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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Revenge

 Does that word sound sweet?

The craving for ‘justice’ seems like a natural –even primal - impulse. What else are you supposed to feel when someone cuts you off on the highway, or actually perpetrates harm (G-d forbid)? The universe seems to cry out for balance. We often can’t find rest until the perpetrator gets his just deserts and the victim’s welfare and dignity are restored. 

At the same time, the Torah expressly forbids revenge. The Torah asks us elevate our personal behavior, to rise above the impulse toward grudges and retaliation. So how should we respond to an injustice?

The Torah paints a fine line for us to walk (the judicial system and international military policy deserve their own essay; this piece is addressing challenges in our personal lives). When I experience an offense, I need to recognize it; I shouldn’t play the ‘see no evil’ game, because that prevents me from dealing with the problem. At the same time, I shouldn’t plunge into indignation and anger at the scoundrel who hurt me. Resentment tends to become very mind-consuming and self-destructive, so I’d actually be continuing my abuser’s evil work of damaging my life.

Instead, the Torah tells us to speak up, effectively, and call the violator’s attention to the wrong perpetrated. That means I should try to spark his awareness and recognition, which is beyond simply unloading my anger. I should wait until I’ve calmed down, and then speak with the wrongdoer to help him understand how anti-social and hurtful his behavior was. Maybe I can actually help him avoid repeating his negative behavior.

So the next time I feel that someone hurt me, I need to immediately get a grip on my emotions, staying calm so I can planan effective response.

I need to acknowledge that I can’t undo the past. Yet, I can assess how to might protect myself for the future. And I can,hopefully, help the perpetrator recognize how hurtful he was.

But I should leave the universal justice to G-d. My wrongdoer will be responsible to G-d - if not the human judicial system - for his harmful choice.

At the same time, I accept that the pain on my end is something G-d has destined for my soul. I need to find a way to get to the other side while retaining my humanity, and perhaps even becoming stronger for the exercise.

Sweet? Maybe not.

Meaningful? I think so.

For the Sake of Love

If you have a room that’s 50x50x50, and you fill it with an object that’s 50x50x50, how do you fit anything else in?

If G-d is Infinite, and fills every iota of every dimension of reality, how is there space for us?

But is this actually a question? After all, G-d is G-d; you can’t measure the Divine in spatial terms. So who thinks of G-d taking up space?

G-d is Infinite, filling all dimensions of existence, including space, time etc. So G-dliness, which is the powerful truth that “I, G-d, am the Creator, the Eternal Source of Everything” should totally overwhelm and eclipse our very existence. How do we exist as independently as do?

Let’s go back to the beginning of time. Actually, let’s go back before the existence of time. Close your eyes and imagine: G-dliness fills every iota of every dimension of existence. There is nothing but G-d.

Now, a ‘desire’ arises within G-d. G-d wants something that’s not totally surrendered to the Divine Oneness. Something that feels independent.

Within that absolute Oneness reality, G-d wants to create people like us. G-d wants us to feel our own existence as absolute, with the ability to choose whether to allow Him into our lives, or even whether to believe He exists. G-d wants us to feel like we’re living in a ‘G-dliness vacuum.’

But can there actually be such a vaccum ? G-d is the very stuff of existence. G-d is reality, so He’s not going to remove Himself from Himself.

So, G-d does something awesome. While G-d’s essence stays put, He sucks in his overwhelming presence. Sometimes, you’re with a group of people and there’s ‘room’ for everyone to express themselves.  Other times, someone’s expressing themselves in a way that ‘takes up all the space’, leaving no room for others’ expression. Well, G-d ‘sucked in’ His ‘expression,’ pulling back His overwhelming Presence and creating what we feel as a vacuum.

G-d made space for us. Why? So that we could – and would - voluntarily choose to have a relationship our beloved Creator. That’s the point of it all.

So take a step back and consider the drama that predates our existence. One partner decides to voluntarily make space for the other so that each can choose to voluntarily embrace each other and become one.

It’s all about the love.

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