Monday, October 31, 2005

Is Revenge a Bad Thing?

Why is it that in Israel, its considered unenlightened to want revenge for the murder of innocents? The media paints any group of people that go to a terror attack site, and yell for "revenge", as a bunch of loonies (and Kach). While within Judaism, there is a mitzva of not taking revenge: לא תיקום ולא תיטור את בני עמך, this does not apply against our enemies, and Judaism definitly does not believe in the Christian concept of "turning the other cheek."

Across the blogsosphere, GodolHador and DovBear have made reference to the Biblical Revenge Song of the prophet Samson. (music by Dov Shurin) -- mostly with disdain. Dov Shurin's song is so iconic, that even the "Otiyot" children's magazine related to it. Otiyot is very mainstream, so I assume the idea is pretty much accepted.


A Simple Jew said...

Here are some thoughts that support your posting:

The righteous man shall rejoice when he sees vengeance. He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. Mankind shall say, "There is, indeed, a reward for the righteous. There is, indeed, a G-d Who judges on earth.

(Tehillim 58:11-12)

Avenge the blood of Your servants that has been spilled.
(Tehillim 79:10)

Where revenge is necessary, it is a great thing.

(Talmud – Berachos 33a)

Any Torah scholar who does not take revenge and bear a grudge like a snake is not a real Torah scholar.

(Talmud - Yoma 22a)

Do not take revenge nor bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you may do so against non-Jews.

(Yalkut Shimoni – Vayikra 19:613)

When outrage and fury impel you to take revenge, your emotion is rooted in a sense of pride. You are enraged because you have been offended, and your pride has been hurt. A person who is truly humble regards himself as nothingness and takes vengeance only if G-d's honor is maligned. Consequently, before you zealously take up G-d's cause you must meet two important criteria: you must be free of any trace of anger and must not possess any haughtiness.

(Yismach Moshe)

DovBear said...

Few thoughts...

1 - It's not wrong to *want* revenge.

2 - Revenge, though, has no place in Jewish law. The court punishes to give the criminal the opportunity to atone for his sin, not to exact revenge on behalf of society.

3 - You wrote "Why is it that in Israel, its considered unenlightened to want revenge for the murder of innocents?" but Israel is only thought to be unenlightened when its agents carry out acts revenge on other innocents. When it arrests criminals, and punishes them, no one says boo.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Shalom DovBear!

Does your comment (2) refer to revenge against Jews, or against everyone? Even Revenge with the confines of Jewish law, is still revenge. Take "Ir Miklat" for example.

Where does Israel's agents take revenge on innocents? In wartime, is revenge the same as during peacetime? Is "retaliation" the same as revenge?

tafka PP said...

Hi Jameel,

OFF TOPIC- (it's a no-brainer that I am against revenge)

Just wanted to tell you that I MEME'd... finally! Am I the only one of all your tags?

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Hi Purple! Of course not! Litvishe did on his site, JoeSettler would but he's a wimp, and Batya/Winkie Medad are still mulling it.

If you have any influence over olehgirl, then maybe you could ask her as well.

Do you feel that retaliation is wrong?

BTW: I figured it out - you must have worked for Talya Sasson, right?

DovBear said...

Where does Israel's agents take revenge on innocents? In wartime, is revenge the same as during peacetime? Is "retaliation" the same as revenge?

The point, simply, is that no one objects to "revenge" if it is carried out against a perpetrator, and not against his neighbor.

Jewish jurisprudence frowns on revenge. It makes concessions to it here and there (ir miklat) but stops short of sanctining it. Again, in Jewish law we punish to help the criminal atone or to otherwise undo the damage he caused.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Dovbear: Your examples of Jewish law refer to when the criminal is Jewish. Why is there such a backlash to the Shimshon song?

If no one objects to revenge against a perpetrator, so why does Israel "get it over the head" when they have "targeted killings?" And thats not even revenge!

DovBear said...

1-There's always collateral damage with a targeted killing. That's not accceptable.
2 - Israel doesn't bother to prove that they retaliated against the right person
3 - Israel doesn't take steps to guard against mistakes (or a rougue commanders on a vendetta taking out an innocent)

If they addressed these three isssues, targeted killings would be cleaner, and many of the objections would disapear.

JoeSettler said...

Revenge has a clear place in Jewish law.

I had a Rabbi whose son was killed by a reckless driver.
In a private conversation he said he wished there were still Irei Miklat so he could have a chance to have reenge and kill the man who killed his son.

Revenge like many other things is allowed in Jewish law within certain parameters.

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