We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chusim for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.
Last week’s stretch of the week was: Ask or learn about a custom that is different from yours.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #34
LO SIKOM V’LO SITOR - לא תקם ולא תטר
DO NOT TAKE REVENGE AND DO NOT BEAR A GRUDGE PART 1
These two mitzvos are joined together (Vayikra 19:18). It is prohibited for us to do someone a bad turn in return for what he did to us, or to bear a grudge in our heart against the other person.
We are prohibited to take revenge against someone who has wronged us physically, monetarily, or verbally, as well as bearing a grudge against him.
“When a person is ma’avir al midosav, he lets offenses pass and is forgiving, he will be forgiven for all his sins” (Yuma 87b).
There are many ways in which one can be hurt by someone else, as stated above. For some people, refraining from vengefulness and from holding on to hard feelings is not difficult with close relatives but harder with acquaintances. For others it is the opposite. The Halacha does not distinguish between these types of people. The mitzva applies at all times and all places, to men and women in all types of relationships.
In terms of personal offenses, there are two differing opinions. The first states that the issurim of nekima (revenge) and netira (bearing a grudge) only involve monetary issues. In a case where someone has offended us personally the issur doesn’t apply. It would be praiseworthy conduct to overlook the offense and understand that it was our own aveiros that brought about the incident, but according to the Halacha it would be permitted to harbor hard feelings toward them.
Other poskim (including the Chofetz Chaim) are stringent and say that even in a case where we are emotionally abused or physically hurt, the issurim of nekima and netira still apply. According to them, nothing in this world is important enough to warrant taking revenge. The true cause of the pain inflicted by them is our aveiros and they were the tool to bring about this experience that we needed.
Distancing ourselves from a person or refusing to help him is considered netira. At the same time, we cannot allow ourselves to be constantly hurt. If we stay away from him to avoid further issues, we are permitted to do so, as long as we make every effort to keep netira out of our hearts and make our motives clear to others.
(Excerpted from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rav Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
I couldn’t believe it. They left me out again.
Growing up as the oldest of three sisters, I was always playing the role of mother, not sister. Since our mother was always working, I ended up being responsible for lunches, straightening up the house, and other responsibilities. When I asked for my sisters’ help, they told me that I wasn’t their mother and went off to play without me.
Now here we were, all grown up and leading our own lives and it was happening again. Over the years, little incidents built up in my mind, like when my sisters went on vacations together without me or got together with friends without including me.
Now, all three of us were working together caring for our mother as she lost her battle for life. Our father was in denial over losing Mom, so it was up to the three of us to care for our mother and make all medical and social arrangements. My own family consumed a lot of my time with two of them having severe medical conditions which warranted constant care on my behalf. I strived as hard as I could to gracefully juggle the needs of everyone - my children, my husband, my sisters, and my parents.
As my sisters didn’t have the same family obligations, they ended up being the primary caregivers. I, being torn between both families, helped in whatever way I could. I shopped for them, brought food and arranged meals, was completely involved in the medical care and decisions, and acted as a sounding board when they needed me. My sisters would often need to come in from out of town in a sudden rush and I always made sure to bring them whatever they needed from my house to make sure they were comfortable.
We all knew that we’d lose our mother soon, so the topic of where to sit shiva came up. I was shocked to hear that my sisters weren’t planning to be at my house. I could not leave my children for a week, as this would have a very negative impact on their health and I thought my sisters would understand and empathize with that. Again, I was torn between both families.
The day came sooner than we could have imagined and as the chevra kadisha made its way out of our mother’s house, we sat down to discuss the shiva issue. After trying to be a cohesive group in caring for Mom, I thought they would change their minds and agree to sit in my family’s home due to my special circumstances.
Much to my dismay and amazement, they held fast, stating that they wanted to sit in the home of the mais, regardless of my needs. I begged them to at least be with me after the levaya and they agreed. I was so glad for this change. They had actually decided to recognize my needs and took them into account. But when my sisters got up at the end of the grueling day, they announced that they were sitting the rest of shiva at our mother’s house. I was dumbfounded and hurt beyond words.
They had done it again: leaving me out and making me choose between my children and my sisters. There was no question--of course I would stay with my children where I was needed most but the hurt, anger, and resentment began to build up in me until I thought I would explode.
I didn’t speak to my sisters the entire week of shiva. I expected their calls afterwards but to no avail. I felt I needed to express my feelings so I sent them emails telling them how hurt I was.
My sisters’ emailed responses were slow in coming, with expressions of sorrow for my pain, but no real recognition of any wrong done on their part to my feelings. I chose to avoid them rather than taking the revenge I so desired, not allowing them to be involved in any aspect of ordering the matzeiva. After a while though it started to affect my health, giving me severe stomach pains, sleeplessness, and headaches and it just wasn’t worth it anymore. I thought about how often I was bearing a grudge against them and started feeling lonely. This gradually began to stimulate a desire within me to change.
After a month of not speaking to my family, the pain of what happened dulled. Life had to go on, and I had a choice to make: hold onto the pain, or resolve to let it go.
I decided to pick up the phone and move on. It was difficult and humbling but in the end I know that what I wanted most were the relationships with my sisters ...even at the cost of dealing with sensitive feelings and emotions that would arise from time to time.
Discussion Question Options:
Did you ever find yourself thinking of a way to get back at someone for something they did to you? What did you do in the end?
Has anyone ever wronged you to the point of being sick over it? What helped you overcome it?
How can we work on letting things go?
Stretch of the Week:
Think of one case in which someone wronged you and let go of it in your heart.