#31. Not to Take Revenge.
#32. Not to Bear a Grudge.
"Thou shalt not avenge."
When two commandments seem contradictory, the contradiction ought to be viewed as an exception rather than as a cancellation of either or both commandments. In other words, in such cases, both commandments are true.
For example, why is it forbidden to avenge (today's commandment) but not forbidden to be an avenger of murder (Numbers 35:19)? Obviously, you are not permitted to take capital revenge (avenging) except and only according to the rules set down in those commandments regarding cities of refuge. Outside of this exception, capital revenge is not permitted.
One should therefore be mindful to restrain one's anger, lest one fall into unlawful capital revenge. As Ephesians 4:26 tells us, "Be angry but sin not."
How shall I not carry a grudge? Shall I cleanse myself with many prayers and self-love, to avoid the bitterness and angry revenge associated with festering grudges? Shall I confront the antagonist of my grudge, of my pain, to soothe my heart, my soul, and my ego? Shall I use drugs and drink to dull the grudge? Shall I pretend to be carefree?
Make no mistake, forgiveness is extremely difficult. It is one thing to avoid the rage that leads to capital revenge, it is another thing to harbor no grudge. What is water rolling off the back of a duck to one person is water absorbed like a sponge to another. One cannot tell another when to stop grieving or when to stop harboring resentment. Our only source of limitation is Torah, which tells us we must refrain from carrying out unlawful capital revenge or other acts of malice, no matter how justified such acts may seem.
Though one may feel justified to destroy the life of a murderer, adulterer, liar, thief, or other sinner or criminal, the only revenge permissible is (a) through the court system, or (b) through actions not forbidden by Torah, including that of the lawful avenger. It is therefore permitted to have a thief arrested, and to claim back your property, plus interest. It is not permitted to "teach that person a lesson" outside of Torah.
What about "turn the other cheek"? Are we constrained to allow ourselves to be wronged? Absolutely not. Christ is merely providing an alternative to the courtroom. "Turning the other cheek" is a second chance for a sinner or criminal to make amends to you before you bring in the police or other authority. Naturally, there are moments when turning the other cheek is harmful to human life, and this is forbidden (see 613.27).
Why does Jesus speak of "turn the other cheek" in relation to a cloak and a coat? Loving your neighbor is not only rebuking your neighbor, but also neglecting to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. To permit someone to be without clothing is to therefore hate that person. When Christ tells us to give up the cloak as well as the coat, He is telling you to shame a person back to Torah.
Does "turn the other cheek" apply to personal situations also? To give a second chance is not forbidden. Therefore, you may turn the other cheek in every situation which allows it.
Does Jesus command to turn the other cheek? If so, He does not undermine or alter Torah, but rather He complements and explains it. Make no mistake, Jesus cannot changing the lawful avenues of revenge and jurisprudence. There can be no contradiction between Torah and Christ, or else Torah must override. Unless Torah says explicitly otherwise, there is no sin for failing to turn the other cheek.
This is just a bit of the lesson for today. Listen in for more!
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