the prohibition not to take revenge, nor to bear a grudge. “Do not take revenge nor bear a grudge against the people of your nation, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem.” (Leviticus 19:18) This commandment certainly sounds beautiful. Yet, when we think about it, it is a most hard commandment to fulfill. For example, in the middle of a huge snow storm you are shoveling the snow off your walkway. Your shovel breaks. You run to your next door neighbor who has just finished shoveling his walkway and ask him for permission to use his shovel. Even though his shovel is not being used now, his response is “Sorry, it is not available.” You shlep to Home Depot in the middle of the horrible snow storm to buy a new shovel, all for no good reason except that your neighbor does not have the decency to simply lend out his shovel. The next day your neighbor comes to you and asks if he can borrow your new shovel, because his just broke. Wow!!!!! What a golden opportunity for revenge!!!!!!! Yet, if you tell him “Sorry it’s not available” you have just transgressed the Torah prohibition of taking revenge. Even if you lend him the shovel, but you just add a comment – “No problem – my shovel is available for neighbors, not like some other shovels”, you have just transgressed a Torah prohibition of bearing a grudge. As Mesillas Yeshorim points out, this is an easy commandment for an angel; for human beings, people who are full of emotion, this can be very difficult.

Why is it that the person who refuses to lend his item for no reason does not transgress a prohibition, while the person taking revenge who has a reason for what he is doing, does transgress a prohibition?

The commentaries explain that the first person who didn’t lend his or her item was simply being stingy. Hashem doesn’t force someone to lend out his or her items. The second person, who is taking revenge, is doing so out of hatred. If the first person had lent his shovel, you would have lent this back. Hashem expects the love that Jews have for each other to overcome the hatred that was aroused by the first person’s refusal.

How can one overcome the natural feelings of resentment and hatred that come to the heart when one was wronged? The Torah addresses this with the final words of this verse. “I am Hashem”. What is the point of that statement in this verse?

When something happens to us, what is our knee jerk reaction – that this is from Hashem or from the person who did it? When someone screams at us, cuts us off as we drive, or goes very slow in the car before us, is that person doing this? Or is he or she simply a messenger from Hashem? In the Prophets we read the story of King David as he was fleeing for his life, and a man named Shimei ben Gaira came and publicly cursed him and ridiculed him. King David’s servants wanted to kill Shimei on the spot, but he told them to leave him, for “Hashem told him to curse”. What does this mean? Did Hashem actually tell Shimei to curse King David?

King David was teaching us this most basic lesson: Nothing in life happens by chance; everything is directed by The Director of life. If Shimei cursed him, it was because that is what Hashem wanted. If someone cut me off as I was driving, unpleasant as that may be, it was decreed to be so in Heaven. The person involved is no more than a messenger. If so, what is the point of taking revenge?

If we can really feel this, really absorb this lesson, how much frustration would be removed from our lives!!! How much less anger would we feel at friends and family, how much calmer, serene, and content would we feel!!! This can hopefully be a starting point to living a more fulfilling and less frustrating life, if we can just focus for a few moments on the mitzvah of not bearing a grudge and its beautiful lesson.