Kenneth Cohen

Overcoming Feelings of Revenge

The Messilat Yesharim goes through various Torah commandments, that are challenging and difficult to observe. An example of such a Mitzva, is the prohibition against taking revenge against a fellow Jew.”

The reason why this is very hard to observe is because it is an absolutely normal reaction, to want to get back at someone who wrongs us. This applies to situations where another individual shamed us, caused us bodily harm, or loss of money.

Without the Torah warning us not to do so, we will feel totally justified in paying that person back for all of the grief that person caused us.

The Messilat Yesharim goes on to say that despite the difficulty in overcoming our emotions, Hashem believes that we can overcome feelings of revenge.

This is an example of how we are capable of elevating ourselves to the point, where we are able to forgive and hope that the sinful person will repent. We do have an obligation to rebuke and make it perfectly clear, why we are upset with that person, but that’s as far as it goes.

This is why you will never hear a believing Jew say horrible things like, “Drop dead,” or openly wish that harm will come to that person.

Rav Ahron Soloveitchik epitomized this level of forgiveness. After a major disagreement with other leaders of the Chicago community, where Rav Soloveitchik believed that he was wronged and treated badly, he would tell his family the following: “I am looking forward to the day when these people will come and ask for forgiveness. I truly hope they will do Teshuva.”

Such an attitude is uncommon in the secular world. Revenge is considered justified and expected. The Torah teaches that we can rise above such feelings, and still learn to love every Jew.

This, of course, applies only to Jews. But revenge towards our enemies, is demanded of us. We must defend the honor of Hashem, and not allow the desecration of G-d’s holy Name. When the enemies of the Jewish people fall, there is glory to Israel and Hashem. May that time come speedily.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at