Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Contact Us

Why Can’t I Be Vengeful Like G-d?

Why Can’t I Be Vengeful Like G-d?

 Email

Question:

I have been seriously hurt by my ex. It has now been seven months of abuse, put-downs, bad-mouthing and humiliation, and I have remained silent. But now I have an overwhelming urge to take revenge. And I have the chance. With one phone call, I could ruin his career and shatter his entireI could ruin his career life. Should I do it?

Answer:

The desire for revenge is natural and understandable. We have an innate expectation that justice should be done, and when we see evil go unpunished, we want to intervene. But we can't. "Do not take revenge," the Torah warns. Revenge is wrong.

Of course, we need not be helpless victims of those who have malicious designs on us. We must protect ourselves from being hurt and do all we can to prevent acts of evil. But even if we have been hurt, we mustn't hurt back.

On the other hand, the very same Torah which warns us not to take revenge describes G‑d Himself as "a vengeful G‑d." How can this be? If we are told not to be vengeful, why is G‑d then allowed to be? If revenge is immoral, how can G‑d be vengeful?

But that is exactly the point. The very fact that G‑d is vengeful allows us humans not to be. No human justice system is foolproof, so ultimate justice is in His hands. He will right the wrongs and punish the wicked. In this world or in the next, in this lifetime or another, in ways we may never know, justice will be served.

It's funny, you often hear people disparaging "the vengeful G‑d of the Bible." They somehow think that a vengeful G‑d willJustice will be served produce vengeful followers. The opposite is true. It is precisely G‑d's vengefulness that enables humans to let go of the desire for revenge. We know there is a true Judge, and He will do justice. So we humans can leave the vengeance to Him, and get on with living.

Don't waste your energy on feelings of bitterness and hostility. The more hatred thrown at you, the more you should surround yourself with love. If there are evil people out there, make sure you associate with good people. Don't worry about getting even. Focus on getting on.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
27 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Anonymous May 10, 2017

How do you know Hashem took, or will take revenge on the wicked person? Maybe He won't, or hasn't done so - if you never see it. The innocent victim may suffer for years, and it is he/she who is being punished, not the perpetrator. Reply

Anonymous rajasthan India November 15, 2016

It was really very fabulous and helpful
Thanks everyone Reply

Tali Here and Now June 22, 2016

I thin kit is clear, unless I totally didn't get it that we are not supposed to decide to right the wrongs. I remember back when we thought Karma , Jewish karma would do it. Now I think it is clearly cause and effect. The "bad dude" will get his when someone decides not to take it anymore. The difference is it won't be me righting the wrong. Also, They may be in a better place to right the wrong in the best way. Maybe more justly but still he could end up "getting it." Whatever "it" is. Don't wish for it though! Reply

Anonymous March 1, 2015

Aside from not taking revenge, you should judge your fellow on the scale of merit in order to elevate you and him on the side of righteousness. You should see that if we judge our own actions, we can also see good and bad points. Pray that G-d will change him and cause him to repent. This way you can soften your heart of flesh and it's easier to perform lots of good deeds towards others. Reply

Lillie Brooklyn, New York November 14, 2014

Motivation can make the same action mitzvah or sin. By doing what she wants to do she will save other people from being abused by that person, her ex, and she will prevent him from committing more abuse, thus accumulating more sin. That's a double mitzvah.

The only thing she needs to change is her motivation. Reply

Anonymous Seattle November 13, 2014

Pinchas? The avenging relative of a manslaughter victim? "Payback" killings? What the author expresses is well within one strain of Jewish teaching, but there seem to be others that diverge or run contrary. Pinchas is rewarded for what looks a lot like vengeance when he kills a Moabite princess and a leader of the tribe of Shimon whose fornication has helped fuel a plague. In cases of accidental or unintentional death, Torah explicitly allows the close relative of the victim to kill the person responsible if that "manslayer" is caught outside a city of refuge. Finally, what are we to make of "payback" killings and other attacks by self-proclaimed religious avengers on innocent Arabs following terrorist attacks on innocent Jews in Israel? Reply

David MS November 13, 2014

Right or wrong What if it is more about righting a wrong? What if someone tramples your rights? What if you have thought it through about the revenge part but you just want things corrected especially for someone else? Justice? I know it is a fine line. Reply

Moyshe near Philadelphia, PA USA November 13, 2014

Resentment "Carrying resentments, is like letting someone whom you don't like, live inside your head rent free."

