19-5770 Mitzvah N-81
March 28, 2010
Negative Mitzvah 81 – This is a negative commandment: do not harbor hatred in your heart toward your fellow-man.
Hafetz Hayim – As Scripture says: “nor shall you bear any grudge” (Lev. 19:18). Bearing a grudge means that one harbors hate in his heart: for instance [in the example from last week’5s lesson] if he tells him (the man who once refused to lend an ax but now is asking to borrow something from the man whom he refused) “Here, I am lending it to you; I am not paying you back as you acted toward me, refusing to lend me something.” This is bearing a grudge where he nurses hate in his heart. Instead, he has to lend it to him wholeheartedly; there should be no ill will whatever in his heart, but he should rather erase the matter from his heart, and not retain it or remember it at all. These two qualities [revenge and hatred] are extremely bad. For all the matters and concerns of this world are vapid nonsense and triviality, and it is not worth taking revenge or bearing a grudge about them.
This applies everywhere and always, for both men and women.
This week’s lesson and last week’s lesson (18-5770) are almost always taught together; partially because the example used to teach the lesson is the same, One day a man refuses to permit a neighbor to borrow his ax, the next day that same man goes to his neighbor and asks to borrow some other item. If we harbor revenge, we might say, “You wouldn’t lend to me, why should I lend to you?” If we harbor a grudge, we might say, “You wouldn’t lend to me but I am better than you, I will lend something to you even though you would not lend something to me.”
When I was a child, my parents told me that two wrongs don’t make it right. When we act with hatred or grudges, we prolong the healing between two human beings. When we realize, as the Hafetz Hayim suggests, that the world is filled with nonsense and triviality, we understand that such pettiness between neighbors undermines the great possibilities of human interaction. We could be creating harmony, justice and peace; instead we are allowing petty slights to isolate us from our neighbors.
I do understand that when a human being gets angry at another, the issue quickly seems to grow beyond the trivial. There is our pride that has been damaged, our feelings have been hurt, and our dreams may have been shattered. How could we ever imagine we will talk to that person again? How could we ever consider that person a friend? It is so very easy to harbor hatred in our hearts and seek revenge for the damage or hold the grudge inside as it corrodes all of our good will. The problem here is that, more often than not, the person who has offended us has no idea that we were offended. That person is going on his or her merry way and has no idea of the pain and anger in our heart. The hurt feelings and the corrosive effects of the hatred affect our heart and soul, and has no effect on the object of our hatred at all.