The nation is enjoined to be holy. Many prohibitions and positive commandments are taught:
Prohibitions: Idolatry; eating offerings after their time-limit; theft and robbery; denial of theft; false oaths; retention of someone's property; delaying payment to an employee; hating or cursing a fellow Jew (especially one's parents); gossip; placing physical and spiritual stumbling blocks; perversion of justice; inaction when others are in danger; embarrassing; revenge; bearing a grudge; cross-breeding; wearing a garment of wool and linen; harvesting a tree during its first three years; gluttony and intoxication; witchcraft; shaving the beard and sideburns; tattooing.
Positive: Awe for parents and respect for the elderly; leaving part of the harvest for the poor; loving others (especially a convert); eating in Jerusalem the fruits from a tree's 4th year; awe for the Temple; respect for Torah scholars, the blind and the deaf.
Rain On My Parade
“You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge...”(19:18)
You wake up with a smile on your face. It’s good to be alive. Another day. Another gift. As you leave your house you bump into your neighbor. “Good morning, Fred!” you beam at him. “What’s good about it?” comes the dour reply. He gets into his car and drives off. You try out your smile again, but find that there’s a little dent in it that wasn’t there before.
You arrive at the office and manage to crowd into the elevator. It’s a long haul to the eighteenth floor. Around the eleventh floor the elevator grinds to a halt. No amount of button pushing will encourage it to move one inch more. The doors open. Everyone grimaces at the thought of another eight big marble floors to climb, weighed down by the latest power briefcase and a sub-portable laptop that starts to eat into your shoulder after five minutes. You announce to the assembled throng, “Well, at least we won’t need to go to the gym today!” If looks could kill, you have just been punctured by more arrows than General Custer at Little Big Horn.
The Torah prohibits a person from taking revenge. If you ask your neighbor to lend you his lawnmower and he refuses, then the next week when he comes and asks if he can borrow your power drill you’re not allowed to refuse him because he refused you. That’s called taking revenge. Not only this, but you’re not even allowed to say to him, “Of course, you can borrow my power drill. I’m not like you. I lend my things.” The Torah categorically calls this bearing a grudge.
All well and good that I’m not allowed to take revenge by refusing to lend my power drill, but shouldn’t the Torah also prohibit my ‘friend’ from refusing to lend me his lawnmower? After all, he started things, didn’t he?
Someone who refuses to lend his possessions unreasonably has already proved himself to be terminally mean. The Torah isn’t addressing him; he’s already beyond admonition. What does concern the Torah, however, is that his meanness should not become infectious, that his bad character should not sour your generosity.
When your neighbor returns your friendly greeting with a look that could freeze a fire, don’t let him control your life. You go on and smile and smile. Don’t let other people’s behavior dictate who you are.
- Chizkuni as heard from Rabbi Moshe Zauderer