Author Unknown Reply

Thomas Canada November 13, 2014

If you were shot at... If someone shot at you and missed... ..would you give them another bullet? Reply

Myra Blustein Netanya, Israel November 13, 2014

I think that's excellent advice, to focus on getting on. However, we don't know enough of your situation as to if he's out of your life or is he still hurting you. If he's still hurting you then there must be some way to get help to get him out of your life. But if he's out of your life, then it's revenge, and that won't help you get over him and all he's done to you. Good luck! Reply

Anonymous Willowdale November 13, 2014

I respectfully disagreed. If this is a police matter, then ask police for assistance. If this is beyond that, then ask G_d Himself for help. Police can handle what they can on this earth, and G-d can handle if it beyond human ability! Fear not! However, be prepared to pay the price. This is the wisdom of East. Before embark on a journey to revenge, dig two graves. One for your enemy, one for yourself. If you are absolutely right, then you will only have to dig a grave for your enemy. Just ask G_d. Divine court will decide this matter. If you are not hundred percent right, dig two graves. One for your enemy, and one for yourself. From my own experience, this is usually the cases. This is how "curse" usually works. Divine justice is fair, and Divine court knows everything, nothing is hidden. Be ready. Reply

Bennie November 13, 2014

Live we'll As the saying goes, the best revenge is living well Reply

O. Rosanoff Coral Springs. November 13, 2014

Revenge is a very difficult to go throught, sometimes the anger and pain gets carried away, but if a person truly is a believebla persons in G D. Just hope the bad will paid in this earth! There is no other way...I personally don't give it a thought,,,I look forward to be a better human being. Reply

Abraham Ezekowitz Waynesville November 12, 2014

This is one case I don't agree with the rabbi. It may say in the Torah to "move on" but if those who have wronged you in this life go unpunished, to me there is no balance. I'm afraid I cannot wait for the "world after this one". Reply

Reuven Golus November 12, 2014

confusing ... I have heard my own rabbi encourage the congregation to be G-dly -- to emulate G-dly qualities. Jealousy and vengefulness are G-dly qualities. So which is it? Aspire to G-dliness and G-dly qualities, or not? Reply

Anonymous Memphis, TN November 12, 2014

@Anonymous New York: stopping destruction and taking vengeance are not the same at all. As the article says "Don't worry about getting even. Focus on getting on." You don't stop present or imminent destruction in order to get even, you do that in order to get on and not stopping destruction would not allow you to get on in any way. Not seeking revenge is very different than being a pacifist. Reply

Steve E Abraham New York November 12, 2014

Vengeful God? Yes, Hashem is very vengeful, not just a little. you wrote "They somehow think that a vengeful G‑d willJustice will be served produce vengeful followers. The opposite is true" You did not explain this. Everyone I know thinks we emulate God, and follow God's example. My desire for revenge when wronged is not decreased by knowing God is vengeful. Just the opposite. We quote the Torah. The Torah says God is vengeful. When a Palestinian kills and Israeli we never hear anyone say, let's forgive, we say "an eye for an eye" and we attack in retribution. So please, if you can explain . Reply

Mary Hachita, NM November 12, 2014

Fighting a war vs revenge In a war, unless you are the aggressor, you are defending your life. Torah says if someine is coming to kill you, kill them first. Saving your life is different from hurt feelings. In my humble opinion. Reply

Anonymous November 12, 2014

This is excellent and I love how Judaism views this! Thank you so much for posting this! Reply

P. Coulter kincardine ontario November 12, 2014

Even in light of justice screaming out for whatever the wrong(s) to oneself to be righted. It takes a lot of internal strength to fight the natural urge for revenge. Revenge is not only close to resentment in the dictionary. Resentment produces bitterness. The most insidious problem with bitterness is it is very corrosive to the vessel that holds it. We can see it in faces all around us. No plastic surgeon can fix it. It should be bad enough that we have to deal with a wrongdoer. Sabotaging ourselves with a toxin inside us does not help with healing. It`s hard not to end up a victim twice. Reply

Humble2 Parkland, Fl May 12, 2017
in response to P. Coulter:

You said it all P. Why go for plastic if you are miserable. I was in a situation that wasn't great and had to learn to not show. bitterness. It is a challenge. But at the end of the day, you answer to GD and NO one else. Reply

Related Topics