Revenge and Bearing a Grudge (Lo Tikom veLo Titor)

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One who bears a grudge or takes revenge violates the negative prohibition of "Lo Tikom and Lo Titor", i.e. Do not take revenge and do not bear a grudge [1].

Revenge

  1. Revenge: Reuven asked Shimon to borrow his shovel. Shimon refused. The next day, Shimon asked Reuven to borrow his shovel, and Reuven refused, saying "I am not going to lend you my shovel, just as you didn't loan me your shovel." [2]
  2. In this situation, Reuven should loan Shimon the shovel with a full heart; it is fitting for a person to be "Ma'avir al Midosav", or forgiving. This becomes easier when one considers the futility and insignificance of worldly matters, which aren't worthy of taking revenge over. [3] Alternatively, one should consider that the offense that the other person did against oneself as coming from Hashem as a decree because no one can harm someone else unless Hashem decreed it.[4] Alternatively, one should consider the Jewish people like one unit and just like if a person's right hand cut his left hand his left hand wouldn't take revenge against the right hand because he's one person, so too if one Jew hurts another one there's no point in one Jew taking revenge against the other.[5]
  3. Some poskim hold that revenge only applies to someone who responds to being pained after he considered the matter and harbored the grudge; some say that the cutoff according to this approach is that it is considered vengeance to harbor a grudge until tomorrow as the immediate pain subsides by the next morning. However, most poskim disagree and hold that even immediate revenge is called revenge. They hold that even though one could be exempt from monetary retribution for actions he took out of revenge immediately since it is natural to respond someone's emotional attack in kind but nonetheless that would constitute a Biblical prohibition of revenge.[6]
    1. Hitting someone back out of self-defense is permitted.[7] Similarly, responding to an insult out of self-defense is also permitted.[8]
  4. Most rishonim hold that the prohibition is only violated for monetary matters such as not returning a favor that has some monetary value. However some rishonim hold that a verbal or emotional assault out of vengeance isn't the actual prohibition of revenge. The halacha is that we are strict that all types of revenge are forbidden.[9]
  5. It isn't considered revenge not to go a person's wedding because they didn't come to yours if your decision is based on a calculation that one isn't such a close friend that you feel you need to go to the wedding.[10]

Bearing a Grudge

  1. Bearing a Grudge: Reuven asked Shimon to borrow his shovel, but Shimon didn't want to. [11]. Eventually, Shimon came to Reuven to ask him to borrow an object. Reuven replied: "I am not like you, and I won't respond in kind. [I will loan to you, even though you didn't loan to me.]" [12].
  2. In this situation, Reuven should erase the matter from his heart completely. This makes human interaction possible [13].

Sources

  1. Vayikra 19:18. 'לֹא תִקֹּם וְלֹא תִטֹּר אֶת בְּנֵי עַמֶּךָ וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ אֲנִי ה. Rambam Sefer HaMitzvot Lavin 304-305
  2. Yoma 23a, Rashi Vayikra 19:18, Rambam Deot 7:7, Sefer Hachinuch no. 241, Smag no. 11, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 30:7
  3. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 30:7.
  4. Sefer Hachinuch no. 241
  5. Pardes Yosef Vayikra 19:18 citing the Yerushalmi
  6. The Chafetz Chaim (Peticha lavin fnt. 8) writes that responding to an insult immediately with another insult isn't considered revenge since it is immediate and out of pain. It is only considered revenge after some time subsided. His first proof is the Or Zaruah (cited by Mahari Vayil responsa no. 28, c.f. Maharach Or Zaruah 142) who writes that if someone called someone a mamzer and the victim responded by calling the first person a mamzer the first person is obligated in a monetary penalty for verbal assault while the second party is exempt since his response was out of anger. He bases this on the concept of a Goel Hadam (Devarim 19:6) who is given permission to kill the murderer of his relative in the heat of the moment. This is further supported by the Maharam Rotenberg (Sefer Sinai Vlikutim no. 140, 1130), Mordechai Bava Kama no. 195-6, Rosh b"k 3:13, and Rama CM 421:13. The second proof is from the Sefer Hachinuch no. 338 who says that if someone insults you you don't need to stand there like a rock and be silent one can respond out of self defense. However, the Chavot Yair (responsa no. 65) disagrees and writes that the first proof is obviously only discussing the monetary ramifications of your actions and not whether it is actually prohibited. Certainly it is forbidden as there is no exemption of the Torah because one is emotionally hurt. Ben Adam Lechavero Lo Tikom Vlo Titor (Machon Torat Haadam Ladam p. 45-7) agrees with the Chavot Yair and rejects the second proof as well. He explains that self-defense isn't out of vengeance and anger. If someone was just responding out of vengeance and not self-defense then it would be prohibited. He cites many others who agree with the Chavot Yair against the Chafetz Chaim including Chaim Shel Shalom p. 77, Halichot Olam (Kedosh Yisrael ch. 19), and Mitzvat Reyiah (Peticha no. 8). Hanekama Vehanechama 3:6 p. 63 and p. 66 sides with the Chafetz Chaim but initially advises against it. [See further Rashi and Tosfot b"m 71a s.v. yored.] Orot Harambam Deot 7:7 assumes the approach of the Chafetz Chaim and sets the cutoff to be that day as opposed to tomorrow. His opinion is based on the language of the Gemara Yoma that states that specifically tomorrow I didn't lend him a shovel. This corresponds to the Chavot Yair 65:10 based on Sefer Chasidim 655 who states that this is the cutoff for the monetary exemption for angry responses that the Or Zaruah discussed. However, the Chafetz Chaim himself writes that the cutoff is a "short period of time".
  7. Maharam Rotenberg (Sefer Sinai Vlikutim no. 140, 1130), Mordechai Bava Kama no. 195-6, Rosh Bava Kama 3:13, Shulchan Aruch CM 421:13, Chavot Yair (responsa no. 65), Maharshal Bava Kama 3:26
  8. Sefer Hachinuch
  9. The Gemara Yoma 23a clearly states that the prohibition of revenge only applies to monetary matters such as not returning a favor but not to insults or emotional pain. The Rambam Deot 7:7, Smag no. 12, and Yereyim (no. 41) agree. However, the Sefer Hachinuch no. 241 implies that it applies Biblically to all matters, financially, verbally, and emotionally. The Minchat Chinuch 241:1 points out this dispute and questions the Sefer Hachinuch from the gemara. Chafetz Chaim (Peticha Lavin no. 8) writes that even though the majority of rishonim hold that revenge only applies to monetary matters we are strict for the Sefer Hachinuch since it is a Biblical matter. He also quotes the Yereyim who applies to any monetary matter whether it is a utensil or another monetary favor.
  10. Hanekama Vehanechama pp. 28-9 writes that a person doesn't need to go to every wedding. Often a person can tell whether a person is a close friend or not if they came to one's wedding. If so, it is reasonable to use that as a factor to determine whether one should go to their wedding. That calculation isn't considered taking revenge it is being rational as long as one's decision isn't coming from a feeling of vengeance.
  11. The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch changes the לשון slightly from the first case.
  12. Yoma 23a, Rashi Vayikra 19:18, Rambam Deot 7:8, Sefer Hachinuch no. 242, Smag no. 12, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 30:9
  13. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 30:9 citing the Rambam